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How politics is made in the courtroom


The rulings against Trump, Biden's son Hunter and on gun laws are causing a lot of discussion in the USA. This shows how politicized the US courts have become.

Sebastian Hesse

That's what you call “overtaking the right by the right”: On Friday, the US Supreme Court overturned the only tightening of gun laws from the Trump years. After a gunman in Las Vegas fired more than a thousand shots in just eleven minutes from a hotel room in October 2017, killing 60 people, even the darling of the gun lobby saw a need for action.

Then-President Donald Trump banned so-called bump stocks, an additional device that turns a semi-automatic weapon into a rapid-fire rifle that can fire hundreds of rounds per minute.

6:3 majority of conservatives on the Supreme Court

With their now proven 6:3 majority, the conservative Supreme Court judges declared the rapid-fire pistol ban unconstitutional. The lawsuit was brought by a gun dealer from Texas. Trump sees the Supreme Court's shift to the right as one of the greatest achievements of his presidency. As is the filling of more than 200 federal judgeships with decidedly conservatives.

In the USA, politics is made through the judiciary. Trump fans like to applaud their idol for overturning the nationwide right to abortion. This was made possible because Trump was able to fill three vacant constitutional judgeships with conservative anti-abortionists.

Hunter Biden verdict: relief among Democrats

Accordingly, many Republicans would have wished for a different verdict when legal history was made for the second time in a very short period of time this week. Joe Biden's son Hunter was found guilty of violating the gun law. For the first time, a close family member of a sitting US president has been convicted in a criminal case.

To the secret relief of the Democratic camp: It shows that everyone is equal before the law – even the president's sons. To the secret annoyance of the Republicans, who would have loved to see a precedent that the judiciary is politically biased in favor of the Biden camp. That is why the Trump camp is now trying to reinterpret the trial against Hunter Biden as a political diversionary tactic. The accusation: This is intended to divert attention from the real misdeeds of the allegedly corrupt Biden family.

The latest events in the USA clearly demonstrate the weaknesses of the American justice system. Sometimes it is okay to make politics about like-minded people on the bench. But then again it is not. Sometimes clearly politically motivated court rulings are welcomed, then they are condemned. Justice is allowed to have a party membership card, but it should be her own if possible. The reactions to the rulings against Donald Trump and Hunter Biden have once again highlighted this double standard.

Trump was incredibly lucky

And then there is the factor of chance. The Supreme Court justices in the USA are appointed for life. How long they serve on the Supreme Court is just as much a matter of chance as it is unpredictable who will be residing in the White House and can decide on their successor.

Trump was incredibly lucky: he was able to appoint three right-wing like-minded people to the Supreme Court. The score is now 6:3 in favor of the conservatives. Biden has only been granted one replacement so far. There is no sign of another. For an indefinite period of time, crucial social questions, such as the legal situation regarding abortion, will now be clarified by conservatives. Until fate brings about a different constellation at some point. So it is no surprise that so few people in the USA are convinced that justice is really blind. And that everyone is really equal before the law.

Judgments have little influence on Voting decisions

It doesn't help that politicians keep casting doubt on the functioning of the rule of law. Trump has shaken people's trust in democratic institutions and, to a large extent, trust in the media. The same applies to court proceedings as to elections: for Trump and his followers, they are only fair if he wins.

At least the fact that Americans are used to these conditions and have learned to deal with them has a balancing effect. Just this week, 80 percent of respondents in a Reuters/Ipsos poll said that the Hunter Biden verdict did not influence their voting decision. 61 percent assured that the Trump conviction had no effect on where they would vote. One might find it problematic that the most promising candidate according to this poll is a convicted criminal (Trump is narrowly ahead of Biden in Reuters/Ipsos). But one could also see it as responsible voting behavior that political sentiments in the USA are gradually building up and are not so easily overturned.

Supreme Court rules on presidential immunity

The Supreme Court, which Trump has moved to the right, is expected to make its fundamental decision on the immunity of a US president this month. During his time in office, Trump repeatedly stressed that the three judges he appointed now owed him something. In this case, he would like to be declared immune by the Supreme Court in order to stop the three pending trials against him.

It is generally expected that the Supreme Court will rule that presidents are not completely above the law. Whatever the decision in detail, one thing is certain: the judge's ruling will be immediately defamed by someone as political agitation.

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