Every year around these dates, the United States Supreme Court wraps things up for the summer break and delivers the most talked about rulings of the US judicial year. There’s been three so far: one on Guantánamo, a true setback for George Bush. One on the death penalty, which is the third restrictive ruling issued by the high court. And another one regarding firearms, this time going in the opposite direction by overturning a law in the District of Columbia - home of the Federal capital Washington - which banned citizens from carrying handguns in the street. These rulings issued by the nine judges of the Supreme Court usually tell us more about the evolution of US society than legislation coming out of Congress and Presidential decisions.
I have not yet carefully read the information about the last ruling on weapons, which relates to the second amendment to the Constitution: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” I think that abrogating capital punishment for the crime of pederasty - typified as child rape and in line with two previous rulings which banned it for underage offenders and mentally handicapped adults - is a major breakthrough on the road which will lead to the abolition of the death penalty some day. I also find amazing the work being done by the five judges who are systematically voting against the annulment of the constitutional guarantees and international agreements for terrorist suspects.
In many ways, the work of the US Supreme Court surpasses the country itself. Its influence and authority transcend US borders and have an impact on upon the judicial and political affairs of many other countries. Just imagine that the death penalty could one day be abolished. If it were, it would be thanks to a Supreme Court ruling. One should remember, however, that while the Supreme Court shapes American society through its judicial arguments and interpretation of the Constitution, the Court itself is also conditioned by, and responds to, the sensibilities of American society.
The ruling are not syllogistic constructions fallen from the sky. The best evidence of this is offered by the public reaction to the ruling on pederasty. While the liberal press has generally come out in favor of the restrictive ruling, both presidential candidates, the conservative McCain and the liberal Obama (yes, Obama) have come out against it. The death penalty is popular, specially for the most horrific crimes, so losing votes over ideological issues during a presidential race is not an option. I don’t have opinion polls on this issue on hand (I will search for them) but one could assume what most citizens think of this issue. One should not forget that the Clintons approved of the death penalty, and I seem to remember that Bill, while Governor of Arkansas, approved a death sentence on a mentally handicapped person.