The courts: Democracy is a three-legged stool

The courts are not simply a check on the democratic process but a part of it. Across the country, men and women have filed declarations, testified, gone to trial, and appealed. If voting is an act of participatory democracy, so are those actions.

— From Amy Davidson, The Talk of the Town, “Southern Honeymoon,” 1/5/2015 New Yorker

Ms. Davidson is writing about the state of marriage equality, i.e., same-sex marriage, in the State of Mississippi, particularly, where same-sex couples have sued the state for the right to marry.

But the above passage is as clear a description of how the American court system is a crucial part of our tripartite government, how it is, in effect, the staunchest leg in our three-legged stool called democracy. Without it, the stool tips over.

A balancing act that at least one federal judge does not seem to perceive. Federal Appellate Judge Jeffrey Sutton”took up the not-ready argument [that the state lawyers were making]…”

He suggested that gays and lesbians, rather thanĀ  fighting in a courtroom, would find it more rewarding to gradually win over “heads and hearts” in their communities and enjoy “earned victories” at the polls.

One response to Judge Sutton’s question is that the courts are where the least powerful and the least accepted members of society can seek recourse. [My emphasis]

[Federal] Judge [Carlton] Reeves, who heard the Mississippi case, graduated from Jackson State, a historically black college. When the lawyers for the state talked about the benefits of “orderly” change, not rushed by the courts, Reeves interrupted them. Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954 and, he said, “In Mississippi, it was 1970 before my first-grade class was integrated.”


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