At least federal judges are supposed to be bound by a code of conduct. On the United States Supreme Court, adherence to the code is merely voluntary.

Last week, an HBO film crew was in my Manhattan neighborhood shooting a movie about legendary record producer Phil Spector, now serving 19 years to life for the 2003 shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson.

The film, starring Al Pacino, already has stirred controversy because its writer-director, David Mamet, recently said he believes Spector wasn’t guilty. That generated an outraged letter from a group calling itself the Friends of Lana Clarkson that began, “This film may be a valentine for a convicted murderer and 40-year gun abuser.”

Of course, their anger can’t hold a patch to the rage of those millions furious over the not guilty verdict in the trial of Casey Anthony for the murder of her baby daughter Caylee. But whether you believe Spector didn’t do it or Casey Anthony did, the bottom line is the same: It’s your opinion, you’re welcome to it, and that’s as far as it goes. Rather than yield to passions whipped up by media and mob hysteria, it finally was up to a jury of men and women to presume innocence until otherwise proven beyond reasonable doubt — to hear the testimony, look at the evidence or lack thereof — and then make a decision.

Like it or not, that’s how we proceed in a democracy, and for the most part it’s worked pretty well. In the words of attorney and journalist Jami Floyd, “Our constitution balances the tension between the public’s desire for retribution against the greater societal goal of justice. The trial is the defendant shield against the societal sword of revenge.”

Don’t be mad at the jurors — they did their job. Better and perhaps even more productive to level your roiled ire at judges whose objectivity increasingly is compromised by ideology, politics and cash.

On the state level, with more than 80 percent of judges in this country elected and money, much of it corporate donations pouring into their campaigns — $200.4 million in the last decade — jurists, whether they admit it or not, are under constant pressure to favor their benefactors.

And on the federal level, take a look, for one, at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, covering Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, described by the progressive website ThinkProgress as “probably the most conservative court in the country.”

Last year, the Fifth Circuit, “had to dismiss a case brought by Katrina victims against the energy industry because so many judges were required to recuse themselves that there weren’t enough judges left to hear an appeal. … As of last year, a majority of the court’s active judges had oil investments, even though their court is frequently called upon to resolve questions involving the oil industry.” (One subsequently divested herself of up to $15,000 in BP stock, several weeks after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.)

In May, none of this gave House Republicans the slightest pause when they included in the “Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act” a provision requiring that civil lawsuits arising from drilling in the Gulf must be heard in, you guessed it, the Fifth Circuit.

But at least federal judges are supposed to be bound by a code of conduct. On the United States Supreme Court, adherence to the code is merely voluntary, flouted by Justice Clarence Thomas, whose conflicts of interest, along with his wife’s, have been widely reported; and Justices Scalia and Alito, who have shown up at political events.

“The court cannot maintain its legitimacy as guardian of the rule of law when justices behave like politicians,” the July 1 New York Times editorialized. “Yet, in several instances, justices acted in ways that weakened the court’s reputation for being independent and impartial. …

“Among the court’s 82 rulings this term, 16 were 5-to-4 decisions. Of those, 10 were split along ideological lines, with Justice Anthony Kennedy supplying the fifth conservative vote. These rulings reveal the court’s fundamental inclination to the right, with the conservative majority further expanding the ability of the wealthy to prevail in electoral politics and the prerogatives of businesses against the interests of consumers and workers.”

Next session, many say, could be “the term of the century.” With possible major decisions on affirmative action, same-sex marriage, immigration and health care reform, the impact of this right-leaning, ideological court may only get more extreme.

So if you want to get mad about something, get mad about that.

Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East and former senior writer at "Bill Moyers Journal" on PBS.