A Lesson on Dangers of Court Packing From Venezuela

A Lesson on Dangers of Court Packing From Venezuela

Cries to increase the size of the Supreme Court from nine justices to 13 are gaining steam among Congressional Democrats, but they’re nothing new. It’s been done before and it didn’t end well.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the latest to throw her two cents in, and the New York Democrat didn’t stop at merely court-packing — she questioned the Supreme Court’s power to strike down laws it deems unconstitutional.

She claimed “just, functionally, the idea that nine people, that a nine-person court, can overturn laws that thousand — hundreds and thousands of legislators, advocates and policymakers drew consensus on.” Ocasio-Cortez added “How much does the current structure benefit us? And I don’t think it does.”

In short, why should nine robed, unelected jurists stand in the way of the will of the majority?

As George Washington University Law professor Jonathan Turley observed, what the young congresswoman is promoting “is called ochlocracy, or mob rule,” referred to as “tyranny of the majority,” by John Stuart Mill.

Judicial review is a part of the system of checks and balances among the three branches that every American was taught in 8th grade civics, and learned again in a high school government class.

Each branch is supposed to act as a check on the power of the other two — a system that’s worked well in the United States for more than 200 years.

If the president believes Congress has passed a law that doesn’t serve the people, he can veto it. Congress, in turn, can override a presidential veto if each chamber has the votes.

And, as Turley observed, the landmark 1803 Marbury v. Madison decision was “the case laying the foundation for the Supreme Court in our constitutional system.”

On the basis of that decision, the judicial branch has the power to declare laws, regulations, and executive orders unconstitutional. And that is what Ocasio-Cortez questions.

Turley suggested that this rush to destroy American institutions may be grounded in a desire for fame — a need to be known.

“It often seems that our politics of rage has created a new age of berserkers, warriors revered for their blind destructive fury,” Turley surmised. “Today to distinguish yourself, you must show a willingness to lay waste to any structure or institution on the path to victory.”

What those “berserkers [and] warriors” ignore is that those very institutions have ushered the United States into an age of industrial and economic greatness. They also flashed a beacon of justice and equality to the rest of the world, one that drives immigrants — both legal and illegal — to our shores.

And if we destroy those institutions, we destroy America’s greatness.

Venezuela was once the wealthiest country in South America. Its rush to socialism changed all that, but its supreme court was an impediment to that “progress.” It changed in December 2004 when President Hugo Chávez’s Senate allies packed the court.

José Miguel Vivanco, America’s then-director at Human Rights Watch, reported those events as they happened.

“Five years ago, President Chávez’s supporters helped to enshrine the principle of judicial independence in a new democratic constitution,” said Vivanco at the time. “Now, by packing the country’s highest court, they are betraying that principle and degrading Venezuelan democracy.”

They added 12 new justices to their high court for purely ideological reasons, increasing its size by half.

In addition, members of the judiciary could formerly only be removed for cause by a two-thirds vote of the legislature. That was changed to a simple majority, turning the Venezuelan judiciary into another political branch of the ruling class.

“President Chávez and his supporters should be taking steps to strengthen the judiciary,” Vivanco concluded. “Instead, they are rigging the system to favor their own interests.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Last year Elizabeth Rogliani, a New York-based actress born in Venezuela, said she was now afraid for her adopted county — she had seen it all before.

She’d witnessed street names changed, statues toppled, school curriculum distorted, and politically incorrect films and books removed from shelves.

Sound familiar?

And now she may see another federal judiciary turned into a political puppet.

At the time Rogliani warned her fellow Americans, the 2020 presidential election was at stake. Whether that election was legitimate or stolen, the last chance America may have will be 2022 to flip Congress to stop the excesses coming from the executive branch, followed by 2024 to bring sanity back to the White House.

We’re not likely to get another chance after that.

Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. Read Dorstewitz’s Reports — More Here.

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