Third Party & Independents Archives

Supreme Court Decisions Looming

It’s that time of year for Constitutional law nerds to get excited about several Supreme Court decisions that will be released before the term’s end. With the recent confirmation of two justices (including the new chief) and the Court having to rehear cases while deciding others with only eight members, the institution has yet to release any landmark rulings that will greatly impact public policy.

But stay alert, because any day now we’ll get our first taste of the new and improved Roberts Court.

Which issues are the most important? Take your pick::

Before ending a historic term, the Supreme Court must resolve some potential blockbuster cases involving the president’s wartime powers, capital punishment and political boundaries in Texas.

Much attention this term has focused on the two newest justices - John Roberts and Samuel Alito - and on signs of a possible shift to the right on the nine-member court.

With a late June deadline looming, the high court has yet to issue opinions in about 35 cases in which justices have heard arguments. At this point a year ago, the court had the same number of cases pending, a sign the justices’ pace has changed little with the arrival of Roberts, who succeeded the late William H. Rehnquist as chief justice.

Some headline-grabbing cases are over: a test of Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide law, a constitutional challenge to state abortion restrictions and model-reality television star Anna Nicole Smith’s fight for a piece of her late husband’s estate.

Still to be decided are cases involving President Bush’s power to order military trials for suspected foreign terrorists held at the Navy prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and an appeal that will decide when death row inmates should get a new chance to prove their innocence with DNA and other evidence.

In addition, the justices are delving into politics. At issue in one case is whether the court should throw out all or part of a Texas congressional map promoted by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. A free-speech case asks whether states can limit how much money is spent in political campaigns.

Alito will not vote in cases that were argued before his arrival. Without O’Connor’s vote, justices apparently deadlocked in three cases, requiring rare re-arguments.

One of the three deadlocked cases tests Kansas’ death penalty law. A second capital punishment case will determine whether death row inmates can file last-minute civil rights lawsuits to challenge lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment.

Conservatives are seeking retribution for several Republican-appointed justices who've drifted to the left over the years. But President Bush may have just put a halt to any leftward direction with his picks to replace Rehnquist and (especially) O'Connor. Roberts and Alito won't disappoint.

Posted by Scottie at May 14, 2006 11:31 PM
Comment #148215

Yep. This is going to suck.

Posted by: Max at May 14, 2006 11:58 PM
Comment #148218

Well, that of course depends on which side of the fence you stand. And besides, the Court won’t really change until one of the liberals retire.

Posted by: Scottie at May 15, 2006 12:10 AM
Comment #148260

The court gave up any claim to impartiality, political neutrality, or respect for precedence (States’ Rights) in Bush v. Gore. Fortunately, they have no special Immunity from an angered People: if there is ever a Second Revolution in this land, the Robes will fare no better than they did in France in the 1790’s or in Romania in 1989.

Posted by: Betty Burke at May 15, 2006 8:20 AM
Comment #148262

Scottie, thank you for this excellent recap of what is coming from the Supreme Court in this session. I appreciate your having put together this recap giving me a clearer picture of what to watch for.

Many thanks.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 15, 2006 8:27 AM
Comment #148288

I’m looking forward to the Texas redistricting case.

A couple years ago a federal court squashed Georgia Democrats’ bid at redistricting, but then allowed Georgia Republicans to do it a year later when they won a majority in the state legislature. I’m wondering if the USSC will just come out and rule that only Republicans are allowed to gerrymander.

Posted by: American Pundit at May 15, 2006 11:02 AM
Comment #148346


Since I see gerrymandering as the biggest problem in our political landscape, I hope the USSC allows no gerrymandering. Of course, I also hope that my new “Ben & Jerry’s” diet plan works, that I can become a millionaire by not working, and that David Remer will someday consider me the wisest of the wise. (Currently, he may consider me the wisest of asses, so I have a ways to go)

Both parties play the gerrymander game; its sometimes necessary to reverse gerrymander. But if we can reduce this odious artform, then we can have freer elections.

Regarding the USSC, most of what I’ve heard about the “Roberts Court” has been good. I haven’t seen anything that would suggest that the Court has gone downhill, though I’d freely admit that it has moved somewhat to the right. Being that the Court is made up of Presidential appointments, the Court will of course pendulum from side to side—this is to be expected, and is one of the consequences of a failed Kerry bid for the Presidency.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at May 15, 2006 2:38 PM
Comment #148351


Just kidding, you are one of my most respected debaters and nemeses. Seriously. I respect your thought processes and ardent attempts to stick to principles. None of us has integrity down pat. The world is too gray for that to occur except for very, very rare individuals. Whether it happened for real or not, I don’t know, but, in the movie, Gandhi, there was a scene where the Mahatma cuffs his niece on the back of the head, gently, out of frustration. I will never forget that brilliantly human touch to the movie of Mahatma Gandhi.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 15, 2006 3:22 PM
Comment #148381

I’m wondering if the USSC will just come out and rule that only Republicans are allowed to gerrymander.

Posted by: American Pundit at May 15, 2006 11:02 AM

I sure hope not. If they do can we impeach Supreme Court justices?
What they need to do is to rule against gerrymandering altogether. Fat chance of that though.

It’s going to interesting to see how the court rules on these cases. And it’s going to be even more interesting to see the reactions of those that disagree with the courts rulings.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 15, 2006 5:49 PM
Comment #429386

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