Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Independence of the Supreme Court

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is in a tough spot. He is a conservative and would, by all signs, vote a conservative line if he was able. But, as Chief Justice, he has to try to be more independent.

The vote on the citizenship question might be the straw that breaks the Supreme Court.

This administration has put a question on the census to ask if a resident is a citizen of the United States. The Administration itself says this will give an undercount of about 6,500,0000 people in the country (about 2%) - even though the Constitution requires an accurate count.

The result of an undercount is that people living in cities, counties and states where the are significant populations of undercounted will not receive the money, services and representatives they are entitled to.  The assumption is that California, Texas, Florida and New York will lose Congressional seats. Republican areas will gain votes and money.

This could all lead to a good conversation, but one wasn’t had. The Cabinet Secretary in charge (Wilber Ross) asked his department if they should add the question, and they said no. So he asked the Department of Homeland Security to “request” the question. They said no. So he leaned on the Justice Department to ask the question.  He finally got a yes, overworked his own advisors and added the question.  Then he lied about how it was loaded. He lied to Congress and was caught.

Three circuit courts (the ones below the Supreme Court) overturned the question. The Supreme Court stepped in and just heard arguments on the question.

It seems pretty clear the conservative judges, including Chief Justice Roberts, will rule to allow the question. In doing so they cited international law (which they usually rail against), the Voting Rights Act (which they gutted) and the right of Departments to define laws (which they have overturned in recent cases). They have literally walked around their own precedents to verbally back this question.

Some case soon was going to break the idea we have an “independent” judiciary, and that will break the country.  This may well be that case.

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