(…where any ruling made today…can always get a make-over tomorrow)

As any rabid baseball fan can tell you, on the field of play an Umpire’s ruling is absolute and final. You can scream in his face about the inadequacies of his eyesight, or the deficiencies of his mental capacity, etc., etc., it makes no difference, whatever he ruled…stands. That’s the way it is with that game.

Not so with our Supreme Court…an umpire of the flexible persuasion…where any ruling made today…can always get a makeover tomorrow, or as many more times as it takes to ultimately get the decision one prefers. That’s the way it is with its game.

Since the founding of our nation the Court has been the only branch of our government we have always inherently trusted, regardless how much we might disagree with the merits of its decisions, many of which have been “controversial” to say the least. And since it is the sole arbiter and interpreter of what the Constitution is and what its provisions mean, that gives it an institutional authority against whose rulings there can be no arguments.

Yet that’s not necessarily so because our legal system is such that no matter how it might rule on any issue, we can still come back later to bring it up again, perhaps in a different form or context, or from another angle, and there’s no limit on how many times we can do so. It’s that “flexibility” (without being limp) which stabilizes and sustains a litigious society such as ours, while keeping a lot of trial lawyers happily employed in the process.

But a much more important aspect of all that is this: The Court has always had an uncommon knack for knowing just how and when to make split decisions on divisive issues, especially on social ones, and thereby, giving our cultural matrix time to shift its mindsets about such issues, and reach a broader consensus before coming back to the Court for a more definitive and firmer decision about them. Of course that knack hasn’t always been on target. Some might say its – Dred Scott- decision was probably its worse failure because it set the fuse that ultimately exploded into the Civil War. Well, to paraphrase a Napoleonic dictum… perspective toujours perspective!…is perhaps a better way of viewing it.

It’s recent decisions on parts of the Voting Rights Act and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and California’s Prop 8 are a prime example of that knack. It deftly stuck down parts of those Acts which it considered unconstitutional, but left the rest intact. A smooth way of telling Congress and the States involved…guys, you went overboard on these, now go back to the drawing boards and try again.

Well, maybe some are cheering in Mudville tonight, and in other places…not. No matter. With the Court, just as with Baseball, there’s always another session to look forward to. So you can bet all the proponents and opponents of these sticky social issues are busy going over how to get the Court to rule their way…next time.

Y’see, sports fans, this is one part of our governing system which actually works!