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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Roberts Court: Acrimony and Right Wing Conservatism

As we enter the final week of the Supreme Court term there is no shortage of commentary on how Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito have transformed the Court and the direction of the country. And none of the reports are good. The Court has already upheld an abortion ban, curbed free speech rights, limited the ability of citizens to bring suits and to be compensated for pay discrimination, restricted the rights of criminal defendants and more. And there is still more to come.

Tom Goldstein on SCOTUSBLOG projected that “the Term will ultimately reveal that the Court’s ideological shift has been far more profound than almost anyone outside the building has realized so far.” Whereas last term, the Court released a number of unanimous opinions, even on some controversial issues, this year the Court’s opinions have been particularly contentious and divisive.

As Edward Lazarus pointed out in a recent article on FindLaw:

[T]hose who believed that last year's respite from Supreme Court acrimony was a precursor of a new kindler, gentler Court were exempting the institution from the laws of human nature. These are enormously serious people with enormously serious and utterly conflicting convictions - one faction pitted, again and again, against the other. The idea that it isn't personal is therefore absurd. Nothing could be more personal.

The Court's recent shift into disharmony, then, is a formula for ever-deepening division -- one that no amount of happy talk or mythologizing can solve.

And, Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times drew attention to the fact that the Roberts Court has already started overturning long-standing precedents, despite Roberts’ and Alito’s praise of stare decisis at their confirmation hearings.

Robyn Blumner in the St. Petersburg Times has developed a new moniker for the Roberts Court:

The Warren court will always be remembered as liberal, the Burger court as pragmatic, the Rehnquist court as conservative, and the Roberts court in a short time has already earned its moniker: mean.

The addition of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito to the heartless duo of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas has cemented a plurality for cruelty. If there's a choice between casting their lot with the little guy and tipping a case toward compassion, or putting a foot on his throat, it's a safe bet that these four will be getting out their boots.

President Bush has clearly made his mark on the Supreme Court and the nation. All Americans should consider the power of federal judges and the extreme importance of future nominees.

For more commentary on the Supreme Court term and the Roberts Court see here, here, here, here and here.


Anonymous said...

Two good additional analyses of the Roberts court:

US Supreme Court continues pattern of pro-corporate rulings


Spate of anti-democratic rulings by US Supreme Court;
Right-wing majority consolidated


Anonymous said...

More from this web site.
Decisions on campaign finance, speech and religion;
US Supreme Court rulings mark a swing to the right


This is a good site for analysis. It's a non lawyer site but the articles look written by attorneys. But they are not brainwashwed the the legal positivism taught in law schools and see beyond the form of the opinions.