Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced their ruling on the controversial Arizona immigration case and will soon release a decision regarding the contentious Affordable Care Act. Both these rulings entail multiple provisions that can potentially be decided independent of each other in a way that can likely be described as judicial "split decisions."
This rendering would give both the Obama administration and Republican activists the ability to claim victory, but in reality both issues remain essentially unresolved. We will continue a relentless and frustrating pursuit of comprehensive health care and effective immigration policies acceptable to increasingly disparate segments of our society and polar-opposite political constituencies.
Much of the Arizona Immigration Law was struck down today, but the provision that allows law enforcement officials to perform mandatory immigration status checks during routine traffic stops remains in effect, at least temporarily. The Affordable Care Act can potentially be ruled unconstitutional in its entirety or certain provisions, such as the individual mandate for all Americans to purchase health care coverage, can be struck down.
We'll know soon. While these rulings are among the most important issues that have come before the Supreme Court in a decade, final government policy decisions regarding immigration and health care provisioning for all Americans will likely not be finalized until after the 2012 presidential election.
So, how can average American citizens assess the integrity of this review and decision process? How can they remain confident that the U.S. Supreme Court is acting appropriately as the essential judiciary component of our three brances of government along with the Executive Branch (the President) and the Legislative Branch (the House of Representatives and the Senate)? The U.S. Constitution clearly outlines these roles and responsibilities in affirming the "separation of powers".
Unfortunately, even our most informed citizens may interpret U.S. Supreme Court rulings as instruments of political will or for advancing presidential policy priorities. The founders of our Country did not intend for Supreme Court reviews and decisions to, in any way, be influenced by or mandated through executive or legislative branches of government or political party philosophical preferences. While Supreme Court Justices are known from their background to have conservative or liberal intellectual leanings, it is in the best interests of conserving the values of our Country and the U.S. Constitution for them to remain a-political and devoid of an association with a political or legislative agenda.
A key tenant for most American citizens in understanding the reasoning behind Supreme Court rulings is a belief that the Constitution should be the defining source for judicial reasoning. There is a long standing, conservative belief that the Constitution should be interpreted literally, as it was originally written, in justifying judicial rulings. Liberal members of our society have increasingly established the view that the interpretation and meaning of the Articles of the Constitution should reflect changing attitudes and current domestic circumstances as our culture and society evolve over time.
These distinctions are often confusing to many Americans, but they help to define popular opinion as to whether current Supreme Court Justices are performing their duties as strict Constitutional adherents or as judicial activists. Judicial activism is the intellectual foundation for handing down court judgments that reflect personal, reasoned beliefs of what the Constitution was originally intended to do, or how it should be interpreted in more modern times. Citizens, government officials, and the media need to rationally debate these fundamentally-opposing views in establishing more transparency for how we govern and how we evolve far-reaching, responsible domestic and global policies.
U.S. Supreme Court rulings are critical to the rule of law in our Country. These rulings are increasingly analyzed and editorialized leading up to their eagerly-awaited announcements. We should all pay attention to how these rulings affect our lives and our liberty. Independent of individual political preferences, we should elect government officials who will act responsibly and earnestly in protecting the integrity of our Country and the laws that govern it. Only then can we hope to accept and respect, even grudgingly, the logic and justification behind U.S. Supreme Court rulings.