This rogue Supreme Court no longer shocks me; at this point, I’m numb with disbelief.
The day after overturning affirmative action for Black students (while leaving preferences benefitting Whites intact), the Court didn’t simply ignore decades of precedent, it went even further afield, ignoring a constitutional rule against issuing “advisory opinions” in order to privilege a “sincere” religious belief.
Friday, the Court’s reactionary majority issued opinions in two cases that did not include a constitutional prerequisite to the Court’s jurisdiction—that the issue to be decided presents an actual “case or controversy.” That requirement is set forth plainly and simply in the Constitution. You can look it up.
Instead, the reactionary majority ignored the absence of jurisdiction and proceeded to issue decisions in fake controversies because they can. Looking for deeper meaning is pointless. The reactionary majority has reduced the rule of law to brute force in the service of religious nationalism.
In the days before the Court issued its opinion in 303 Creative, multiple media outlets had confirmed that the entire “case” was bogus. As Heather Cox Richardson explained, not only was the online business non-existent, the “complaint” had been manufactured.
Smith claims she wants to start the business because “God is calling her ‘to explain His true story about marriage.’” She alleges that in 2016, a gay man approached her to make a website for his upcoming wedding, but yesterday, Melissa Gira Grant of The New Republic reported that, while the man allegedly behind the email does exist, he is an established designer himself (so why would he hire someone who was not?), is not gay, and married his wife 15 years ago. He says he never wrote to Smith, and the stamp on court filings shows she received it the day after she filed the suit.
“I can confirm I did not contact 303 Creative about a website,” he said. “It’s fraudulent insomuch as someone is pretending to be me and looking to marry someone called Mike. That’s not me.
“What’s most concerning to me is that this is kind of like the one main piece of evidence that’s been part of this case for the last six-plus years and it’s false,” he added. “Nobody’s checked it. Anybody can pick up the phone, write an email, send a text, to verify whether that was correct information.”
So here we have a case that is entirely prospective, with a fact situation that is falsified–yet radical Justices were so eager to undermine government’s ability to protect marginalized populations from discrimination that they were willing to ignore a basic constitutional principle. As Hubbell correctly notes, the “decision authorizes American business owners to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Period. It is a first step, taken in bad faith and wrapped in lies.”
Richardson reminds us that segregation used to be defended as a deeply-held religious belief.
The widely criticized Court withheld issuance of its most indefensible decisions to the last, and the shameful and dishonest holding in 303 Creative was only one. The Court also ignored a clear lack of jurisdiction in the student loan forgiveness case. The actual party in interest—the corporation that serviced the student loan debt—had refused to file suit. Roberts ruled that the state of Missouri could assert the interests of a party not before the Court –a party that claimed no injury.
The lack of jurisdiction wasn’t the only problem with that case: constitutional analyst Ian Millhiser wrote that the “decision in Biden v. Nebraska
is complete and utter nonsense. It rewrites a federal law which explicitly authorizes the loan forgiveness program, and it relies on a fake legal doctrine known as ‘major questions’ which has no basis in any law or any provision of the Constitution.”
The majority’s repeated dishonesty is simply stunning. Norman Ornstein said it best:
It is not just the rulings the Roberts Court is making,” he tweeted. “They created out of [w]hole cloth a bogus, major questions doctrine. They made a mockery of standing. They rewrite laws to fit their radical ideological preferences. They have unilaterally blown up the legitimacy of the Court.
The arrogance is breathtaking.
Many Americans will undoubtedly cheer these wildly improper decisions because the results accord with their own policy preferences. That is very short-sighted; the Supreme Court was not created to be a super-legislature, and– as a colleague from my ACLU days used to warn– poison gas is a great weapon until the wind shifts.
Robert Hubbell is right: “The time for hand wringing and half-steps has passed. Real people have lost real liberties—starting with Dobbs and ending 303 Creative. If we do not stand up to protect them with every ounce of our will, we deserve what’s coming.”