Politics Meaningful change to the Supreme Court? Check with the Senate
Supreme Court weighs entering gun debate amid calls for stricter rules
With the Supreme Court now boasting a 6-3 conservative majority, the question has become which case involving gun rights the justices are likely to take up.But amid the public outcry over gun violence, the Supreme Court's nine members are meeting behind closed doors to discuss whether to add to next term's docket disputes over gun regulations, with a ruling from the justices potentially having far-reaching implications for firearms restrictions at the federal and state levels.
The new White House commission to study potential changes to the Supreme Court will also have to grapple with how to change the Senate, where confirmation clashes have exposed just how much power the senators have to shape the high court.
President Joe Biden last week asked the commission to study, among an array of proposals, whether the current lifetime appointments should end in favor of terms limited to something like 18 years, staggered so that each president gets an appointment every two years.
Fact check: Justice Clarence Thomas didn't say Section 230 is unconstitutional
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas did not say Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is unconstitutional in a recent concurring opinion.In a 12-page concurring opinion on the court’s dismissal of a case alleging then-President Donald Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking Twitter users, Thomas wrote of the “enormous control over speech” that large social media platforms hold. He compared them to communications utilities regulated by the government.
Advocates of such change say that it would make the court’s ideological makeup better reflect the country’s and that there is support for the idea from across the political spectrum.
One big catch: When a justice’s term ends, the Constitution still gives the Senate final say over who fills that vacancy.
And Republicans demonstrated for the first time in 2016 how a Senate majority can decide not to fill a vacancy at all, when they declined to act on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick B. Garland to fill the slot of the late Antonin Scalia. Garland is now attorney general under Biden.
As much as the Garland episode helped reignite efforts to overhaul the Supreme Court and led to the new commission, it also illustrated the unlikelihood of any major legislative changes since it would require the Senate to weaken its own power to approve a president’s high court appointments.
Techies give an old fashioned Supreme Court decent marks in coding case
Programmers say the Supreme Court, often teased for its ambivalence toward technology, got it (mostly) right in describing some nuances of software.Often teased for their ambivalence toward technology – Chief Justice John Roberts once asked a lawyer in 2010 to explain the difference between an email and a pager – the justices this week were forced to grapple with complicated programming concepts in a multi-billion-dollar copyright dispute between tech giants Google and Oracle.
A recent academic article looked at how current term limit proposals would play out in real life and concluded that any Supreme Court term limits overhaul “would also need to address the rules governing a hold-out scenario of Senate inaction on a president’s nominee.”
Depending on the term limit proposal, 62 (or 75 percent) of past Supreme Court vacancies would have come during periods when the Senate and presidency were controlled by different parties, four professors of law and politics found in their article, “.”
It was written by Adam Chilton, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School; Daniel Epps and Kyle Rozema, associate professors at Washington University School of Law; and Maya Sen, a professor of public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
And under some proposals, 11 percent of the vacancies would have occurred under the Garland scenario, when it was both the last year of a presidential term and the Senate was controlled by the opposition party.
Supreme Court halts California coronavirus rules that limit home worship
This is the latest case in which the high court has barred officials from enforcing coronavirus-related restrictions applying to religious gatherings.The 5-4 unsigned opinion, published just before midnight on Friday, highlighted the deep divisions over the issue, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with three liberals who dissented. The court also noted that this was the fifth time it had overturned the California-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in similar cases.
“If refusal to act on the other party’s nominees becomes the norm, these scenarios could quickly derail any meaningful reform,” the article states.
While the article doesn’t address calls to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court, it’s easy to imagine a situation in which those new slots go unfilled if the Senate is controlled by the opposing party to the president.
Bypassing the Senate
California Democratic Rep.pitched one possible solution in a bill he introduced in September, saying it was the first time Supreme Court term limits had been proposed in legislation, rather than as a constitutional amendment, which entails a more difficult path to becoming a reality.
Khanna’s bill has a provision that if the Senate doesn’t act on a nomination within 120 days, it will have waived its “advice and consent” authority and the president’s nominee will be seated as a justice.
That would address a situation like Garland’s, “although importantly it would not prevent the Senate from simply holding a vote and voting down any nominees by the president,” the academic article points out.
Three Supreme Court justices tackle U.S. partisan divisions in public remarks
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer addressed a virtual conference Wednesday, avoiding speculation about whether he plans to retire this year.Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, making his second public address in as many weeks, brushed aside divisive political rancor in Washington and discussed how the justices work through ideological differences to build majorities in controversial cases.
Gabe Roth, the executive director of the nonpartisan group Fix the Court, which backs Khanna’s bill, said voters would have a chance to remedy that situation.
“The assumption is that a series of failed or voted down SCOTUS nominees would in time be punished at the ballot box, and the Senate (or presidency) would switch hands,” Roth said in an email.
There have been other suggestions that are a bit more heavy-handed. Perhaps if the Senate doesn’t confirm a nominee in a set amount of time, “a third party of some kind” could directly appoint a justice, the academic article states.
Another proposal would require the president and the Senate to be “confined together until a nominee has been approved” while imposing a “salary and benefits freeze” on all of them.
And the academics pitch the idea of a “penalty” for the party in control.
“One possibility would be to penalize the Senate majority’s party by depriving the next president from that party of nominations to which she would normally be entitled,” the academic paper states. “Such a provision would thus deprive a further president of the very advantage which the Senate was attempting to seize.”
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Opinion: What packing the Supreme Court would really do .
Elizabeth Slattery writes that adding justices to the US Supreme Court would not fix the perception of a politicized court -- just the opposite, it would worsen the problem.US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer recently offered some advice to the proponents of court packing: think long and hard about the consequences.