Chief Justice

Showtime!

Contemplation of Justice

Yes, friends, the Big Show is underway. We’ll try to give Obergefell v. Hodges and its consolidated cohort appropriate consideration later in the day, but for now it is enough to point to SCOTUSblog’s live coverage.

Early analyses are available in the press, but transcripts will come later in the day.

That said, there are still two points worth noting. First, Justice Kennedy apparently brought the adoption question to bear; as the anti-gay argument has given so much focus to procreation, parenthood, and biological parentage, one wonders what they think of adoption.

Secondly, we might note that the question of sex discrimination arose. The issue has been staring at us the whole time, waiting to be summoned into the light, but such simple views of gay marriage and gay rights have generally been disdained for being so simple that they might settle the issue early, before politicians and advocates have had a chance to make some money trying to scare the hell out of people with fantasies about being forced to be gay and other such absurdity. Word is that Chief Justice Roberts asked the question.

Both these points have special significance in my outlook; I am gratified to hear they have a place in the discourse.

Additionally, a protester reportedly got close enough to the Justices to tell them they would burn in Hell, or some such.

Today sounds very much like a good day.

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Goldstein, Tom, Eric Citron, and Tejinder Singh. “Live blog: Obergefell v. Hodges”. SCOTUSblog. 28 April 2015.

The Countdown: Weekend Edition

Contemplation of Justice

There are a few things here:

The Defense of Marriage Act decision overshadowed another 2013 case―Hollingsworth v. Perry―that could have determined whether states could ban same-sex marriage.

The case concerned a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that barred same-sex couples from marriage. But Roberts, writing for the majority, dismissed the case, holding that the challengers did not have the legal standing to bring it to the court.

The ruling left in place a lower court decision that had invalidated Proposition 8 and thus paved the way for same-sex marriage in California. Roberts’ lesbian cousin, who lives in California, sat in the courtroom during arguments in the Prop 8 case.

Few people predicted that the issue would return so quickly to the Supreme Court, but waves of lower court judges―sometimes citing Windsor―struck down the state bans.

Ariane de Vogue is not wrong. It seemed strange at the time; the Hollingsworth outcome was one of my anti-prophet moments. When the case was selected, I actually told a friend it wouldn’t make sense for the Court to take the case and then punt. And, yet, here we are.

(more…)

The Growing Scandal of King v. Burwell

FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2008, file photo, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., is seen in Providence, R.I.  Turned away at the Supreme Court, congressional Republicans sketch a filibuster-proof strategy to repeal the nation's health care law in 2013.  But it hinges on two uncertainties ― Mitt Romney capturing the White House and the party seizing even narrow control of the Senate (AP Photo/Stephan Saviola, File)

Sometimes the lede buries itseslf; the point will hide in plain sight. It is an easy thing to do, hiding in plain sight, when nobody is looking for you:

The Supreme Court has developed elaborate tests to determine if plaintiffs have standing to sue. But their essence, Justice Antonin Scalia once observed, is a four-word question: “What’s it to you?”

To get into court, it is not enough to be unhappy about something. Only people with a direct stake in a dispute have standing to sue.

Which brings us to the four plaintiffs in the latest threat to President Obama’s health care law, to be heard next week. Recent news reports have raised the question of whether any of them has a dog in the fight.

But it is not clear that the Supreme Court will address that question, which could determine the outcome of the case. The court’s recent decisions have been inconsistent and provide few clues about what it might do. The court is sometimes accused of being opportunistic in using the standing doctrine to avoid legal questions it wants to duck, but ignoring the issue when it is eager to weigh in.

(Liptak)

Two sentences; did you miss them?

No, really, this is important: “But it is not clear that the Supreme Court will address that question, which could determine the outcome of the case. The court’s recent decisions have been inconsistent and provide few clues about what it might do.”

One of the hallmarks of the Roberts Court is its disrespect for standing case law and precedent. The Chief Justice is an example of why the longstanding conservative complaint about liberal judicial activism is a swindle. John Roberts seems to apply more of an “if it feels good, do it” attitude to the judiciary, but at the same time he’s conscious of appearances, which is why conservative majorities on the Court will occasionally do that weird thing where they overturn case law but then disclaim that they’re not overturning anything, such as we’ve seen in Ricci (Civil Rights Act) and Texas (Voting Rights Act). And there is also the conservative majority’s clear tendency to throw cases for politics by carving out one-time exceptions to the law, such as we saw in Safford, in which a school was forgiven a sex offense because ignorance is bliss and, well, why would a young girl be upset by adults forcing her to strip down so they can leer and prod at her body, and Ricci, in which the New Haven Civil Service Board followed the law but was held in fault for doing so.

One of the reasons this Court is so hard to predict is, in fact, its inconsistency. And the reason it is hard to pin down that inconsistency is because it is so inconsistent. To the one, it is not a purely institutionalist streak. To the other, it is not purely traditionalist. Rather, it seems Chief Justice Roberts is happy to keep pushing the image of calling balls and strikes just as long as nobody points out that the strike zone keeps changing.

The Constitution is John Roberts’ playground, nothing more. Inconsistency will be the hallmark of his chiefdom. (more…)