Monday, May 10, 2010

Stop Me If You Heard This One, But Six Catholics And Three Jews Walk Into The Supreme Court

I know it sounds like a bad joke, but with the retirement Justice John Paul Stevens, the U.S. Supreme Court loses it's last Protestant member, and with the possible appointment of Elana Kagan, gains it's third Jew along with the six Catholics on the bench. Once again, the court doesn't exactly reflect the religious demographics of the nation. Protestant Americans represent the largest demographic of the American population, but will soon have zero representation on court.

Interestingly, as vocal as Evangelical Christians have become about culture and their so-called "culture wars", the same Republican presidents who lure their votes have been so skittish about their brand of politics that Hell itself may well freeze over before any of these Evangelicals is ever appointed to the high court.

Politically, the court hasn't always represented the political demographics of the nation either. Up until President Bill Clinton made his first Supreme Court nominee, all nine members of the court were registered Republicans, although some jurists such as Justice John Paul Stevens were nearly as good of a defender of civil liberties as was the staunchly liberal Justice William O. Douglas that he replaced.

Politically, Elana Kagan is giving defenders of civil liberties some good reason for concern. She doesn't have a very good record on civil liberties and seems to support strong executive powers.

Retiring Justice John Paul Stevens was a good friend to filmmakers, recording artists, artists and others who believed in artistic freedom and civil liberties. He long held that obscenity laws were unconstitutional treads on the legitimate First Amendment rights of citizens to produce works as they see fit. It's highly unlikely that Kagan will view artistic freedom in quite the same light and importance as Stevens.

In states such as California, a law that restricts selling violent video games to young buyers may reach the Supreme Court some day. And sometimes a band or record store is hauled into some court room because some local community contends that their product was offensive and obscene. Adult film makers are sometimes pulled out of their comfortable California surroundings and put on trial in conservative Southern communities on obscenity charges because they produced a product that they didn't personally distribute, a third party distributor did. Can a film producer be charged with an obscenity crime for merely producing, but not distributing a film? These are all issues that the Supreme Court may have to tackle some day.

While blogs allow almost anyone to write, the FCC fines small pirate radio stations $10,000, takes their equipment and uses other agency powers that limit radio to larger networks.

With the explosion of the Internet, new issues involving free speech, digital media and future communications rights will all be on Supreme Court dockets to decide some day.

As TMZ noted, Elana Kagan looks strangely a little bit like comic Kevin James. But so far. I'm not so amused.