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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Experts draw lessons from the Roberts Court's biggest cases

Yesterday, AFJ presented a panel at the 2012 Take Back the American Dream Conference in Washington, DC.

Our panel discussed the growing politicization of the Roberts Court and past and future decisions that will impact almost every major political issue of our time.

Judy Scott speaks at our panel on the Supreme Court
Professor Jeffrey Rosen of GW Law and The New Republic stressed that the forthcoming decision in the case challenging health care reform will be a “moment of truth” for Chief Justice Roberts, saying “…to strike down healthcare reform by a 5-4 vote would represent an irredeemable failure for [Chief Justice Roberts’] vision of bipartisanship.”

Ari Melber of The Nation reminded us that we can learn from the conservative movement’s success in altering the composition of the courts and shifting legal interpretations through political organizing. There is a lot that progressives can do to push forward a progressive set of priorities for the Court, he said, with the right organizing, political frameworks, and pressure.

Judy Scott of the SEIU told the stories of three workers who stood up for their rights in court, only to have the Roberts Court diminish the ability of workers to take collective action. She highlighted last year’s Walmart v. Dukes, saying, “The standard that the Court set put up a major roadblock in the path of workers trying to take on corporate power collectively in the workplace.”

Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State spoke about what he called “corporate conscience.” “Under the claim of religious freedom you find a cover for a gigantic new fictional creature called ‘corporate conscience’ and the rights of workers could be given short shrift yet one more time,” he said. He emphasized the need to fill judicial vacancies, and closed by declaring the Supreme Court should “serve as a constraint on the otherwise overarching tyranny of the majority, along with their corporate political allies, and to do it because we are trying to protect the future of ourselves and generations to follow.”

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