Supreme Court poised to keep marching to right in new term

Oct 1, 2022, 5:19 AM | Updated: 5:25 am

Ketanji Brown Jackson, the second-youngest justice on the current Supreme Court, will join her colleagues for the court's new term Monday. (AP Graphic)

(AP Graphic)

WASHINGTON (AP) — With public confidence diminished and justices sparring openly over the institution’s legitimacy, the Supreme Court on Monday will begin a new term that could push American law to the right on issues of race, voting and the environment.

Following June’s momentous overturning of nearly 50 years of constitutional protections for abortion rights, the court is diving back in with an aggressive agenda that seems likely to split its six conservative justices from its three liberals.

“It’s not going to be a sleepy term,” said Allison Orr Larsen, a William and Mary law professor. “Cases the court already has agreed to hear really have the potential to bring some pretty significant changes to the law.”

Into this swirling mix steps new Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the court’s first Black woman. Jackson took the seat of Justice Stephen Breyer, a member of the court’s liberal wing, who retired in June. She’s not expected to alter the liberal-conservative divide on the court, but for the first time the court has four women as justices and white men no longer hold a majority.

The court, with three appointees of President Donald Trump, could discard decades of decisions that allow colleges to take account of race in admissions and again weaken the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, the crown jewel of the civil rights movement.

In a separate elections case, a Republican-led appeal could dramatically change the way elections for Congress and the presidency are conducted by handing more power to state legislatures and taking it away from state courts.

Also on the agenda is a clash over the rights of a business owner with a religious objection to working with same-sex couples on their weddings.

In the term’s first arguments Monday, the justices are being asked to limit the reach of the Clean Water Act, nation’s main law to combat water pollution. The case involves an Idaho couple who won an earlier high court round in their bid to build a house on property near a lake without getting a permit under that law.

The outcome could change the rules for millions of acres of property that contain wetlands.

A Supreme Court decision for the couple could strip environmental protections from 45 million acres and threaten water quality for millions of people, said Sam Sankar, senior vice president of the Earthjustice environmental group.

“It’s going to help a lot of industries. It’s going to hurt real people,” Sankar said.

But Damien Schiff, representing the couple, said a favorable court ruling could free ordinary property owners from worrying about large fines and years of delays. “You don’t have to be a large industrial company or large property owner to have a problem,” Schiff said.

There’s little expectation that the outcomes in the highest-profile cases will be anything other than conservative victories, following last term’s outcomes. In their first full term together, the conservatives ruled not only on abortion, but expanded gun rights, enhanced religious rights, reined in the government’s ability to fight climate change and limited Biden administration efforts to combat COVID-19.

Deborah Archer, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, underscored the long odds facing defenders of affirmative action in college admissions.

“It is most certainly an uphill climb. We’re in a scary place where we are relying on Justice Roberts,” Archer said.

Her assessment stems from Chief Justice John Roberts’ long-standing support, both as a judge and a White House lawyer in the 1980s, for limits on considerations of race in education and voting.

“It’s a sordid business, this divvying us up by race,” Roberts wrote in a 2006 redistricting case from Texas.

Last term’s epic decisions might have produced bruised feelings among the justices anyway. But the leak of the abortion decision in early May, seven weeks before it was released, exacerbated tensions on the court, several justices have said. The court has apparently not identified the source of the leak, Breyer said in a recent interview on CNN.

Justice Elena Kagan delivered a series of talks over the summer in which she said the public’s view of the court can be damaged especially when changes in its membership lead to big changes in the law.

“It just doesn’t look like law when some new judges appointed by a new president come in and start just tossing out the old stuff,” Kagan said in an appearance last month at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island.

Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito both took issue with Kagan, if obliquely. Roberts said it was wrong to equate disagreement with the court’s decisions with questions of legitimacy.

In a comment Tuesday to The Wall Street Journal, Alito didn’t name Kagan. “But saying or implying that the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line,” he said, according to the newspaper.

Separately, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, was interviewed on Thursday by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. She stood by the false claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent, according to the committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

Ginni Thomas, a longtime conservative activist, texted with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and contacted lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin in the weeks after the election. In January, her husband was the only justice to vote to keep documents from the National Archives out of the committee’s hands.

Polls have shown a dip in approval for the court and respect for it. The latest Gallup Poll, released last week, reflected Americans’ lowest level of trust in the court in 50 years and a record-tying low approval rating.

In a talk to judges and lawyers in Colorado last month, Roberts reflected on the last year at the court, calling it an “an unusual one and difficult in many respects.” Following the leak, the court was ringed with an 8-foot security fence, and Roberts called it “gut-wrenching” to drive to work past the barricades. He also said it was “unnatural” to hear arguments without the public present, a concession to the coronavirus pandemic.

Now the barricades are down and the public will be allowed inside the courtroom for arguments for the first time since March 2020. The court will keep one pandemic practice, broadcasting live audio of arguments.

Roberts seemed eager to look ahead. “I think just moving forward from things that were unfortunate in the year is the best way to respond to it,” he said.

Last term, the court moved “firmly in a rightward direction,” said Irv Gornstein, executive director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown University’s law school. “There is no reason to think this coming term or any term in the foreseeable future will be any different.”

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the Supreme Court at https://apnews.com/hub/us-supreme-court

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, center left, is escorted by Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts following her formal investiture ceremony at the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
            
              Ketanji Brown Jackson has much in common with her new colleagues on the Supreme Court, which begins a new term Monday. (AP Graphic)
            
              Ketanji Brown Jackson, the second-youngest justice on the current Supreme Court, will join her colleagues for the court's new term Monday. (AP Graphic)
            In this image provided by the Supreme Court, members of the Supreme Court pose for a photo during Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson's formal investiture ceremony at the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. From left, Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Associate Justice Elena Kagan and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (Fred Schilling/U.S. Supreme Court via AP) In this image provided by the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, center, poses for a photo with President Joe Biden, left, and Vice President Kamala Harris during her formal investiture ceremony at the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. (Fred Schilling/U.S. Supreme Court via AP) Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, left, is escorted by Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts following her formal investiture ceremony at the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson stands outside the Supreme Court, at the top of the steps, with Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, following her formal investiture ceremony at the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

AP

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks during an election day canvass launch on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 20...
Associated Press

Democratic Sen. Warnock wins Georgia runoff against Walker

ATLANTA (AP) — Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a Georgia runoff election Tuesday, ensuring Democrats an outright majority in the Senate for the rest of President Joe Biden’s term and helping cap an underwhelming midterm cycle for the GOP in the last major vote of the year. With Warnock’s second […]
21 hours ago
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a memorial...
Associated Press

China’s Xi visiting Saudi Arabia amid bid to boost economy

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping is attending a pair of regional summits in Saudi Arabia this week amid efforts to kick-start economic growth weighed down by strict anti-COVID-19 measures. The Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Xi will attend the inaugural China-Arab States Summit and a meeting with leaders of the six nations that […]
21 hours ago
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., departs after speak during a Congressional Gold Med...
Associated Press

Congress set to rescind COVID-19 vaccine mandate for troops

WASHINGTON (AP) — The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the U.S. military would be rescinded under the annual defense bill heading for a vote this week in Congress, ending a directive that helped ensure the vast majority of troops were vaccinated but also raised concerns that it harmed recruitment and retention. Republicans, emboldened by […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

American Museum of Natural History names new president

NEW YORK (AP) — The American Museum of Natural History on Tuesday said it had chosen college president Sean Decatur to become its next president, making him the first Black leader of the institution. Decatur, currently the president of Kenyon College in Ohio, will succeed Ellen Futter in April of next year, the museum said. […]
21 hours ago
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Ky., arrives for a news conference with members of the S...
Associated Press

Trump’s Constitution remarks put McConnell, GOP on defense

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell delivered another rebuke of former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, saying that anyone who thinks the Constitution can be suspended would have a “very hard time” becoming president in the United States. The comment marked the second time in as many weeks that McConnell and other Republicans […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Tugboats, bottom, align a barge near the container ship Ever Forward, top, which ran aground...
Associated Press

Coast Guard faults pilot in Chesapeake Bay ship grounding

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Coast Guard investigation into the grounding in March of a cargo ship in the Chesapeake Bay faulted the pilot tasked with helping the ship navigate the waterway, saying he relied too much on one piece of equipment to navigate and was on his cellphone in the runup to the grounding. In […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Supreme Court poised to keep marching to right in new term