A Rare Glimpse Behind The Scenes Of SCOTUS | Inside The Chief Justice’s Most Surprising Year Yet
July 27, 2020
Late on Friday, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to reject a Nevada church’s request to strike down as unconstitutional public health orders from the state that limit attendance at church services. It was the second time CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS joined his liberal colleagues in recent months to uphold emergency measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. The church had argued that they be subject to the same restrictions as those applied to casinos, restaurants, and other businesses in the state which are allowed to operate at 50% of capacity with proper social distancing. SCOTUS gave no reason for its decision which is standard for emergency applications, though the court’s conservatives filed three dissents on the matter. In a dissent joined by JUSTICES THOMAS and KAVANAUGH, SAMUEL ALITO wrote, “The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion…A public health emergency does not give governors and other public officials carte blanche to disregard the Constitution for as long as the medical problem persists.”
The backlash from conservatives to CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS joining liberal justices once again to strike down the Nevada church’s request was swift and strong. SENATOR TED CRUZ said on Twitter that Roberts had abandoned his oath, and SENATOR TOM COTTON said Roberts “once again got it wrong.”
BEHIND THE SCENES|
This Supreme Court term was one for the ages in large part because of how CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS took control of its decisions on blockbuster cases that involved DACA, abortion access, and presidential immunity. In an exclusive four-part series, CNN provides a rare glimpse into the inner workings of SCOTUS and how the justices forged coalitions and navigated outside political pressures and the coronavirus pandemic. Joan Biskupic writes that new details obtained by CNN reveal how Roberts decided to save DACA, the signals he gave his conservative colleagues on Second Amendment Issues, and how COVID-19 ended up giving the chief justice more power in his role.
HE'S MAKING A LIST, CHECKING IT TWICE|
Gabby Orr with POLITICO reports on PRESIDENT TRUMP’S promise to reveal a new list of potential Supreme Court nominees and his aides and outside advisors becoming increasingly divided over the content and length of that list. Orr notes, “The standoff stems from recent concerns about CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS and JUSTICE NEIL GORSUCH — two Republican-appointed members of the high court who appalled party officials and conservative court watchers with their respective roles in two recent cases: one striking down a Louisiana law that would have dramatically curtailed abortion access, the other extending workplace discrimination protections to LGBTQ Americans. Some want Trump to trim his list of potential Supreme Court candidates by half or more — ditching those with limited records from which to judge the consistency of their judicial philosophy and blocking fresh appointees to the federal court system from being added.”
A BAD RUN FOR VOTING RIGHTS|
“Voting rights advocates are batting 0-4 at the U.S. Supreme Court so far this year. A record number of election-related lawsuits are piling up in courts around the country as concerns mount about the safety of voting in person because of the coronavirus and the availability and reliability of voting by mail. With a pandemic raging and uncertainty brewing, some fear the Supreme Court’s chilly attitude toward election lawsuits may add yet another obstacle to a free and fair election in November.” That’s Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred and Nina Totenberg with NPR reviewing the Roberts Court’s record on voting rights and predicting how the high court is like to address voting disputes going forward.
“In the past, unwritten norms of behavior guided both political parties. For the most part, the majority party respected the prerogatives of the minority party. The most prominent example of the Senate’s mutual courtesy play was the filibuster. This was not idealism. Both parties were operating on the understanding that they would want to be extended this courtesy when they were in the minority. That world is now gone, replaced by pure power politics in the realm of judicial nomination confirmation. You can guess my takeaway: Pray for the health of RBG — and of the republic.”The Washington Post
“The military had repudiated its checkered history of discrimination on the basis of sex and embraced full participation as the best guarantee of military effectiveness. The Trump Administration’s transgender ban undermined the military’s advances. But the Bostock decision prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in civilian employment invites the military to return to its own pre-Trump policy of welcoming all personnel regardless of sex, gender or sexuality. Despite its uneven history, military leadership knows that full and immediate inclusion of transgender personnel would maximize individuals’ military contributions, minimize harmful discrimination and improve military effectiveness.”