Red-line Supreme Court Rulings and the Future of the Supreme Court

Society’s willingness to accept the Supreme Court rulings as the final word on all legal issues derives from the US Constitution and society’s view that most Supreme Court rulings are usually reasonable and reflect the sentiments of a significant fraction of our citizens. 

As a result of the rightward bias and political activism of the US Supreme Court, there may come a time when a Supreme Court ruling no longer reflects the sentiments of a majority political entity of a Blue state and the state passes a state law which concludes “this Supreme Court ruling is antithetical to our values. Thus, this Blue State has decided that we will not accept this Supreme Court edict and instead the following law will apply to all who live in our Blue State…”

Example 1:

If the Supreme Court rules that California does not have the right to require all automobiles sold in California meet the state’s strict pollution standards and are only required to meet the looser, Federal pollution standards, it’s not unreasonable to anticipate that at least a segment of Californians might rise up and pass a citizen initiated referendum that says “California will not allow polluting cars to be sold in our state and all cars sold in California must continue to meet California pollution standards.”

Example 2:

If the Supreme Court rules that an open carry gun permit issued in Georgia is valid throughout the United States, I, a citizen of  Massachusetts, will tell my state representatives that their first responsibility is to ensure public safety and they must publicly announce that Massachusetts will continue to require that all gun owners follow all Massachusetts gun laws, regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

While all lawyers, politicians and most citizens can not imagine that a state might refuse to abide by the rulings of the Supreme Court, I believe the political landscape was fundamentally altered when Senator McConnell violated our institutional norms of behavior and  refused to allow the US Senate to have a confirmation hearing for President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merritt Garland to the Supreme Court. The most rational way to interpret Senator McConnell’s move is to recognize that what was commonly known to be “true” and immutable about the way our political system had functioned in the past is now subject to change. 

Although the Supreme Court has been the final authority on all legal issues, there is no reason to believe that the role of the Supreme Court in our politico-juridical process is not immune from change in the future.

Thus, in my opinion, the right-wing Supreme Court should tread lightly as their future role in our society may not be as secure as commonly surmised.

Hayward Zwerling

 

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