We seem to have reached the entropic endpoint of American democracy, one in which all matters of national importance will be decided by nine mostly elderly Ivy League lawyers:
The last Supreme Court term ended with liberal victories, conservative disarray and bruised relations among the justices. The new one, which opens on Monday, marks the start of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s second decade on the court and will reveal whether the last term’s leftward drift and acrimony were anomalies or something more lasting. The court will decide major cases on politically charged issues, including the fate of public unions and affirmative action in higher education. It will most probably hear its first major abortion case since 2007 and revisit the clash between religious liberty and contraception coverage.
It will consider three cases that could make it harder for workers and consumers to band together in class actions. And it will hear cases on the death penalty, a topic that twice led to unusually sharp and bitter exchanges on the bench last term, after Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. accused opponents of capital punishment of pursuing a “guerrilla war” against executions. Justice Sonia Sotomayor responded that supporters of the death penalty would be content to allow condemned inmates to be burned alive.
Nice liberal sentiments from the Standout Linebacker there…
Some of last term’s opinions were unusually barbed even by the standards of Justice Antonin Scalia. Dissenting from the decision establishing a right to same-sex marriage, Justice Scalia called Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion pretentious, egotistic and incoherent.
Which, of course, it was…
Chief Justice Roberts, who has said he hopes to guide his court toward modest and unanimous rulings, cannot have enjoyed the rancor. Nor was his summer brightened by attacks on him from Republican presidential candidates unhappy with his sustaining of the Affordable Care Act for the second time. The new term’s biggest rulings will land in June, as the 2016 presidential campaign enters its final stretch, and they will help shape the political debate.
“Unanimous rulings” in a pluralistic democracy? This Roberts is really a piece of work. Long past time for Congress to strip the Supreme Court of much of the jurisdiction it’s arrogated to itself post-Marbury and return it to its constitutional cage.