Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Supremely Polarized: Partisanship Continues to Prevail

The divided Court.
Not along legal or jurisprudential lines--although there is some of that.
Not activism versus restraint, or any disagreement about the judicial role--though some of that too.
Not strict versus loose construction, or any interpretive methodology--though some of that as well.

But along political lines.
Partisan political lines.
Democratic versus Republican Justices--other than a Republican switching sides, usually Kennedy, in some cases.

As we await the blockbusters to come--on same-sex marriage and Obamacare subsidies--consider these ideologically charged decisions already decided this term:
Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, upheld the claim of racial gerrymandering.
5 (Breyer [wrote Court's opinion] + Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan) versus
4 (Scalia [wrote dissent] + Roberts, Thomas, Alito
Kerry v. Din, upheld the visa denial to a citizen's spouse without any judicial review.
5 (Scalia + Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito) versus
4 (Breyer + Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan
Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, upheld the state's refusal to allow a Confederate flag design on vanity license plates.
5 (Breyer + Thomas, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan) versus
4 (Alito + Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy
Brumfield v. Cain, ruled that the death penalty defendant was entitled to a mental disability hearing.
5 (Sotomayor + Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan) versus
4 (Thomas + Roberts, Scalia, Alito
Davis v. Ayala, ruled that the death penalty defendant suffered no prejudice when trial judge permitted the prosecution--in the absence of the defense counsel--to offer race-neutral reasons for removing several jurors.
5 (Alito + Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas) versus
4 (Sotomayor + Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan
Kingsley v. Hendrickson, ruled that force used by jail officials on a pre-trial detainee must be objectively reasonable.
5 (Breyer + Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan) versus
4 (Scalia + Roberts, Thomas, Alito)
Los Angeles v. Patel, invalidated a local law that permitted officials to search hotel guest registries without a warrant or the hotel's consent, and unannounced.
5 (Sotomayor +  Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan) versus
4 (Scalia + Roberts, Thomas, Alito)
So, other than Kennedy who sometimes voted with the Democratic appointees (and Thomas, instead of Kennedy, in the Confederate flag case), the Justices--Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative--voted along political party lines in these ideologically charged cases.
In fact, in every case, every Democratic-appointed Justice....

Point made without saying more?

(Correction: I mistakenly transposed the votes of Kennedy and Thomas in the Confederate flag case when I first posted this. It's  now corrected.)