The Hard Years: A Look at Contemporary America and American Institutions

By Eugene J. McCarthy | Go to book overview

4
The Courts, the Last Appeal

It seems that almost every problem we have today eventually goes to court for solution. Many go to the Supreme Court for the final word. Whether it is an issue of delegate selection within a political party or an order telling a protest group to move off the Mall in Washington, it goes to the Supreme Court. When the justices meet on the issue of driving Vietnam veterans off the Mall, we have an activist court, despite what Warren Burger might wish.

In our society the last test and last line of defense is in the courts. It is at this level that the right of due process must be safeguarded at all costs. But the courts today are severely overburdened, a condition that weakens them as the last line of defense. The principal causes of this condition are more complex than the often-cited ones of "too many appeals" or "too few judges."

Changing the physical shape of the bench in the Supreme Court from a straight to a shallow inverted U form is not likely to help much -- though it may, as Chief Justice Burger said, enable the justices to see which one of them is talking. (We have long believed that justice is blind, not deaf.)

The obvious question is: Why do so many issues go to court?

I think one reason is that most of our institutions are not operating properly. An institution is really a formalization of law in which people find that, by applying reasonable rules of conduct and accepting that they must make some concessions, a tolerable accommodation is possible. Today this is not the case in many areas of American life. Institutions that formerly resolved disputes in the manner of a community now find themselves in court. Stockholders are suing directors of their own corporations. Patients are suing doctors for malpractice. Universities are sued by students and by athletes. Churches are sued by dissident members on the issue of who

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The Hard Years: A Look at Contemporary America and American Institutions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction by Tom Wicker vii
  • Preface xix
  • Part I - Institutions 1
  • 1 - Toward a More Responsible Presidency 3
  • 2 - The Vice President as Crown Prince 15
  • 3 - Changes in the Congress 19
  • 4 - The Courts, the Last Appeal 28
  • 5 - Court of Ideas 32
  • 6 - A Kind Word for the Bureaucrats 35
  • 7 - A Kind Word for the Military 45
  • 8 - A Warning About the Military Establishment 49
  • 9 - The Cia and the Inner Ring 58
  • 10 - The Corporations 61
  • 11 - The Universities 68
  • 12 - The Democratic and Republican Parties 75
  • 13 - Alternatives to the Major Parties 80
  • Part II - Operations 87
  • 14 - A Hard Look at the Primaries 89
  • 15 - Personality Cults 96
  • 16 - The Cult of the Expert 97
  • 17 - A Good and Becoming Exit 100
  • 18 - Listen to Mr. Parkinson 104
  • 19 - The Sst: Object Lesson in Dynamics of Opposition 106
  • 20 - The Lobbyists 109
  • 21 - Grant Park, Chicago 116
  • 22 - Marching on Washington 118
  • 23 - Changing America 122
  • Part III - Principles 125
  • 24 - Innocence in Politics 127
  • 25 - Language and Politics 130
  • 26 - Poetry and War 135
  • 27 - Ares 144
  • 28 - Intellectuals and Politics 148
  • 29 - Out of Phase 155
  • 30 - Trouble in the Economics Community 158
  • 31 - Constitutional Amendments 165
  • 32 - Five Systems of Justice 170
  • 33 - The Enemies List 173
  • 34 - Censorship 182
  • Part IV - A Good Person is Not So Hard to Find 185
  • 35 - John Bennett 187
  • 36 - Emerson Hynes 189
  • 37 - John Kennedy 190
  • 38 - Dan and Doris Kimball 193
  • 39 - Robert Lowell 196
  • 40 - Wayne Morse 197
  • 41 - Lewis Mumford 203
  • 42 - Eleanor Roosevelt 205
  • 43 - Frank Rosenblatt 207
  • 44 - Adlai Stevenson 208
  • Notes 215
  • Index 223
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