Back in junior high school we spent a lot of time in civics class discussing the system of checks and balances that exists between the three branches of government. It was a wonderful fairytale about how no single branch of the government could ever attain absolute power because the other two branches would stomp it down. What wasn’t covered was the truth, which is that all three branches are playing on the same team. When the executive branch wants a law the legislative branch writes and passes it. When the legislative branch wants a law enforce the executive branch dutifully enforces it. When either branch want somebody to back their actions up they ask the judicial branch. It’s really just one big government circle jerk.
But the judicial branch has another option available to it. Instead of ruling in favor of the actions of the other two branches it can simple opt to not hear a case:
The Supreme Court declined Monday to resolve the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s bulk telephone metadata surveillance program, leaving intact what a lower-court judge described as an “almost-Orwellian” surveillance effort in which the metadata from every phone call to and from the United States is catalogued by US spies.
Surveillance state got you down? Are the people unhappy about being spied on? Is the executive branch demanding you rule its actions constitutional? Do you want to avoid a public relations nightmare but are stuck between a rock and a hard place? No problem, simply refuse to hear the case!
With the simple act of refusing to hear the case the Supreme Court managed to make the issue of phone surveillance somebody else’s problem, which likely saved it from the wrath of both the executive branch and the people being spied on. It’s a wonderful way to avoid being a check against abuses of power and tipping the balance of public opinion against you. Good job guys!