WASHINGTON:The Supreme Court will begin a new term on Monday, with justices sparring openly about the legitimacy of the institution and lowering public confidence.
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This could shift American law to the right on issues like race, voting, and the environment.
The court is returning with an aggressive agenda that appears likely to split its six conservative justices from its three liberal justices after June’s historic overturning of nearly 50 years of constitutional protections for abortion rights.
William and Mary law professor Allison Orr Larsen stated, “It’s not going to be a sleepy term.”The cases that the court has already agreed to hear have the potential to significantly alter the law.
New Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the court’s first Black woman, enters this tangled mess.Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal justice, retired in June and was replaced by Jackson.She isn’t expected to change the court’s liberal-conservative split, but for the first time, the court has four women as justices and no longer has a majority of white men.
With three Trump-appointed justices, the court could overturn decades of decisions allowing colleges to consider race in admissions and weaken the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, the civil rights movement’s crown jewel.
A Republican-led appeal in a separate election case could significantly alter how elections for Congress and the presidency are conducted by giving state legislatures more power and taking it away from state courts.
Conflict over the rights of a business owner who has a religious objection to working with same-sex couples on their weddings is also on the agenda.
The justices will be asked to limit the scope of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s primary law to combat water pollution, during the term’s first arguments on Monday.In this case, a couple from Idaho won a previous high court round in their attempt to build a house on land near a lake without obtaining a permit under the law.
Millions of acres of land that contain wetlands could see their regulations altered as a result of the outcome.
According to Sam Sankar, senior vice president of the Earthjustice environmental group, a couple’s decision in the Supreme Court could remove environmental safeguards from 45 million acres and put millions of people’s access to clean water in jeopardy.
It will benefit numerous industries.Sankar stated, “It’s going to hurt real people.”
However, the couple’s attorney Damien Schiff stated, “A favorable court ruling could free ordinary property owners from worrying about significant fines and years of delays.””You don’t have to be a large property owner or industrial company to have a problem,” Schiff stated.
Following the outcomes of the previous term, it is highly unlikely that the outcomes in the most high-profile cases will be anything other than conservative victories.The conservatives limited the Biden administration’s efforts to combat COVID-19 and expanded gun rights, strengthened religious freedom, and limited the government’s ability to combat climate change during their first full term together.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s president, Deborah Archer, emphasized how difficult it is for advocates of affirmative action in college admissions to succeed.
“It is unquestionably a difficult climb.Archer stated, “We are relying on Justice Roberts in a scary place.”
Her assessment is based on Chief Justice John Roberts’ long-standing support for limiting race considerations in education and voting in the 1980s, both as a judge and as a White House lawyer.
In a Texas redistricting case from 2006, Roberts wrote, “It’s a sordid business, this dividing us up by race.”
The monumental decisions made during the previous term may have already hurt the justices’ feelings.However, a number of justices have stated that tensions on the court were exacerbated when the abortion decision was made public seven weeks before it was made public.Breyer stated in a recent CNN interview that the court has not apparently identified the leak’s source.
During the summer, Justice Elena Kagan gave a series of talks in which she said that the public’s perception of the court can be hurt, especially when changes in the court’s membership lead to big changes in the law.
Kagan stated during an appearance last month at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, that “it just doesn’t look like law when some new judges appointed by a new president come in and start just tossing out the old stuff.”
Even if veiled, Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito disagreed with Kagan.Roberts stated that it was incorrect to associate disagreement with the court’s decisions with legitimate concerns.
Alito did not mention Kagan in a statement to The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.According to the newspaper, he stated, “But saying or implying that the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line.”
The House committee that is looking into the uprising that took place on January 6 also conducted an interview with Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, on Thursday.According to the chairman of the committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss, she maintained the erroneous claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent.
In the weeks following the election, conservative activist Ginni Thomas texted with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and contacted lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin.Her husband was the only justice to cast a vote in January to prevent the committee from obtaining documents from the National Archives.
Both respect for the court and approval of it have decreased, according to polls.Americans’ lowest level of trust in the court in 50 years and a record-low approval rating were reflected in the most recent Gallup Poll, which was released last week.
Roberts reflected on the past year at the court in a talk he gave to lawyers and judges in Colorado last month, describing it as “an unusual one and difficult in many respects.”The court was surrounded by an 8-foot security fence after the leak, and Roberts described it as “gut-wrenching” to drive to work through the barricades.As a concession to the coronavirus pandemic, he also stated that it was “unnatural” to hear arguments without the public present.
The public will be allowed inside the courtroom for the first time since March 2020 after the barricades have been taken down.One pandemic practice that the court will continue is the live broadcast of arguments.
Roberts appeared eager to consider the future.”I think the best way to deal with the year’s unfortunate events is to simply move on,” he stated.
According to Irv Gornstein, executive director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown University’s law school, the court moved “firmly in a rightward direction” during the previous term.There is no reason to believe that any term in the near future or this one will be any different.
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