People For the American Way Foundation

Watch Out, the Roberts Court is Back in Session

Today is the first Monday in October, which means the United States Supreme Court is beginning a new term. The term that ended in June, though it had a couple of bright spots, was mostly more of what we have come to expect from the Roberts Court: bending the law in order to favor the powerful. In the term starting today, as discussed in PFAW Foundation's memo on the Key Cases In The Supreme Court's New Term, the Court will be deciding cases having an enormous impact on money in politics, access to abortion, racial discrimination in housing, religious liberty, and workers' rights. In some of these cases, the Court is being asked to overrule precedents that go back decades.

Some of the press coverage of the new term refers to the Chief Justice as preferring "incremental" rather than rapid change. For instance, this, from the Washington Post:

And the term will offer a chance for the conservative majority that has moved the court incrementally to the right to pick up the pace.

What we have seen since John Roberts and Samuel Alito joined the Court in 2005 and early 2006 is incremental change? I guess that's what you can call it when the far-right Court undermines, ignores, or wildly distorts precedent without admitting that's what they're doing, before finally openly turning the law upside down as they did in Citizens United or with the Voting Rights Act.

In several of the Court's cases this term, starting with the McCutcheon campaign finance case being argued tomorrow, the Justices are being asked to flatly overrule cases that have long defined the law and shaped society. It seems unlikely that parties would feel so free to make such radical asks were they not confident that this is a Court with little respect for precedent.