Aaron Tang | Maine’s End Run Around the Supreme Court Is an Example for Other States – The New York Times

Mr. Tang is a law professor at the University of California, Davis, and a former law clerk to Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

“What a week so far for conservatives. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down a Maine law that prohibited religious private schools from receiving taxpayer dollars. And on Thursday, it invalidated a New York State gun safety law limiting the public carry of firearms. The outcome in these cases was not surprising. The court has ruled in favor of religious litigants in an overwhelming number of cases, and the gun case’s outcome was clear from the oral argument before the justices in November.

What is surprising is how little the 6-to-3 decision in the Maine case, Carson v. Makin, will matter practically. And the reason offers a glimpse of hope for those who worry about a future dominated by the court’s conservative supermajority — including the many Americans troubled by the court’s decision in the gun case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen.

Let’s start with the Carson case. Anticipating this week’s decision, Maine lawmakers enacted a crucial amendment to the state’s anti-discrimination law last year in order to counteract the expected ruling. The revised law forbids discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and it applies to every private school that chooses to accept public funds, without regard to religious affiliation.”

Distorted Reality – David Leonhardt – The New York Times

Here are a few facts about Ketanji Brown Jackson:

  • She frequently associates herself with a patriotic narrative of American history. “The first of my many blessings,” she told the Senate this week, “is the fact that I was born in this great nation.”

  • She is not an advocate of critical race theory or other progressive ideas about education. She has never taken a public position on hot-button school issues like whether young children should be taught about gender identity.

  • As a federal judge, she has a mainstream record, broadly typical of a Democratic nominee. She has often praised law enforcement, including her proud mention this week that her brother and two of her uncles worked as police officers.

You might not know any of this — you might well believe the opposite — if you spent the past few days listening to Republican senators or consuming many conservative media sources.

Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing has turned into a case study of how disconnected from reality large parts of the Republican ecosystem have become. I know that description sounds harsh and will bother some conservative readers. But I think the facts warrant it.

Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing has turned into a case study of how disconnected from reality large parts of the Republican ecosystem have become. I know that description sounds harsh and will bother some conservative readers. But I think the facts warrant it.

The debate over Jackson’s nomination has often had little to do with her. It has become an argument over a nominee who does not exist — one who does not respect America, is not truly religious, coddles child abusers and terrorists and has highly developed views about the importance of “woke” education. Yesterday, conservative activists used this portrayal to pressure moderate Democratic senators to vote against Jackson.

Conspiracy theories and unfair accusations have a long history in American politics, of course. But they have often remained on the margins. Today, distortions and falsehoods have moved to the center of politics.

Adrien Vermeule | Supreme Court Justices Have Forgotten What the Law Is For – The New York Times

“. . . What’s missing from our law today is an emphasis on the common good, a concept that from the founding era onward was central to the American legal tradition, embodied in the references to the “general welfare” in both the preamble to the Constitution and its text. The classical legal tradition, the mainstream of the Western legal tradition until the 20th century, holds that laws should be interpreted in light of the legitimate aim of government, which is the flourishing of the community as a community. Classical constitutionalism holds that our political community can succeed only as a whole, rather than as a collection of warring interests, competing ideologies and isolated individuals — the underlying logic of modern jurisprudence. The aim of constitutional government and legal interpretation should be to promote the classical ideals of peace, justice and abundance.

The common good is no abstract idea; its absence is keenly felt today. In the past few decades, Americans have discovered that individuals and families cannot flourish if the whole community is fundamentally unhealthy, torn apart by conflict, lawlessness, poverty, pollution, sickness, and despair. Gated residences, private schools and Uber have not sufficed to immunize even the affluent against the consequences of living in a decaying, fractured and embittered polity. No family or civic association is an island, and the health of civic society and culture are themselves dependent upon the health of the constitutional order.”

David Lindsay: Fascinating guy, but where is he on Roe v Wade and women’s rights?

Jamelle Bouie | Let’s Bring the Supreme Court Back Down to Earth – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“A new vacancy on the Supreme Court means a new round of political theater over the beliefs and qualifications of the president’s eventual nominee.

But what does it mean for a Supreme Court justice to be “qualified”? The Constitution is silent on the question, and there’s not much to take from the framers either. To the extent that “qualified” means anything to most people, it’s that the nominee has ample experience on the bench, a standard in keeping with the idea that the court is the final rung on the meritocratic ladder for judges and other legal elites.

If significant experience as a judge is what it means to be qualified for the Supreme Court, however, then most iterations of the court have been patently unqualified. Of the 108 men (and two women) to have served on the court before 2007, according to the legal historian Henry J. Abraham in his history of Supreme Court appointments, 26 had 10 or more years of experience on any court, state or federal. Thirty-eight justices had no judicial experience, and the remaining 46 had only token experience adjudicating disputes from the bench.”

Great op-ed, and comments after.

Linda Greenhouse | Do We Have the Supreme Court We Deserve? – The New York Times

“When I left the daily Supreme Court beat back in 2008, the Week in Review, as The Times’s Sunday Review section was then called, invited me to offer some reflections on nearly 30 years of writing about the court, its cases and its members. The long essay ran under the headline “2,691 Decisions,” a number based on an editor’s calculation of how many decisions the court had issued during my time on the beat. I ended it with an observation about the “vital dialogue” between the court and the country. This was my conclusion:

“The court is in Americans’ collective hands. We shape it; it reflects us. At any given time, we may not have the Supreme Court we want. We may not have the court we need. But we have, most likely, the Supreme Court we deserve.”

A friend who recently came upon that article challenged me. “Do you still think we have the Supreme Court we deserve?” she asked.

Actually, sadly, my answer now is no.

It’s not that I think the country simply deserves a Supreme Court that happens to agree with me; I was finding plenty to disagree with back in 2008. Justice Samuel Alito had taken Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s place in early 2006, wrenching the closely divided court to the right. In June 2007, Justice Stephen Breyer, during an impassioned oral dissent in a highly charged case on what measures public school systems can take to maintain racial diversity, lamented that “it is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much.” “

Linda Greenhouse | What Sandra Day O’Connor Stood For on the Supreme Court – The New York Times

Ms. Greenhouse, a contributing Opinion writer, covered the Supreme Court for The Times from 1978 to 2008.

“This has been a month of sad remembrances — the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, of course, and the anniversary last Saturday of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. An additional, less noted anniversary is an occasion not for sorrow but for wonder. Forty years ago this Saturday, on Sept. 25, 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor took her seat on the Supreme Court.

I use the word “wonder” because of how what once seemed remarkable is today a commonplace; of the 12 justices to join the court in the ensuing decades, four have been women, including three of the last five. Most people in the United States today were not yet born on that early fall afternoon when Sandra O’Connor took the oath of office and ended 191 years of an all-male Supreme Court.

The overflowing audience included President Ronald Reagan, whose nomination of a little-known judge on Arizona’s intermediate appellate court fulfilled a campaign promise — regarded by some as impetuous — to name the first woman to the court. For those of us who were old enough in 1981 to recognize the significance of the breakthrough, the sight of Justice O’Connor on a bench that included aging nominees of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson was electrifying.”

Lovely tribute. But many comments criticized it, as did, the most recommended one.

Daniel Fleisher
Baltimore7h ago

A respectful and moving tribute to Justice O’Connor. But there is a dark cloud over all of it. Ms. Greenhouse’s admiration is based largely on Justice O’Connor’s concern for the practical effects of her jurisprudence. But O’Connor ignored practical effects–as well as law–in deciding perhaps the most consequential case during her tenure: Bush v. Gore. In this infamous, unprincipled decision, O’Connor acted simply as a partisan– stopping the vote count in order to lift into power her preferred candidate. In her tribute, Ms. Greenhouse chose to omit this decision, despite the enormity of its corruption and consequence. Presumably, she omitted it because it was a poor fit with the tribute she was fashioning. But, for those of us who remember the Supreme Court’s soon-to-be disastrous intervention in the 2000 presidential election, Ms. Greenhouse’s omission is fatal.

9 Replies338 Recommended

Jesse Wegman | Will We Ever Amend the Constitution Again? – The New York Times

Mr. Wegman is a member of the editorial board.

This essay is part of a series exploring bold ideas to revitalize and renew the American experiment. Read more about this project in a note from Ezekiel Kweku, Opinion’s politics editor.

“The 26th Amendment to the Constitution took effect 50 years ago this summer, extending the right to vote to all Americans age 18 and older. It was the fourth amendment in the span of a decade, three of which expanded voting rights — a burst of democratic reform nearly unequaled in the nation’s history.”

Spencer Bokat-Lindell | Did the Supreme Court Just Kill the Voting Rights Act? – The New York Times

Mr. Bokat-Lindell is a staff editor.

This article is part of the Debatable newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“Bans on ballot collectionLimits on vote-by-mail drop boxesShorter hours at polling places. Across the country, Republican legislatures are passing laws to make it harder to vote. Which is why, for proponents of expansive voting rights, the Supreme Court decision last week upholding two such laws could scarcely have come at a worse time.

“What is tragic here is that the court has (yet again) rewritten — in order to weaken — a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent, which was joined by the two other liberal justices. “What is tragic is that the court has damaged a statute designed to bring about ‘the end of discrimination in voting.’” “

Opinion | My Joe Biden Story – By Linda – Greenhouse – The New York Times

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…John Duricka/Associated Press

“As Ben Smith, the media columnist for The Times, suggested a few weeks ago, pretty much every journalist who passed through Washington, D.C., during the past half century knows President-elect Joe Biden and has a story to tell. I’d like to end this strange year, and welcome the new one and the new president, by telling mine.

I met then-Senator Biden in the mid-1980s, when he was a member of the Judiciary Committee and I was covering the occasional judicial confirmation. By 1987, he was chairman of the committee, after the Democrats retook the Senate in the 1986 midterms. That summer, President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.

Given the president’s success the year before in naming Justice William Rehnquist as chief justice and a little-known judge, Antonin Scalia, to fill Rehnquist’s associate justice seat, this nomination presented a huge challenge to Judge Bork’s opponents, and a disheartening one. Leaders of the liberal groups that assembled to fight the nomination of the outspoken conservative, a judge with reactionary views on civil rights and free speech, had little confidence that the Judiciary Committee’s chairman was up to the job.

Opinion | Thank You, Justice Gorsuch – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“It may take a terrorist attack, a war or some other national emergency, but America will one day thank Justice Neil Gorsuch for his stirring words last week in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo. “Government,” he wrote in a concurrence to the 5-4 majority opinion, “is not free to disregard the First Amendment in times of crisis.”

The case arises from restrictions Andrew Cuomo imposed by executive order in October that sharply limit attendance at houses of worship in zones designated by the New York governor as pandemic hot spots. In so-called orange zones, attendance is capped at 25 people; in red zones, at 10. That goes for churches and synagogues that can seat hundreds and that were already limiting attendance, barring singing, practicing social distancing and taking other precautions.

The Catholic diocese, along with Agudath Israel of America and affiliated entities, sued, arguing the restrictions amounted to religious discrimination. The crux of the matter was that businesses in orange and red zones, ranging from liquor stores to bike shops to acupuncturists, were subject to no such restrictions because the governor had deemed them “essential.”

“So, at least according to the governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians,” Gorsuch wrote. “Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?” “