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 | The Supreme Court’s End Game on Abortion – The New York Times

” . . .  It was Justice Sonia Sotomayor who asked the uncomfortable question. “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” she demanded of Scott Stewart, a former law clerk to Justice Thomas who argued for Mississippi as the state’s solicitor general. Listening to the live-streamed argument, I first heard “political acts” as “political hacks,” I suppose because still in my mind were Justice Barrett’s words when she spoke in mid-September at a center in Louisville, Ky., named for her Senate confirmation mastermind, Senator Mitch McConnell. “My goal today is to convince you that the court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” she said then.

Justice Barrett’s performance during Wednesday’s argument was beyond head-spinning. Addressing both Ms. Rikelman and Elizabeth Prelogar, the U.S. solicitor general who argued for the United States on behalf of the Mississippi clinic, Justice Barrett asked about “safe haven” laws that permit women to drop off their unwanted newborn babies at police stations or fire houses; the mothers’ parental rights are then terminated without further legal consequences. If the problem with “forced motherhood” was that it would “hinder women’s access to the workplace and to equal opportunities,” Justice Barrett asked, “why don’t safe haven laws take care of that problem?”

She continued: “It seems to me that it focuses the burden much more narrowly. There is, without question, an infringement on bodily autonomy, you know, which we have in other contexts, like vaccines. However, it doesn’t seem to me to follow that pregnancy and then parenthood are all part of the same burden.”

I’ll pass over the startling notion that being required to accept a vaccine is equivalent to being forced to carry a pregnancy to term. “Gaslighting” doesn’t adequately describe the essence of what Justice Barrett was suggesting: that the right to abortion really isn’t necessary because any woman who doesn’t want to be a mother can just hand her full-term baby over to the nearest police officer and be done with the whole business. As Justice Barrett, of all people, surely understands, such a woman will forever be exactly what she didn’t want to be: a mother, albeit one stripped of her ability to make a different choice.

I will give the gaslighting prize to Justice Kavanaugh and his suggestion that the court should simply adopt a position of “neutrality” with respect to abortion. Abortion is a contentious issue with important interests on both sides, he said to Solicitor General Prelogar. “Why should this court be the arbiter rather than Congress, the state legislatures, state supreme courts, the people being able to resolve this?” he said. “And there will be different answers in Mississippi and New York, different answers in Alabama than California because they’re two different interests at stake and the people in those states might value those interests somewhat differently.”

Justice Kavanaugh painted a soothing description of a down-the-middle resolution, but Solicitor General Prelogar, for one, wasn’t fooled. “The nature of fundamental rights is that it’s not left up to state legislatures to decide whether to honor them or not,” she responded.

Can Justice Kavanaugh really believe what he said? We’ll see soon enough. Last month, the court heard arguments in a case that challenges New York’s strict requirement for a license to carry a concealed weapon. Most states have looser restrictions. New York, through its legislative process, is in a minority.

Will Justice Kavanaugh and those of his colleagues who glorify a recently manufactured version of the Second Amendment allow New York City to keep going its own way on gun safety in the name of “letting the people decide”? That’s about as likely as the chance that those very same justices will decide to keep the right to abortion on the books. In both cases, we know what they’re going to do. The only mystery is how they will explain it.”   -30-

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.

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Linda Greenhouse | Mississippi Explains All on Abortion – The New York Times

“Attorney General Lynn Fitch of Mississippi made nationwide news last week when she asked the Supreme Court to overturn its two leading precedents on the right to abortion, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. I was puzzled by the treatment of this filing as news, unless the news was that a state finally came clean with the court and told the justices what it really wanted them to do.”

Linda Greenhouse | The Sound of Silence on Abortion – The New York Times

Ms. Greenhouse, a contributing Opinion writer, is the co-author of “Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling.”

“Back in 2014, when the Arizona Legislature passed a bill to provide business owners with a religious excuse to discriminate against gay people, the N.F.L. threatened to move Super Bowl XLIX out of the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill.

In 2015, when the N.C.A.A. led a pushback from its Indianapolis headquarters against a similar bill that the Indiana Legislature passed, Gov. Mike Pence said it was all a “great misunderstanding” and eventually signed a watered-down version that met the demands of the N.C.A.A. and other sports organizations that had protested.

In 2017, the North Carolina Legislature repealed an anti-transgender “bathroom bill” after the loss of the N.B.A. All-Star Game plus convention and tourism business cost the state millions of dollars in revenue and companies canceled plans to relocate there.” . . .