The first Monday in October and the Supreme Court starts hearing cases for this new term. In yesterday’s New York Times, Adam Liptak did a terrific abstract and analysis of some of the important cases coming up this term: Supreme Court Term Offers Hot Issues and Future Hints – NYTimes.com. and a neat graphic at U.S. > Image >.
I love reading this stuff. First, I go through the abstracts and make my own decisions. They’re knee-jerk, of course, and simplistic in their purity and passions.
Then I read Liptak’s legal exegesis of the cases and pull down my knee. A little. Now my brain clicks on and I’m forced to confront, as always, the complex ambiguities of law and life in this country.
What to think, what to think?
Given the lousy makeup of the current Court, I fear that some of these case decisions will damage my sense of justice. And Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself from a number of cases because as Solicitor General in the Obama administration she worked on them. So this term could wind up in a lot of 4-4 decisions, thus leaving the lower Circuit Courts’ rulings to stand. Could be good, could be bad. It all depends on the nature of each Circuit Court. (I’m a fan of the 2d Circuit [NY] and the 9th Circuit [CA] – but you knew that.)
Senator Pat Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has come up with a terrific idea to break potential stalemates. He’s introduced legislation to “allow the court to assign a retired justice to hear cases when an active justice is disqualified.” Great idea, isn’t it? “But the three living retired justices – John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Sandra Day O’Connor – are generally considered moderate to liberal…” So, as Liptak points out, this messes up the bill’s chance of passing.
Take a look at these cases, come up with your own decisions and tell me what you think. I want to know.