“The Illusion of a Liberal Supreme Court”

Linda Greenhouse in the NYT:

As a mirage in the morning light, the “liberal Roberts court” narrative is now fading. Chief Justice Roberts is clearly no traitor; he was, in fact, in dissent in three of the four most important liberal victories, the exception being his majority opinion in King v. Burwell that saved the Affordable Care Act. And the liberal justices were unable at the end of the term to dissuade their colleagues from dragging the court back into the morass of affirmative action; the new term will revisit a now laughably moot challenge to the University of Texas admissions plan. The chance that the court’s liberals will be able to deflect a crushing defeat for public employee unions, in another case to be heard in the new term, appears vanishingly small.

It’s fading, but not fast enough. The “liberal Roberts court” theme retains its grip, and I worry that it may become the received wisdom about the 2014-15 term as public attention moves on from the Supreme Court. On the eve of the presidential primaries, it’s important that progressives not be lulled by a few welcome decisions into thinking that the court is in safe hands. The court that gutted the Voting Rights Act and hijacked the First Amendment as a deregulatory tool (remember Citizens United?) is, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, the court we have. It’s not the court we might wish we had.

Linda is one of the great speakers we have lined up for Monday’s 5th annual Supreme Court term in review event at UCI Law, which will be live webcast at noon Pacific (July 13).

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