The U.S. Supreme Court ended its 2015-2016 term on a triumphant note, striking down the inhumane Texas anti-abortion law.
As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in a concurring opinion to the 5-3 ruling: “It is beyond belief that the Texas law could really protect the health of women.”
Beyond belief, certainly, but much in keeping with oppressive, unconstitutional anti-abortion laws in the Deep South.
The New York Times editorialized: “Republican lawmakers around the country are restricting or destroying constitutionally protected reproductive rights. The 2013 Texas law forced abortion clinics and their doctors to meet pointlessly strict medical standards.”
Such standards were invalidated by the Supreme in 1992 by Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court in 1973 guaranteeing the right to abortion is often ignored.
In a retrograde dissent in the Texas case by Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, Alito tried vainly to justify clinic closures.
The court, in another positive decision, reaffirmed affirmative action, 4-3. The court ruled that race was just one of the many factors for admission to the University of Texas at Austin.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, declared: “Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its educational mission.”
But what should have been an easy, unanimous decision in the 21st century, archreactionary Thomas dissented with angry howls: “a faddish theory” and “affirmative action gone wild.”
IMMIGRATION PLAN STIFLED
The other end-of-term decisions by the court are in keeping with its many reactionary rulings over the years. The worst was a mere nine-word pronouncement in U.S. v. Texas that President Obama’s immigration program was dead.
Under the Obama plan five million undocumented immigrants would be shielded from deportation and allowed to work in America.
Walter Dellinger, former solicitor general, rightly decried the brusque dismal of a humanitarian plea: “Seldom have the hopes of millions been crushed by so few words.”
The heartless ruling left the undocumented immigrants continuing to live in fear of deportation.
Eliana Fernandez, 28, immigrant from Ecuador, manages cases for an advocacy group. She bravely faces the illegal-immigrant dilemma: “They must step out of the shadows and speak publically as a way to humanize their plight. They must publically counter arguments that they are dangerous to America.”
The court did not disclose how the justices voted but the 4-4 ruling was along the usual ideological lines with Chief Justice Roberts joining the reactionaries.
The split vote led to laments that the court needed a ninth justice to replace Justice Scalia, who died in February. True. But the sad fact is that the Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold hearings on Merrick Garland, a highly qualified appeals court judge.
The cynical Republicans hoped a Republican president elected in November would pick a conservative. But the GOP bosses may have outsmarted themselves. If Donald Trump is elected GOP president the nominee could be worse than the Republican chiefs bargained for. If Democrat Hillary Clinton is elected the nominee could be in the Garland vein.
GRAFT PROSECUTION OPPOSED
In the last decision of the term, the Supreme Court ruled against graft prosecutions of public figures. Although the court did not put it that bluntly, it overturned unanimously, 8-0, the graft conviction of Bob McConnell, former governor of Virginia.
Chief Justice Roberts labored to justify the reversal. “We cannot criminalize routine political behavior,” he wrote. “Public officials arrange meetings for constituents and contact other officials on their behalf.”
McDonnell, a Republican, was charged with using his office to help businessman Jonnie Williams, who lavished luxury products, loans and vacations worth more than $175,000 on McDonnell while he was governor.
Perhaps not bribery but a decent politician would have declined such lavishness.
Another decision, 5-3, brought a fiery dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Rightly so. The ruling was pure racism.
“It is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny,” Sotomayor wrote.
The “racist” who wrote the majority opinion? Thomas, the only black justice on the court. He was joined by fellow “racists,” Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Alito and Stephen Breyer.
The majority ruled that evidence found by police officers after illegal stops may be used in court even if the officers later conducted their searches to learn the defendants had outstanding arrest warrants.
Thomas said such searches do not violate the Fourth Amendment when the warrant is valid and unconnected to the conduct that prompted the search. But Sotomayor said that “the court had vastly expanded police power.” Indeed it had.
Jake Highton is an emeritus professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (email@example.com)