The Supreme Court is in the news – issuing surprising rulings on the Dreamers and abortion access in Louisiana, but predictable ones limiting absentee voting in Texas and okaying the denial of contraception coverage based on employers’ religious beliefs. Chief Justice Roberts seems to be the new swing vote, so what should we expect? Let’s listen to my 2013 conversation with MARCIA COYLE on her book THE ROBERTS COURT: The Struggle for the Constitution. By the way, Coyle confirms my belief that the most crucial issue in considering the last few GOP-nominated justices is not abortion or gun control – but the rights and powers of corporations vs those of human beings
Under John Roberts, Supreme Court decisions are consistently pro-business, recently based on corporate rights of free speech and freedom of religion. How did we get here? Will it only get worse with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh? Listen to my conversation with ADAM WINKLER, constitutional law professor at UCLA and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America and his latest, We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights.
I turn to constitutional scholar ERWIN CHEMERINSKY to talk about legal issues raised by the Trump administration. How far is this Supreme Court going to go in weakening the separation between church and state? Is Trump violating the law by making money – including taxpayer’s money – from his businesses and properties? Who’s going to enforce that law? How bad is it that he belittles and scapegoats the judiciary? Is it too early to think about impeachment? We’ve only got a half hour, but we cover a lot.
A friend tells the story of striking up a conversation with a hip looking man in his late 20s-early 30s in a movie line on the west side of LA shortly before the 2004 election between George Bush and John Kerry. He asked the young man who he planned to vote for, he answered that he hadn’t made up his mind. My friend said to him, “Two words. Supreme Court.” To which the young man replied, “Oh, are we voting for them too?”
While we may be disappointed in his apparent lack of civics knowledge, in his own way, he spoke the truth. The most lasting actions a president takes may be his appointments to the Supreme Court. Supreme Court justices serve for as long as they wish or as long as they are able. Their decisions very often set precedents that can live forever. Bush had appointed John Roberts Chief Justice in his first term, but according to today’s guest, it was his second term appointment of Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O’Connor that really solidified the Roberts Court.
O’Connor had been a much more moderate conservative than Alito has proven to be. The center of the court shifted to the right, which may matter little in decisions with large majorities – more than 50% of cases each term are decided unanimously or by 8-1 or 7-2 votes — but can be crucial in decisions decide 5-4.
MARCIA COYLE has chosen to focus her book THE ROBERTS COURT: The Struggle for the Constitution on four such 5-4 decisions – Citizens United on campaign finance; District of Columbia v Heller on gun control; on race in school choice; and on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
The Supreme Court’s been in the news a lot lately. Several of the nine justices claim to be originalists, assuming to know what the framers meant when they wrote it, and that they meant for us to follow it for the most part as written for the life of the republic. Well. No less an authority than Thomas Jefferson said the Constitution should be rewritten every 19 years.
And my next guest has taken him up on that. KEVIN BLEYER — who’s won Emmys writing for THE DAILY SHOW and has worked on President Obama’s speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinners – has done what he calls “a page one rewrite.” Bleyer joins me on Free Forum to talk about his new book, ME THE PEOPLE: One Man’s Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America.