As a result, the Court is less tolerant of political equality than it has been since the 1950s.
Editor’s note, 12:10 p.m. on June 30: Breyer’s retirement from the Supreme Court sparked the appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson as an associate justice. Until her Senate confirmation vote in April, the following text had not been updated.
Now it’s a fact. On Thursday, April 7, the Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court by a vote of 53 to 47.
Retiring Justice Stephen Breyer plans to stay on until “the Court rises for the summer recess” this year, meaning the Supreme Court will be more diverse than it has ever been when soon-to-be Justice Jackson takes her seat in the summer. First time in American history that a Black woman will be a justice, and for the first time, the Court will have four women on it. First time ever, it will have three members of color on its board!
The Democratic Senator from New Jersey, Cory Booker, Said at The Start of Jackson’s Confirmation Hearings:
This is a watershed moment in human history. With Jackson’s confirmation, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) proclaimed, “It’s an indication that we as a nation are continuing to rise to our collective, cherished, [and] highest ideals.”
As a result, Jackson will join a court with only a tenuous connection to those ideals.
A Republican Majority in Congress
With its Republican supermajority, the current Court is more hostile to voting rights and specifically to the proposition that states may not write election laws that discriminate on the basis of race.
Since Brown v. Board of Education, no Supreme Court has been more hostile to achieving racial equality than the current Court (1954).
The Recent Conduct of The Supreme Court Is Extremely Troubling.
This act, which guarantees that no one is denied the right to vote because of their race, is the cornerstone of American political equality. Much of the present-day United States was an apartheid state or worse — denying political equality to Black people even after slavery’s chains were broken — for nearly 350 years starting with when the first enslaved Africans arrived on American shores until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Act may be the fastest-acting civil rights legislation in American history. Just two years after the law was passed, the percentage of African-Americans registered to vote in Mississippi went from 6.7 percent to nearly 60 percent.
Court Republicans Invented a Number of New Restrictions on The Voting Rights Act During Their Majority.
As in Brnovich v. DNC (2021), the Republican majority on the Supreme Court created new restrictions on the Voting Rights Act, including a presumption that voting restrictions common in 1982 are valid, despite the fact that these restrictions aren’t mentioned anywhere in the law’s text.
In fact, it appears that many of the justices are unwilling to follow the very rules that they have urged the Court to follow in the first place. In early February, for example, the Supreme Court reinstated Alabama’s congressional maps in Merrill v. Milligan, despite the lower court’s determination that those maps were an impermissible racial gerrymander.
A Brief Opinion by Justice Brett Kavanaugh
Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a brief opinion, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, which suggested that the lower court erred because “federal courts ordinarily should not enjoin a state’s election laws in the period close to an election.” About nine months before the next general election, Kavanaugh penned this opinion piece, which comes just three months before the next Alabama primary.
It wasn’t until nearly two months after Alito and Kavanaugh ruled against Wisconsin’s legislative maps for state elections that the Court explained why enjoining a state election law in the “period close to an election” was suddenly acceptable.
So, What Can Jackson Do About This?
In all likelihood, Jackson will write dissenting opinions for the majority of her time on the Supreme Court, and perhaps for the rest of her life. Republicans on the Supreme Court are unlikely to change their minds merely because a new voice in the courtroom explains to them why they’re wrong.
Nevertheless, assuming that the United States continues to hold competitive elections in which either major party could win, dissents can still be a powerful tool — not because they persuade the current crop of justices, but because they persuade future justices.
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