The Case for Respecting Courts as Institutions

This might sound like I’m a coward selling out my moral integrity, but I for one am relieved we have courts to settle disputes through arbitration even in the cases when I personally disagree with a court’s ruling. When I see friends decry a court ruling, I can’t tell if they go on respecting the court’s ruling because they believe with the principles behind the rule of law, or because there’s nothing practical they can do to change the outcome. People should by all means express through any and all mediums their opposition to a court ruling, because it’s only through the exercise of free speech amendments ultimately get made to past rulings to undo misjudgement.

It seems to me, though, people denigrate the current standing of courts, e.g., being too liberal or too conservative, in a way undermining faith in the institutional process to begin with. Most people I see act as though a Supreme Court being sympathetic to one’s own ideology is synonymous with the court reaching objectively good conclusions. Contemporary societies are so complicated decisions scaled to the whole of society quickly go beyond good and evil. Having an independent court system as a buttress against tyranny of the mob for when even representative branches of government themselves fail that standard is important. People are failing to consider the counterfactual outcome: a society without the sorts of checks and balances we have now, however superficially democratic, will slowly accrete gross injustices against a minority, until it accelerates to dole out gross injustice to everyone. This is the story of every totalitarian state in history. To not beware this possibility seems to me to put too much faith in ideology over the value of longer-lasting institutions; a democratic system of checks and balances; and the rule of law. It seems worthy to stick to this standard, because even decades of disappointment in institutions providing social mediocrity is less harmful than risking the violence and oppression that would pour forth from incorrigible zealots of any stripe.


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