I suspect a good many people may agree that, if an action by the government is thrown out by the Supreme Court unanimously, the government, having been so rebuffed, was shown to have overreached.
A telling example this past term started with a jilted wife who sought revenge against her cheating husband’s lover by spreading’s the home wrecker’s property – her car, her mailbox, and the like – with a dangerous chemical. The wronged spouse was not very good at it, and the most damage she inflicted was a mild burn to her nemesis’ thumb, cured by running cold water over it.
An overzealous federal prosecutor (the mailbox inviting federal jurisdiction) added to the many legitimate charges brought against the assailant a charge for violation of the chemical warfare treaty – the same law governments rely on to act against dictators from Iraq to Syria when they feel so inclined. More worrisome than the uncurbed élan of a lone prosecutor is that the federal government defended its right to prosecute our clumsy (soon to be) ex-wife under the treaty all the way to the Supreme Court, where it suffered a resounding defeat.
This is regrettably only one example. In a galling case in 2012, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled in the strongest terms that the EPA’s Compliance Orders could be challenged in Court. The federal government had insisted that it had the unfettered power to impose daily fines under such orders free from judicial oversight.
Such overreaches are not frequent in the great scheme of things. But the power of the government over the governed is undeniable. Small businesses in regulated industries routinely face Big Brother’s unblinking eye and, increasingly, its iron fist. It will help to at least have a good attorney on their side.