“For the first time ever,” Justice Elena Kagan declared on June 27, “this court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities.”
Kagan was reading a summary of her dissent in Rucho v. Common Cause, a 5–4 decision that barred federal courts from hearing partisan gerrymandering claims. Chief Justice John Roberts had just wrapped up his majority opinion, delivered during the dramatic last session of the term. Justices rarely read dissents from the bench, and typically reserve the practice for decisions that they view to be catastrophically misguided. Now, for the first time, you can hear her deliver her historic dissent. Slate obtained the recording from the National Archives. It is deeply compelling and, for the stoic justice, remarkably impassioned. At first, her voice is filled with righteous fury, but it soon shifts into profound sorrow as she nears the end.