Friday, June 29, 2007

Supreme Court Steers Right Under Justice Roberts

Joan Biskupic at USA Today argues that the Supreme Court has shifted righward during Chief Justice John Roberts' first term, fulfilling the promise of conservativism dating to the Reagan administration:

In a remarkable first full term of the remade Supreme Court, a narrow majority of justices changed the law on race, abortion, free speech and a swath of other issues affecting American life.

Long-standing precedents were discarded or reinterpreted. Government interests prevailed over individual rights. Business won at the expense of consumers and workers. And people on the fringe, such as rabble-rousing students and atheists, lost out.

In the 2006-07 annual term that ended Thursday, Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and newest justice Samuel Alito, set the tone. Of 19 cases that broke 5-4 along ideological lines, that quintet prevailed in 13 of them.

The conservative majority drew increasingly heated protests from liberal Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

No case revealed the chasm between the conservatives and the liberals as much as Thursday's decision preventing the use of race in school assignments. The dueling written opinions ran for 178 pages, and the ceremonial reading of the opinion highlights went on for nearly an hour in the white marble and red velvet courtroom.

"It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much," Breyer said.
Biskupic notes further:

In his 1980 presidential campaign and after winning office, Ronald Reagan emphasized what he believed were the excesses of the judiciary in the wake of the Earl Warren era and liberal intervention in social policy that is usually the domain of elected officials.

Reagan set the bench on a conservative path with his choices for the Supreme Court and lower federal courts during two terms. Roberts was with him in the beginning. He joined the administration in 1981, saying he was moved by Reagan's inaugural speech. "I felt he was speaking to me."

As a lawyer for Reagan and then later in the first Bush administration, Roberts often asserted that judges were improperly creating rights not in the Constitution. He took a narrow view of abortion rights and was involved in efforts to curtail affirmative action, school busing and other programs intended to bring minorities into settings where they were once shut out.
Be sure to check out the article's sidebar on the major ruling from the 2006-2007 term.

I'm particularly pleased with the Court's decision yesterday limiting school integration programs. See my earlier post, "
Supreme Court to Review Desegration Cases," where I discuss my position on racial balancing policies in the schools.

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