The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, June 25, 2007

Meanwhile, back at the judicial ranch...

Yes, Monday just keeps getting more horrific.

Legal and political conservatives hit for the cycle Monday morning when they "won" four long-awaited rulings from the United States Supreme Court. The Justices further chipped away at the wall that separates church and state, took some of the steam out of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, neutered federal regulators in environmental cases to the benefit of developers and slammed a high school kid who had the temerity to put up a silly sign near his high school.

Each of these decisions help establish the true conservative bona fides of this Court. It is more conservative than it was last term, when Sandra Day O'Connor sat in one some of the cases. And was more conservative last term than the term before that, before Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Sam Alito joined the Gang of Nine. In fact, the Court now is is so entrenched on the ground of the legal right that, aside from the global warming case decided earlier this year, it is hard to point to a single major ruling this term that could or would give succor to legal liberals or even jurisprudential moderates.

I'm not talking about the technical cases that make up the bulk of the Court's workload-- in those cases there was plenty of unanimity. I'm talking about the hot-button cases that get people talking. Whether it was the Court's dramatic limitations on the rights of employees to seek legal remedies for past employment discrimination-- part of a larger trend of pro-business rulings from the Justices-- or the about-face on the Congressional effort to ban a type of abortion, court conservatives were consistently able to muster up five votes-- thanks to the most important swingman since Benny Goodman, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Indeed, so strong is the conservative bent to the court right now that even when its right-facing Justices did not agree on the legal reasons or rationale for their rulings-- which was the case in the religion case noted above-- they are able to agree to promote government sponsorship of religion and to block taxpayer efforts to prevent it. In other words, there is room for dissent even among the Court's working majority-- a bad sign for liberal judges, lawyers and litigants in the months and years to come.