Miranda rights. Vouchers for religious schools. Gun control. Abortion. School prayer.
Every June, the U.S. Supreme Court finishes its term and releases its rulings, which can have major implications for Americans.
But there have been few end-of-term showings like this one. Major rulings that have shaped American society for decades have been upended in the past week in the rat-a-tat of rapid-fire decisions by the court’s conservative majority:
- On June 21, the court ruled 6-3 that state school vouchers can be used to pay for private religious education.
- On June 23, in a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that a defendant who was questioned and confessed cannot sue police for not giving him his Miranda warnings ahead of time.
- Also June 23, the court ruled 6-3 that restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun outside the home violate the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
- On June 24, in a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that there is no right to an abortion in the Constitution, making the legality of abortion a state-by-state issue.
- On June 27, the court ruled that a high school football coach had the right to pray on the field after games. Previously, only private and student-led prayer was allowed in school.
- And on June 28, the 6-3 court majority blocked a lower court’s order that a more minority-friendly district map be used in the upcoming November election in Louisiana.
In another year, any one of those rulings would have been the signature event of the court’s term. This year, there have been six milestone decisions. So far.
“This is coordinated, both by states and conservative political and legal movements, but also within the Supreme Court itself, with justices believing they have enough votes to get the results they want,” said Omar Noureldin, who teaches constitutional law at the USC Gould School of Law.
What’s different this year is the makeup of the court, according to Marcia Godwin, a professor of public administration at University of La Verne.
In the past, the court either declined to take up these cases or, if they did, ruled with an eye toward compromise between liberal and conservative justices on the court, and a reluctance to overturn precedent, Godwin said.
That now appears to be over.
“The way some of these opinions are written, there is a kind of confidence in their disregard of precedent and a fair and balanced presentation of the facts,” Noureldin said. “Because they have the super-majority — and there’s really no ‘center’ of the court — there’s no attempt or need for the language or reasoning to accommodate other perspectives.”
Knowing that the court is now more conservative, after the appointment of three Donald Trump-nominated justices, states and conservative groups began intentionally sending cases through the system with the goal of reaching the Supreme Court, Noureldin said..
“So I don’t think it’s a coincidence, with this conservative super-majority, that they were willing to take up (the) gun case,” he said, noting the court declined to hear cases similar to those ruled on over the past week during the last 10 years. “There have been a number of litigants in the conservative legal movement that brought these cases in anticipation of this current moment.”
More is to come: Noureldin noted that, in November, the Supreme Court said it would take up a case challenging Harvard University’s and the University of North Carolina’s race-conscious admissions policies, potentially overturning decisions from 1978 and 2016 and changing how college admissions work across the United States.
And there could be more to come in coming years, as Americans of all political persuasions try to learn the boundaries of their new legal reality.
“I think this year is going to spark a larger number of test cases,” Godwin said.
Source: Orange County Register