Judge Dread: Violence, Silence and the Threat to Democracy

It turns out that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg presaged the recent comments by former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor about the growing threat of right-wing violence against the judiciary – and the concominant threat to American democracy. (What's left of it.) Both women emphasize the point that this "fringe" threat is being fed and exacerbated by the bellicose and undemocratic rhetoric of so-called mainstream Republicans, like felonious Tom DeLay, odious Bush bootlicker Tom Feeney of Florida, and Imamess Anne Coulter, with her fatwa calling for the death of Justice John Paul Stevens.

What is remarkable is seeing these bastions of the American Establishment echoing the insights of such "leftist" (to borrow the always ignorantly employed terminology of the Right and the media) com
mentators as Dave Neiwert, who for years has been tracking the deadly symbiosis between "mainstream" Republican rhetoric and the violently minded fringe. The two have entered into a sinister dynamic: as the former grows more virulent, the latter become more emboldened, stepping out of the shadows, ready to pursue what Bush once called – in his "National Security Strategy" enshrining aggressive war as a core principle of the United States – the "path of action." With this exaltation of violence being trumpeted from the highest reaches of American society, is it any wonder that the thugs are slithering out from the bottom?

There is of course another remarkable aspect to the story of the judges' outcry: the fact that it has meet with almost total silence in the mainstream press. What should be a major scandal – the nation's top judicial figures saying plainly that the lives of judges, and the life of our Republic, is under direct threat from violence openly abetted by the rhetoric of the nation's ruling party – is simply ignored, or treated as a minor brief to be buried in the back pages somewhere. But oh, the crocodile tears we will see pouring from the editorial pages of the New York Times and Washington Post, the earnest, furrowed-brow tut-tutting we will see from Tim Russert and Bob Schieffer, when at last the fringe succeeds in Coulter's dream of assassinating a Supreme Court judge. How, they will cry, did this happen in the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Excerpt from Supreme Court Justice Reveals Death Threats (AP):
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she and former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor have been the targets of death threats from the "irrational fringe" of society, people apparently spurred by Republican criticism of the high court.

Ginsburg revealed in a speech in South Africa last month that she and O'Connor were threatened a year ago by someone who called on the Internet for the immediate "patriotic" killing of the justices.

Security concerns among judges have been growing. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter joked earlier this year that Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned. Over the past few months O'Connor has complained that criticism, mainly by Republicans, has threatened judicial independence to deal with difficult issues like gay marriage.

Worry is not limited to the Supreme Court. Three quarters of the nation's 2,200 federal judges have asked for government-paid home security systems, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said this week.

Ginsburg said the Web threat was apparently prompted by legislation in Congress, filed by Republicans, that would bar judges from relying on foreign laws or court decisions.
"It is disquieting that they have attracted sizable support. And one not-so-small concern - they fuel the irrational fringe," she said in a speech posted online by the court earlier this month and first reported Wednesday by LegalTimes.com. According to Ginsburg, someone in a Web site chat room wrote: "Okay commandoes, here is your first patriotic assignment ... an easy one. Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg and O'Connor have publicly stated that they use (foreign) laws and rulings to decide how to rule on American cases. This is a huge threat to our Republic and Constitutional freedom. ... If you are what you say you are, and NOT armchair patriots, then those two justices will not live another week."

Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., a sponsor of one of the congressional proposals, wrote about the legislation on his Web site and in bold letters featured a quote from O'Connor predicting the Supreme Court would probably increasingly rely on foreign courts. Ginsburg pointed out that the legislation was first proposed in 2004, an election year.

Justices, in some of their most hotly contested rulings, have looked overseas. Last year, for example, justices barred the executions of juvenile killers on a 5-4 vote. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said then that "it is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty."

Ginsburg said, "Critics in Congress and in the media misperceive how and why U.S. courts refer to foreign and international court decisions." She said those decisions are used for guidance only.