Uneasy About Casey (Martin)

I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy having lunch with Casey Martin. He strikes me as a pretty interesting young man. First, he is a Christian, and we would have an enjoyable time, I am certain, talking about what it means to be a person of faith in a skeptical, secular world. Second, I like the underdog, and it seems like Casey fits the description, dealing with a painful and debilitating leg condition, but doing more than dealing with it; he rises above and plays golf at a highly competitive level. I think I’d find his story interesting in that regard. Third, I play a little golf myself, and I could certainly use a few pointers on my swing! I think that, all in all, he’d make a pretty fair lunch companion.

But I’m not so sure I want him on the PGA Tour, at least not under the circumstances created by the Supreme Court decision handed down recently. Tossing blithely aside the concerns of the PGA, our Court ruled that Mr. Martin ought to be able to ride a cart during play on the basis of the Americans with Disabilities Act passed during the watch of Mr. Bush I. This legislation, drafted ostensibly to assist disabled Americans in their quest to find accessibility in many facets of our society, would seem to be in danger of becoming a poster child for The Law of Unintended Consequences. Surely you’re acquainted with this fundamental rule of legislation. It relates to the fact that hastily-considered and not-well-thought-out legislation, usually brought to you by your friends on the liberal side of the aisle, ends up creating more problems than it solves by introducing consequences not considered prior to the enacting of said legislation. Prohibition comes to mind as an example; some would argue that our current “war on drugs” provides a vivid contemporary example of this as well. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease!

So to Mr. Martin. I’m pretty sure that, while we might be sympathetic on a personal level for such a fine young man as Casey Martin, the final outcome of this case was in error. What I’m not certain of is just who to blame for this. It may well be that there is plenty of blame to go around here. Should we fault politicians for not considering the implications of their actions in their drafting of the ADA? While no doubt ADA has worked in some good ways to open access to the disabled, there are plenty of stories out there which suggest that the law has had the opposite effect. The Cato Institute has catalogued some of these facts, which include the fact that 33% of the disabled public were engaged in gainful employment in 1986, prior to the ADA, whereas in December 1993, after the implementation of ADA, the percentage of working-age disabled who held employment was…31%! Frivolous lawsuits have dotted the landscape, requiring time and money to litigate. Additionally, as the folks at Cato point out, ADA actually (per The Law of Unintended Consequences) has undoubtedly had the effect of causing employers to look at the disabled not so much as people who could find meaningful employment with their company, but as lawsuits waiting to happen. The disabled might well be avoided in the hiring process, or given token jobs which serve as anything but a benefit to the many capable handicapped individuals in our nation.

The ADA stands as an example of law made badly, as it generally is every time politicians do what seems popular rather than what is best (which of course happens all too frequently). Some proposed law makes for great political posturing and wonderful sound bites (so-called “hate crimes legislation” comes to mind), but not for very good law when it is enacted. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are to be blamed for not closing some key loopholes in this legislation before signing it into law.

On the other hand, our activist Supreme Court might well bear some responsibility as well. The court’s six liberals were joined by the generally-conservative Chief Justice Rehnquist in siding with Martin. Justice Stevens wrote for the majority in the key finding that walking did not constitute a fundamental part of the rules of the game of PGA Tour golf. Many are the Tour professionals who beg to differ, of course; having played eighteen via cart on sometimes and on foot others, let there be no doubt that there is a massive difference. Apologists for Martin argued, on the other hand, that Casey Martin finishes eighteen in a cart far more exhausted than the average golfer does hoofing it. Perhaps, though this is certainly a subjective analysis. But it misses the point, which is that it seems to be a scary thing for the Supreme Court to arrogate to itself the prerogative to dictate to an organization such as the PGA just what its rules ought to be. Is this really a role envisioned by the Founding Fathers for the Supreme Court to play?

Not that this is anything new; the Supreme Court has gotten quite used to its usurpation of its extra-constitutional powers, and with decent regularity steps beyond all constitutional restraint in order to make law. Sure, it is difficult to envision Justice Scalia’s musings in his dissent that disabled Little Leaguers might in the future on the basis of this decision be given a fourth strike. It is nonetheless disconcerting that the Court would go to such lengths and to such tortured constitutional gymnastics (see the dissent) to interject itself into an affair beyond its legitimate jurisdiction.

But if Casey’s open for lunch anytime soon, I’m still buying

Leave a Comment