Another Display of Courage from the Commander-in-Chief

The eight Associate Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court, taking their political lives in their hands (judges are elected in Alabama) have defied their Chief Justice and obeyed the federal courts in ordering the Ten Commandments monument blocked off from public view. Almost all of the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives (along with 50 renegade Democrats) have already violated their oaths of office (sworn, by most of them, on the Bible) to “preserve, defend, and protect the Constitution of the United States,” by adding a rider to the appropriations bill for the judiciary forbidding the Marshal Service from enforcing the federal court order. [*]

The case really couldn’t be simpler: When the federal courts declare what the Constitution, “the supreme law of the land,” says, is that declaration binding? Or to put it even more bluntly, do we still live under a government of law?

Bill Pryor, the Alabama Attorney General who defended Moore’s stance in court, and whose nomination as a federal appellate judge is still before the Senate, put it clearly [*]: “The rule of law means that no person, including the chief justice of Alabama, is above the law,” Pryor said. “The rule of law means that when courts resolve disputes, after all appeals and arguments, we all must obey the orders of those courts even when we disagree with those orders.”

Does the President of the United States agree? And if he does, will he summon up the courage to say so? Respect for the rule of law used to be a bedrock conservative principle. Anyway, the last time I checked, “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” was part of his job description. But my guess is that he will, once again, decide that the better part of valor is discretion, and discreetly continue his silent pandering to the religious bigots.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: