Sometimes bias can be hard to see. But much like the horrific shootings of unarmed African American men pre-judged as violent and dangerous, the Peña-Rodriguez case is a terrible and unmistakable reminder of the real harms that racial and ethnic stereotyping can create. As Justice Kagan put it during argument, the case has “the best smoking-gun evidence you’re ever going to see about race bias in the jury room.” When it makes its decision, the Supreme Court should ensure that our jury system, hailed at our nation’s founding as a sacred bulwark of liberty, is a protective barrier against such discrimination, not an agent of it.
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Articles & Commentary
We should not limit the Supreme Court’s ability to perform its critical role in our democracy. We should instead make sure it is composed of Justices who will faithfully apply the law. That’s the Supreme Court’s job. And Republican Senators should let it do it.
Racial bias in the criminal justice system, the growing political power of minority voters, and the accountability of predatory banks are at the center of this term’s most interesting cases.
A new Supreme Court term begins this week without a ninth Justice, and – unlike Senate Republicans who continue to refuse to do their jobs and give the President’s nominee a hearing and a vote – the eight Justices currently on the Court still need to do their jobs to the extent they are able to. After all, a number of significant cases are on the Court’s docket this term. They may lack the blockbuster status of some cases in previous terms, but they still raise important issues that are central to who we are as a nation.
Looking back at 2005, it’s pretty clear that Senate Republicans can promptly fill a vacancy on the Court (and deal with an announced retirement) when they want to. Their partisan inaction now is nothing short of shameful. And the Court, the country, and Merrick Garland are paying the price.
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.
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.