WASHINGTON – There is a common thread of surprise in the biggest case yet to date in the Supreme Court.
In a court appointed by five Republicans, liberal judges gave a majority verdict that discriminated against gays and transgender people in the workplace, protected young immigrants from deportation, and by Monday, flouted the Louisiana law that banned abortion providers.
Surprisingly, Chief Justice John Roberts, a Conservative nominated by President George W. Bush, who has led the court for nearly 15 years, has joined his liberal colleagues in all three.
Since Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in 2011, Roberts has played a key role in determining how far the court will go in the case of four Liberals and four Conservatives, closely divided.
Find out where Roberts stood in the abortion, immigration and LGBT cases, his history in court and the risks involved in his upcoming decision on what role Roberts could play:
On Monday, Liberals joined Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Brecker, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in violating the Louisiana Act 2020. Judges have ruled that the law that abortion doctors in a nearby hospital need to enforce violates her court’s right to abortion. The first place in 1977 was marked by the Rowe v. Wade decision.
But the reason Roberts was in favor of the Liberals had little to do with his feelings about abortion than his feelings about whether the court should suddenly look at him. Four years ago, four liberal members of the court and Justice Kennedy repealed a law in Texas, almost like Louisiana. This time, Roberts had a vote like disagreement. But with the retirement of Kennedy and the replacement of Conservative Justice Brett Kavanoff, many conservatives hoped the outcome of the Louisiana case would be different. Not so, Roberts writes: “The outcome in this case is governed by our decision four years ago.”
On June 17, the court ruled 5-4 against the Trump administration, saying no proper steps had been taken to end the 6-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects about 5,050,000 young immigrants from deportation. Roberts joined four liberal judges to write the court’s opinion.
Everyone agreed that the administration could end the DACA, but the debate was over whether it was done properly. Roberts did not say, the administration wrote, that it failed to consider, among other things, “whether DACA recipients should do something about the hardship.”
Trump has already said he will continue new efforts to end Dakar.
The court’s ruling on immigration follows just days after its June 15 ruling that a landmark civil rights law protects LGBT people from discrimination at work. The ruling did not divide the court into rules on abortion and immigration. Six of the judges – Justice Roberts, four court liberals and Trump-appointed Neil Gorsuch – were against the Trump administration and in favor of the LGBT plaintiffs in the lawsuits. Gorsuch wrote the opinion, which was joined by Roberts.
Roberts in the Trump era
If liberals are celebrating Roberts’ decisions this month, while conservatives mourn for them, Roberts is accustomed to taking the heat from both sides and denying simple political labels. He sided with other Conservatives in the court in 5-4 decisions, allowing the Trump administration to build more fences on the U.S.-Mexico border and allow the Trump administration to tap Pentagon funds to maintain the administration’s travel ban. At this point last year, he handed the Republicans a landslide victory, even defending the ultimately biased electoral districts from federal court challenges. On the same day, however, he delivered a defeat to the Trump administration and wrote an opinion that excluded the question of citizenship from the 2020 census.
Even on Monday, Roberts and the Conservatives united in two other cases, ruling that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau structure was unconstitutional and that such a provision in federal law should be upheld as a condition for blaming foreign affiliates of U.S.-based health care providers. Taking money from taxpayers to fight AIDS worldwide.
Partisans on both sides can quickly find their feelings about Roberts change. Judges still have 10 decisions to make before they go on their summer break. Most of the outstanding cases were argued in May when the court heard arguments over the telephone about the coronavirus epidemic. The rest of the cases include fights over the president’s tax return and important issues involving religion in public life. If these cases are split in court, Roberts’ vote will be original again.
Jessica Gresco and Mark Sherman, Associated Press