Richard Neely wrote the book 'How Courts Govern America' in 1981 because Richard wanted to "bring some understanding to constitutional law which 'concerns the ordering of this country's (the United States) economy, social structure, and political process according to the mandates of written state or federal constitutions which limit the power of government.'" In short, the book, written with self-effacing humor attempted to analyze the powers of the 3 branches of government and the potential for reform.
Richard's grandfather had served as U.S. Senator and Governor. Scott Bushnell of the Associated Press told readers Richard was "the latest (in 1981) of 4 generations of West Virginia politicians" who at 31 in 1972, was elected to the state (West Virginia) Supreme Court (of appeals) - the youngest judge of a court of last resort in the English-speaking world - for a 12-year term. Scott also mentioned Richard graduated from Dartmouth College in 1964 with a degree in economics and gained his law degree from Yale. He had served in Vietnam as an artillery captain and earned the Bronze Star.
In his book, Richard was matter-of-fact: "All branches of government lie, and so do judges. A government which promises simultaneously to expand energy production, deliver adequate medical services to everyone, provide a comfortable living to the aged and infirm (physically weak), control pollution, revamp the national transportation network, provide free and limitless schooling, develop the Third World, allocate 5% of gross national product to new housing, protect all of the stupid and lazy from themselves, maintain parity in all weapons systems, and increase net disposable income – all without increasing taxes – is obviously lying, yet this is typical campaign rhetoric. Where democracy is working, democracy ought to be permitted to work. Courts should intervene only where democracy is not working."
Writing for Newsday in 1987, Richard emphasized, "The Supreme Court of the United States is not a judicial tribunal. It is a legislative tribunal … Justices of the Supreme Court, therefore, are not real judges like me. Supreme Court justices are legislators who control a big part of all the law in America through their decisions interpreting the Constitution or federal statutes. The language of the Constitution is so vague, and the federal statutes are so loosely written, that Supreme Court justices can decide anything they want and make it stick. And when the Supreme Court decides an issue, that decision, for good or ill, governs the whole country. Any Supreme Court opinion is telegraphed within minutes to every part of the United States, and it immediately affects every legal question even vaguely similar to the case decided."
Richard pointed out, "Who honestly believes that a passionately committed, fundamentalist judge wouldn't view the first Amendment through the lens of his or her own personal conviction? If I wanted to allow creation science to be taught in Louisiana, I'd repair to the old, pre-1940 law and the minutes of the debate on the First Amendment in the 1790 session of Congress where it was expressly determined by Congress to leave religious matters to the states and not to broaden the First Amendment to prohibit state regulation of religion.
"The bottom line is that the Supreme Court made a political decision that has a fiscal impact on state and local government of the magnitude of Star Wars. If that's not legislation, I'd like to know what is. Americans love democracy but hate the politicians who make democracy work. Ever since the early years of the Republic, we have searched persistently for some scheme to liberate government from politics and politicians. Our extensive civil service system, the recently (in 1987) enacted limits on campaign spending and even George Washington's warnings about the dangers of political parties are examples of attempts either to separate government from politicians or to reduce the influence certain groups have over politicians. In such an atmosphere, it follows logically that the politicians who will have the most power are the ones who best disguise the fact that they are politicians at all. That's the secret of the Supreme Court's power.
"The Supreme Court … is making political and not legal decisions. In this regard, I use the word 'political' in its broadest and most positive sense. This means that we should evaluate a potential President or a U.S. Senator. We ought to ask whether the person knows something about government, has a good grasp of our current political problems, and is likely to be fair in the political rather than the legal sense."