Wednesday, June 27, 2018

It's Just a Phase (but it will be a looooooong one) - UPDATED

Updated below in blue.

The Supreme Court this year handed down rulings on a number of very political cases, and all were decided in favor the Republican side.

Worse they were decided by a 5 - 4 vote margin.

This is both predictable and hideously sad.

The Supreme Court is the arbiter of which laws or actions are Constitutional and which fall outside the bounds of our Constitution. Normally this occurs with the veneer (and sometimes actuality) of non-partisan decisions. And important decisions were rarely close.

Brown v. Board of Education (which outlawed segregation in schools) was 9 - 0. Roe v. Wade (which allowed abortion) was decided 7 - 2. Plessy v. Ferguson (interracial marriage) was decided 7 - 2.

But this year the most contentious decisions this year were all decided 5 - 4. And the 5th judge was Neil Gorsuch, a jurist whose seat was attained only after a Republican Senate threw out all the precedence of the country to date and refused a debate of the appointment of Merrick Garland by President Obama for almost a year.

That these decision were decided towards the conservative side was not a huge surprise. But in some cases the court had to tie itself into knots to justify itself.

For instance, (1) yesterday the court decided that anti-abortion institutions (crisis centers) that pretend to offer counseling for pregnancy do NOT have to read a script that says the state does provide free pregnancy screening and support for women that choose to terminate their pregnancy. In the same decision it said that places that supply termination support MUST read a statement about other options (free birth or adoption). The Court's ruling was based on the fact that abortion is a medical procedure and giving birth is not (although more women die in childbirth than during abortion).

For instance, (2) this session saw the court dismiss egregious gerrymandering charges because the ACLU didn't present evidence that the named plaintiffs were harmed, just that it harmed the entire state. They sent the decisions back to circuit courts - which makes the arguments moot because now the old districts will be used in the 2018 elections.

For instance, (3) the court just upheld the Muslim travel ban. This was the third iteration of the ban, the first 2 clearly unconstitutional. The court agreed that the President's comments were horrible and prejudicial, but the ban could stand. The court agreed that the underlying arguments were probably fabricated in order to create a ban that would stand up. The court agreed that the ban has not followed up as it states it must be (the ban promised a complete review within 90 days - time that expired months ago but the review not happened). The court agreed that it contains window dressing language in order to seems reasonable (case by case decisions were suppose to be made, yet only 2 of 65,000 applicants were approved). And yet, they still upheld the President's power to make this ban.

Each of these decisions can be supported. But that every decision that was difficult came down 5 - 4 on the Republican side shows a process that is out of control*.

Today another vote was decided on a 5-4 decision. A decision that was, in fact, one of the reasons the Senate held to slot open. The Supreme Court today overturned a decision made 41 years ago. It has to do with public sector Unions (but logically applies to private sector unions) that they cannot collect agency fees if the members don't want to pay them. Agency fees may ONLY be used in contract negotiations not in political advocacy, but that didn't make any difference. The Supreme Court said that people had a right to free speech and Agency Fees overruled that right by making members pay for more benefits.  

How will this effect people? Well 22 states have "right to work" laws that mean people can opt of the union altogether. The people in the other states usually have better benefits and salaries (example). So it's a way to squeeze public workers. 

Our neighbor in California objected to these fees and her union dues because the Teachers Union there worked for gay marriage and the rights of undocumented children to go to school.  

Now, back to our regularly scheduled rant. 

An independent judiciary is critical to the country. Having a one party system judiciary is a bad thing. Getting a one party judiciary based on the Republicans stealing a nomination is a horrible thing. Having a one party judiciary with a Executive branch that is testing the limits of the law and Congress is providing no checks on its power is a scary thing.

*Out of control see chart after jump
We are out of control where baseline is a 4.5 - 4.5 decision tree and we have met the criteria of item 4 bullet point 4 (and probably bullet point 3). (Select Chart to view entire jpg).

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