As we celebrate Constitution Week this year, let’s remind ourselves and our public officials of the staggering achievement of that extraordinary founding document signed 229 years ago, and the later generations of Americans who worked to make it even more faithful to our founding values. Remembering our Constitution’s progress and promise, and the system of justice we need to make it a reality, has never been more important.
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Articles & Commentary
The federal courts may not always be the focus of the American populace, but those courts’ decisions affect Americans every day. This election year, more so than most, that empty seat on the Supreme Court makes clear just how high the stakes are.
Any president, at any time in history, is crucial to this constitutional narrative because of his or her ability to work with the legislative branch to pass laws that enforce our constitutional guarantees and take care that those laws are faithfully executed. But this particular presidential election may be especially important because of the impact the next president is likely to have on the Supreme Court.
Access to courts may not grab attention in the same way that issues such as guns, abortion, or affirmative action do, but it forms the foundation of the rule of law. How this law changes after Scalia will determine whether minorities victimized by the government, consumers threatened by corporate power, and others will have the right to go to court to redress violations of their rights. The vitality of the Constitution and federal law depends on ensuring that individuals have their day in court to vindicate their legal rights and prevent the abuse of power.
By attacking the integrity of judges based on their color or creed, Trump is trying to bully the officials and institutions our Founders envisioned as the bulwark against such intimidation and lawlessness. But we should find equally unacceptable attempts to use the courts—especially the Supreme Court, which our Founders designed to be the “keystone of the arch” of our judicial system—as a political football. So long as Republican Senators insist on holding a vacant seat open on the Supreme Court for no reason other than pure politics, they are threatening real harm to our system of justice.
The Court’s decision in the case may have delayed final resolution of the question presented, but the Justices’ opinions in Spokeo make clear why Robins should ultimately get his day in court. They provide an important affirmation that Congress has the power to give consumers a right to sue when corporations violate their federal legal rights.
From abortion and affirmative action, to immigration and contraceptive coverage, hot button issues have dominated the Court this year. But there are many other incredibly important cases that could be decided before the term ends in June, on issues ranging from access to the courts and racial discrimination in jury selection, to judicial conflicts of interest and the severe financial crisis in Puerto Rico.
If anyone is “playing politics” with the Supreme Court, it is Sen. Lankford and his Republican colleagues, who are blocking Garland from even getting a hearing and a yes-or-no vote. America needs a fully staffed, fully functioning Supreme Court that can decide cases of profound importance to law enforcement and prosecutors who keep our nation safe, while ensuring that the people's constitutional rights are protected. It is time for Lankford to do his job and call for hearings and a vote.
When it comes to Supreme Court oral arguments, sometimes the justices’ questions feel more like answers with a question mark at the end. At oral argument in United States v. Texas, the questions asked by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, the likely key votes in the case, seemed like real questions. Fortunately for proponents of the administration’s immigration executive action—which could prevent, on a temporary basis, millions of undocumented immigrants from being deported—the lawyers for the administration had good answers, and the lawyers on the other side didn’t. When it comes time for the justices to cast their votes in the case, they should do what the law requires and reject this challenge to the administration’s immigration initiatives.