The Supreme Court Has Gone Off the Rails

The Supreme Court Has Gone Off the Rails

The Supreme Court has final authority to make difficult judgment calls articulating the powers of government and the limits and constraints upon them. To merit the public trust, these judgments must not appear simply as assertions of individual value choices by the justices or willy-nilly discard long-established court precedents that profoundly affect people’s lives. Nor should they actively undermine the ability of governments to advance public purposes as established by a fair democratic process. As the court begins a new term, regrettably, its recent history suggests that it lacks a majority of justices with sufficient concern about the basic continuity and integrity of the law or the ability of government to function. The evidence has been growing quietly in recent years — and then, last summer, quite loudly, when the court decided to twiddle its thumbs while Texas enacted an abortion law that practically bans nearly all procedures while evading timely judicial review. This distressing turn of events has a special irony for me personally. In the 1980s, along with three of the current justices (John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas), I participated in the Reagan revolution in the law, which inspired and propelled the careers of three other current justices (Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett). The Reagan revolution pitted itself against “activist” judges who were seen as following personal whims by altering the law and creating rights not found in the Constitution. Through interpretive tools like textualism and originalism, the Reagan lawyers sought to […]

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