Supreme Court of the United States
1 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20543
There were two articles in Sunday's Los Angeles Times that had me reaching for two bottles: Pepto Bismol and Jose Cuervo Gold. Both articles were about how the U.S. Supreme Court could very well steer to the right on social issues, one (written by Eric J. Segall) referring to that scenario as "a liberal nightmare."
He's not kidding; We should all be more than a little queasy at the prospects of impending major SCOTUS decisions further eroding what's left of democracy.
First an overview by David G. Savage of what we're up against when the Supreme Court begins its term on Monday:
Savage describes this as "a clear opportunity to shift the law to the right on touchstone social issues such as abortion, contraception and religion, as well as the political controversy over campaign funding."
The Citizens United ruling has already been a windfall for fundraisers. And now the Supreme Court appears poised to allow more of the wealthy few to buy elections. Please read those links, because you will be and have been impacted by the outcome of bad decisions like CU as well as what's next on the agenda:
In other cases due to be heard this fall, the justices are likely to uphold state bans on college affirmative action and block most housing bias claims that allege an unfair impact on blacks and Latinos.
They may also give states more authority to restrict and regulate abortion.
On to the op-ed by Eric J. Segall, a law professor at Georgia State University and the author of "Supreme Myths: Why the Supreme Court Is Not a Court and Its Justices Are Not Judges." He begins his post with the chilling warning, "When the dust settles, if the conservative justices hold sway, Americans could find themselves living in a different country."
He then reminds us that the Citizens United decision "granted corporations and unions the same rights as private individuals to make independent political expenditures." What it did not do is address "the important distinction made in Buckley between groups or individuals giving money directly to a candidate or campaign versus the independent expenditures." My link above explains that in more detail. In short:
[C]onservative amicus briefs are urging the court to abolish that distinction and invoke the 1st Amendment to prohibit the regulation of campaign contributions... [T]his case could be the knockout punch that limits legislative efforts to reduce the corrosive effects of money on political campaigns.
And you thought all that influence the top 1% (coughKochBrotherscough) was bad now. Just wait.
On to the separation of church and state... or what's left of it:
The relationship between government and religious liberty is also at issue this term.... [Conservatives]... want the court to broadly hold that government endorsements of religion never violate the 1st Amendment's establishment clause unless the government is actually coercing religion. Such a finding would create a "coercion test," long the wish of Justice Antonin Scalia, which would allow the government to place religious symbols on public property without limitation and permit overtly Christian (or any other religious) prayers at legislative sessions without any judicial check.
He notes that if Justice Kennedy veers right on this one, "the wall between church and state, a wall that Scalia doesn't think exists, will be dramatically lowered."
Souter and O'Connor are now gone, and Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas have repeatedly urged the court to abandon the "undue burden" standard and replace it with a reasonableness test that would give lawmakers much more discretion to restrict abortions... Kennedy is again the key. Although it is unlikely he would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, if he turns right even a little bit, the ability of women to obtain safe and affordable abortions might be severely threatened.
Segall ties it all up with a very ugly bow:
Depending on how [Kennedy] votes, this country might look very different at the end of June 2014.
To those of you who continue to believe that elections don't matter, think again. It is the president who chooses Supreme Court justices, so stop whining and get yourselves to the ballot box. And while you're at it, help get out the vote wherever and how ever you can.
Unless, of course, rulings like the ones discussed in this post don't matter to you.