“All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court.”
The Court is now in session. You may be seated.
The case presented to you today, as well as others during the upcoming weeks, will be part of a series of cases highlighting grave Supreme Court errors. We, as The People, must not forget that the justices are fallible human beings. Forget what you may have previously learned about these ethical figures. Pay attention, because the Court hasn’t always handed down noble decisions like in Brown v. Board of Education (1954).
First on the docket of dishonorable cases decided by the “honorable” court is Buck v. Bell (1927).
At the beginning of the 20th Century, the United States engaged in an intense debate about the ethical implications regarding eugenics. A spirit of Social Darwinism swept the nation, as well as the world, inspiring the horrifying idea of killing off the weakest members of the human race.
*audible gasps in courtroom*
Audience Member # 1: But I thought that only Nazi Germany did that.
Audience Member #5: I can’t believe that our nation, which prides itself on the right to life, could have thought this.
Order in the Court please.
Well, it did. This idea wasn’t the worst part though. The implication of the idea into law was.
In 1924, Virginia passed a law dictating that any person found of mental disability could be compulsory sterilized. The state then determined that 18 year old Carrie Buck was mentally incapable and should be sterilized. A woman, barely an adult, robbed off her right to procreate because she was determined unfit.
Eventually the case worked its way to the Supreme Court.
It should have been an easy case. The Virginia statute violated Carrie’s constitutional rights. Carrie’s main argument rested in the notion that the law broke the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The law was not enacted to the public equally, but targeted a certain type of people.
On May 2nd, 1927, the Supreme Court ruled against Carrie Buck. It was determined by an 8-1 vote that the public’s welfare took precedence over a person’s bodily integrity. The majority opinion, written by Justice Holmes, brandished Carrie Beck as “promiscuous” because she conceived a child outside of wedlock. An important side note: she was raped. Holmes went onto state,“being swamped with incompetence . . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
Appalling? Yes. Shocking? No
As this series of proceedings continues in the coming weeks, the Supreme Court will undergo the utmost scrutiny. Too often the judiciary escapes criticism from the public as it is held as a lofty, noble institution incapable of flaws. The greatest danger to the perpetuation of democracy is a politically idle public.
The Court will now adjourn.
Information taken from:
- Buck v. Bell. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved September 6, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1900-1940/274us200
- The Constitution of the United States of America
- Buck v. Bell 274 U.S. 200 (1927). (n.d.). Retrieved September 6, 2017, from https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/274/200/case.html#207