Racial bias in the criminal justice system, the growing political power of minority voters, and the accountability of predatory banks are at the center of this term’s most interesting cases.
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A new Supreme Court term begins this week without a ninth Justice, and – unlike Senate Republicans who continue to refuse to do their jobs and give the President’s nominee a hearing and a vote – the eight Justices currently on the Court still need to do their jobs to the extent they are able to. After all, a number of significant cases are on the Court’s docket this term. They may lack the blockbuster status of some cases in previous terms, but they still raise important issues that are central to who we are as a nation.
Looking back at 2005, it’s pretty clear that Senate Republicans can promptly fill a vacancy on the Court (and deal with an announced retirement) when they want to. Their partisan inaction now is nothing short of shameful. And the Court, the country, and Merrick Garland are paying the price.
As we celebrate Constitution Week this year, let’s remind ourselves and our public officials of the staggering achievement of that extraordinary founding document signed 229 years ago, and the later generations of Americans who worked to make it even more faithful to our founding values. Remembering our Constitution’s progress and promise, and the system of justice we need to make it a reality, has never been more important.
The federal courts may not always be the focus of the American populace, but those courts’ decisions affect Americans every day. This election year, more so than most, that empty seat on the Supreme Court makes clear just how high the stakes are.
Any president, at any time in history, is crucial to this constitutional narrative because of his or her ability to work with the legislative branch to pass laws that enforce our constitutional guarantees and take care that those laws are faithfully executed. But this particular presidential election may be especially important because of the impact the next president is likely to have on the Supreme Court.
Access to courts may not grab attention in the same way that issues such as guns, abortion, or affirmative action do, but it forms the foundation of the rule of law. How this law changes after Scalia will determine whether minorities victimized by the government, consumers threatened by corporate power, and others will have the right to go to court to redress violations of their rights. The vitality of the Constitution and federal law depends on ensuring that individuals have their day in court to vindicate their legal rights and prevent the abuse of power.
Even as we celebrate the anniversary of Obergefell, it’s critical to remember that the short-handed Supreme Court is now in a position in which it may not be able to issue decisions for our nation on fundamental rights and other important legal issues. This is a serious threat to the rule of law.
Ed Blum—who financed and spearheaded the Fisher case—hoped to establish a precedent to gut affirmative action across the nation and force universities to abandon policies that, for decades, have helped ensure equal opportunities for all regardless of race. Today’s ruling dashes Blum’s hopes of rewriting the Fourteenth Amendment to strike down efforts to ensure true racial diversity on our nation’s campuses. Fisher II makes clear that universities may act to further our Constitution’s promise of equality.