Countering Time Magazine on the Court’s Relevance to Americans

TIME magazine’s cover story this week told Americans they don’t need to care about the Supreme Court because its decisions don’t make a difference in most people’s lives. That premise is just wrong, as the letter we submitted to TIME makes clear (see below). It’s also pretty astonishing to have that article appear the very same week that the GOP presidential candidates will appear before right-wing activists and the so-called “Values Voter Summit” and enthusiastically pledge to put more Justices like Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas on the Court — and cement for a generation the right-wing trends that are undermining Americans’ legal rights and protections.

To the Editor:

David Von Drehle (“The Incredibly Shrinking Court”) claims the Supreme Court is less relevant to Americans because its cases now involve narrow legal issues and few people. This is simply not so. Von Drehle’s example, last June’s 5-4 decision in which the Court invalidated voluntary school integration programs in Seattle and Louisville, may have directly involved “at most a few hundred students,” as he claims, but now school districts across the country are struggling to find ways of achieving racial diversity in schools without running afoul of the new Court majority.

In another 5-4 ruling, the majority held that Goodyear Tire worker Lilly Ledbetter, who was subjected to sex-based pay discrimination for years, was not entitled to compensation because she filed her suit too late. It would be wrong to say this ruling affected only one person. The legal rules handed down in this cramped interpretation of civil rights law will keep anyone in similar circumstances from having her day in court.

The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of what our Constitution means and how our laws are applied. And at a time when the President claims the power to override the Constitution, and bullies Congress into violating Americans’ rights and legal protections, the Supreme Court’s role as a check and balance to the exercise of executive and legislative power is particularly important to all Americans.


Judith E. Schaeffer
Legal Director


civil rights, Congress, Constitution, Courts, discrimination, Legal, Lilly Ledbetter, Schools, Supreme Court, Values Voter Summit