WASHINGTON—Striking down the judicial precedent that established the legal supremacy of right over wrong more than two centuries ago, the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned Right v. Wrong.
The landmark reversal—a bitterly contested 5-4 decision that has been widely praised by murderers, rapists, bigots, usurers, and pro-wrong advocates nationwide—nullifies all previously lawful forms of right and makes it very difficult for Americans to make ethical decisions or be generally decent human beings without facing criminal charges.
"It is the opinion of this court that the Constitution was crafted in such a manner as to uphold and encourage practices that are not right and, ideally, are very wrong," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority, which also included Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and John Roberts. "Despite the compelling case for goodness, truth, and justice made by our predecessors in the case of Right v. Wrong, we firmly believe that malice, dishonesty, and injustice were the framers' original intent."
"The ruling today rights an age-old wrong in which right has consistently, and unconstitutionally, prevailed," Justice Alito wrote in a concurring opinion, adding that the decision between right and wrong did not present a difficult choice for him. "It is clear the earlier court erred when issuing the Right decision."
The ruling in Right v. Wrong was handed down in 1790 by the Supreme Court's six original members, all of whom sided with the plaintiff, prompting Chief Justice John Jay to write, "It is the emphatic province and duty of this highest judicial tribunal to rule in favor of Right, as the argument in support of Right is the right one, and the argument in support of Wrong is the wrong one."
Since that time, the verdict has been cited in most legal rulings at the state and federal level, and has been upheld by the Supreme Court numerous times, most notably in a 1974 opinion overturning a Six Circuit Court of Appeals decision that would have re-segregated the nation's schools, abolished the minimum wage, legalized evil, and allowed law enforcement officials to conduct searches and seizures without a warrant.
This term, the high court agreed to hear the appeal of an Arizona state judge's ruling for the defendant in the case of Good v. Bad, a decision that had once more called into question the basic tenets of Right v. Wrong.
"If you look at the current makeup of the court, the verdict is hardly surprising," said law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, adding that given recent decisions to permit unlimited corporate spending in electoral politics, crack down on civil liberties, and allow the execution of Troy Davis to proceed, he believed the justices had been angling to do away with Right for some time. "It's long been clear Roberts and Alito were in the camp favoring wrong, and Scalia's passionate criticism of the Right decision almost certainly swayed Justice Kennedy."
"As for Justice Thomas, he was practically asleep when the attorneys representing Good gave their oral arguments," Chemerinsky added. "In terms of his job, that was definitely the wrong thing to do, so he made it pretty clear which side he was on."
Many constitutional scholars have argued the ruling sets a dangerous precedent whereby violent criminals could conceivably appeal their convictions and, citing the federal judiciary's rejection of Right, be acquitted of their crimes.
According to reports, the impact of the verdict has already been felt, with a Massachusetts man murdering three people this morning in front of several Boston police officers who by law could do nothing but watch. In addition, a woman who volunteered at a Toledo, OH soup kitchen has been arrested, sentenced to six months in jail, and fined $25,000.
"This ruling is so broad that even those who show an intent to do right can be prosecuted," said Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School. "Make no mistake, the court is sending a message to pro-right supporters that fairness and equality are no longer the laws of the land. And the decision has no chance of being overturned in the immediate future, because the bench will be dominated by pro-wrong advocates for years to come."
Justice Stephen Breyer chose to read his dissenting opinion aloud before the court, a rare gesture apparently aimed at expressing the full measure of his disgust with the verdict.
"The court needs to overturn this ruling immediately because, simply put, it's the right thing to do," said the associate justice, who, along with his colleagues joining him in the minority, was then arrested by Capitol Police, placed into custody, and is currently awaiting trial.