Be Afraid: A New Term At SCOTUS Began This Week
Credit: asmithpetersen
October 4, 2022

The first Monday in October is the day the U.S. Supreme Court convenes a new session and plots a new set of horrors to arrogantly inflict upon an increasingly fed-up nation. There’s a whisper of fresh air on the Court this fall—Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson ceremonially joined the Court on Friday, just the fifth justice appointed by a Democratic president in the last 55 years. More importantly, she’s the first Black woman on the court, ever. Her ascension is potentially the only thing we’ll be able to celebrate from the Court this session.

The first order of business from the Court was actually fine—they told Mike Lindell to pound sand, potentially the highlight of this term. The pillow guy will not be able to dodge a defamation suit from Dominion Voting Systems stemming from his adherence to the Big Lie. This way, the Court’s 6-3 right-wing majority can continue to distance itself from the embarrassing man who created it, with some help from Mitch McConnell. They don’t need Trump now that they’ve got their lifetime appointments. They can go about furthering their Christo-fascist agenda without having to acknowledge the vulgarian that got them there.

They’re starting out arguments with a scary bang, determining the limits of the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce the Clean Water Act on wetlands and adjacent land. This is another potential precedent-breaker, with plaintiffs—an Idaho couple trying to build a home 300 feet from a lake—asking the Court to reconsider a 2006 decision.

The rest of the session is likely to be just as dangerous with some of the biggest cases involving racial issues, including affirmative action, voting rights, and adoption—all of which are subject to long-standing precedent that this Court majority has shown an eagerness to scrap. At the end of October they’ll hear Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard,  and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, challenges to 40 years of repeatedly-upheld precedent allowing for race-conscious admissions policies.

On Tuesday, they’ll hear Merrill v. Milligan, the Alabama redistricting case that could dismantle what’s left of the Voting Rights Act, which has already been hacked up by conservative majorities. In early November, the Court will hear Haaland v. Bracken, a challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 which makes it harder for non-native people to adopt Indian children.

These cases could combine to erase decades of civil rights gains for people of color. Almost like they planned it that way. “The court could announce a set of rules that, together, read the Constitution to allow virtually no consideration of race, regardless of the purposes or goals,” Kate Shaw, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law predicted to The New York Times.

That’s just the first several weeks of the Court’s work. Up as well is yet another bigot claiming free speech demands that she doesn’t have to accept gay couples’ business for her wedding website company—absent any evidence LGBTQ people wanted to give her their custom. Lurking out there as well is the “independent state legislature” case, where North Carolina’s Republican legislature is asserting that it should have ultimate authority over federal elections. That argument hasn’t been scheduled yet.

Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts continues to be disingenuously baffled as to why the Court’s legitimacy is being questioned by the American public. “I don’t understand the connection between opinions that people disagree with and the legitimacy of the court,” he said last month at a judicial conference. “If the court doesn’t retain its legitimate function of interpreting the Constitution, I’m not sure who would take up that mantle,” he said. “You don’t want the political branches telling you what the law is, and you don’t want public opinion to be the guide of what the appropriate decision is.”

That’s rich coming from the conservative Chief Justice who has lost control of the court—the majority nearly went too far for him last session, when they heard the Mississippi abortion case and, instead of deciding whether a 15-week ban was constitutional, took the opportunity to toss abortion completely out the door. Roberts argued for the 15-week ban and got no takers on his attempt at moderation.

“The reaction to Dobbs would give the chief justice a chance to tell his conservative colleagues, ‘I told you so’—when you go too far, too fast, people will see the court as nothing more than the judicial wing of the conservative political movement,” Professor David Strauss of the University of Chicago said. “But I doubt his colleagues would listen.”

His colleagues wouldn’t listen because they don’t give a damn, even if Roberts was inclined to make that argument to them. He’s not. But the other five have an agenda to fulfill and are going to leave him in the dust again and again and again. And yes, that agenda is far out of the political mainstream, and it is a massive overreach by what’s supposed to be the non-political branch of government.

Republished with permission from Daily Kos.

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