04 Jul 2012
The inner-workings of the Supreme Court are almost impossible to penetrate. The court’s private conferences, when the justices discuss cases and cast their initial votes, include only the nine members — no law clerks or secretaries are permitted. The justices are notoriously close-lipped, and their law clerks must agree to keep matters completely confidential.
So much of politics is done with heavy mallets and raised voices — there is no artistry to the House of Representatives — but the ultimate arbiters of law in this country quietly debate the most important issues of the nation in secret. This is not the terrible “justice done in shadows”1 that we, as a people, should fear; it is simply the process by which the Supreme Court develops arguments into the beautiful (and binding) majority opinions and joint dissents that we eventually read. We are not privy to the conversations between justices that lead to their decisions, because their words have the full force of law: once set, the opinions of the Supreme Court become absolute rules by which all other justice can be measured and applied to. Does that not merit the liberty of time to think and the privacy with which to do so?
“Justice that must be done in shadows is hardly justice at all.” ↩