Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Reports of the Supreme Court's Leftward Turn Have Been Greatly Exaggerated


At Politico, "Supreme Court's liberal admirers get reality check":
Liberals still giddy over a series of major victories at the Supreme Court last week got a bracing reality check Monday, as conservatives carried the day on key cases involving the death penalty and President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda.

Progressives got another signal that any momentum they were experiencing at the high court could be short-lived: the justices announced they will address the thorny issue of affirmative action next term, taking up for the second time a case challenging the University of Texas’s use of race in its admissions process.

For some, it felt like whiplash.

“The cases today are shocking,” said Nan Aron, a prominent liberal activist and president of Alliance for Justice. “Last week was wonderful and no one can take away the victories that occurred, but I think it’s also important to understand those victories in a context [that] the court is one that continues to rule in favor of powerful and wealthy interests at the expense of most Americans. The decisions certainly today suggest that trend continues.”

Aron dismissed conclusions that the court was shifting to the left as it ruled in favor of same-sex marriage rights and upheld the nationwide availability of insurance subsidies under Obamacare, calling such pronouncements “largely premature and exaggerated.”
Some conservatives agreed that the court wasn’t necessarily taking a new direction.

“I always thought the claims that the Roberts court ‘is the most conservative since’ whenever were overblown and I think the claims of a dramatic leftward turn are overblown, too,” said Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve. “When you kind of step back and look at the substance of the cases, what’s at issue and what the court did, I don’t think you see a great liberal shift.”

All three decisions the justices issued Monday were 5-4 rulings. Justice Anthony Kennedy voted with the court’s other Republican appointees to reject a challenge to Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol, effectively easing application of the death penalty nationwide, and to knock back regulations the Obama administration issued trying to limit mercury in power plants, complicating Obama’s environmental policies.

Even the sole case where the court’s liberal wing prevailed Monday by winning over Kennedy had a potential downside for the left. The court’s ruling allowing the redistricting of congressional seats to be handled by independent commissions is likely a setback to Republicans in Arizona, which brought the case to the justices, but a blow to Democrats in the much-larger state of California....
Keep reading.