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.
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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.
By attacking the integrity of judges based on their color or creed, Trump is trying to bully the officials and institutions our Founders envisioned as the bulwark against such intimidation and lawlessness. But we should find equally unacceptable attempts to use the courts—especially the Supreme Court, which our Founders designed to be the “keystone of the arch” of our judicial system—as a political football. So long as Republican Senators insist on holding a vacant seat open on the Supreme Court for no reason other than pure politics, they are threatening real harm to our system of justice.
A deadlocked Supreme Court cannot do its job. It cannot decide important, closely-divided cases about the meaning of the Constitution or federal laws, leaving people in different parts of the country with different rights. The Supreme Court was created by the Constitution to declare the law of the land. With only eight Justices, the Supreme Court, all too often, cannot do the job the Framers assigned to it.
States have significant authority to ensure the integrity and reliability of the electoral process, but they may not accomplish those ends by using means that result in racial discrimination. The Voting Rights Act does not permit arbitrary, discriminatory state laws that make it harder for racial minorities to exercise their right to vote. Simply put, there is no “voter identification” exception to the Fifteenth Amendment’s guarantee that the right to vote shall be enjoyed equally by all regardless of race.
The Court’s decision in the case may have delayed final resolution of the question presented, but the Justices’ opinions in Spokeo make clear why Robins should ultimately get his day in court. They provide an important affirmation that Congress has the power to give consumers a right to sue when corporations violate their federal legal rights.
From abortion and affirmative action, to immigration and contraceptive coverage, hot button issues have dominated the Court this year. But there are many other incredibly important cases that could be decided before the term ends in June, on issues ranging from access to the courts and racial discrimination in jury selection, to judicial conflicts of interest and the severe financial crisis in Puerto Rico.
If anyone is “playing politics” with the Supreme Court, it is Sen. Lankford and his Republican colleagues, who are blocking Garland from even getting a hearing and a yes-or-no vote. America needs a fully staffed, fully functioning Supreme Court that can decide cases of profound importance to law enforcement and prosecutors who keep our nation safe, while ensuring that the people's constitutional rights are protected. It is time for Lankford to do his job and call for hearings and a vote.
When it comes to Supreme Court oral arguments, sometimes the justices’ questions feel more like answers with a question mark at the end. At oral argument in United States v. Texas, the questions asked by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, the likely key votes in the case, seemed like real questions. Fortunately for proponents of the administration’s immigration executive action—which could prevent, on a temporary basis, millions of undocumented immigrants from being deported—the lawyers for the administration had good answers, and the lawyers on the other side didn’t. When it comes time for the justices to cast their votes in the case, they should do what the law requires and reject this challenge to the administration’s immigration initiatives.
Counsel for House Republicans may be the only one speaking on behalf of members of Congress at oral argument on Monday, but as noted earlier, current House Republicans are not the only members of Congress who have made their voices heard in this case. When the Justices decide what to do in the case, they will consider not only what today’s House Republicans have to say, but also what bipartisan current and former members of Congress who support the Administration have said in their legal filings that are already before the Justices. What all of those briefs make clear is simple: while some current Republican members of the House of Representatives may not like the President’s immigration actions, there is no doubt that those actions are lawful.