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Roberts Court and Its Political Relations Essay

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Updated: Jun 25th, 2020

Introduction

Judicial intervention in legislation and executive powers of the government has assumed a new breath of light with the Roberts Supreme Court’s using of the First Amendment Act to limit the effect of the regulatory laws made by the US government. The supreme court of the Unites States has been the upholder of the fundamental and basic human rights; however, in recent times the decisions passed by the court has demonstrated an inclination towards the conservative branch of politics rather than being an unbiased upholder of the constitution. Given this primary function of the Supreme Court towards upholding constitutional democracy, the Supreme Court headed by John G. Roberts Jr., popularly known as the Roberts Court, has declared many of the American laws unconstitutional. Further, the conservative stand of Chief Justice Roberts has brought the court to a split house with the voting 5-to-4 on the Affordable Care Act (Drehle par. 2). Roberts Court has often associated him with the conservative wing.

To judge the Supreme Court as solely a judicial body would be to undermine the significance of the American political system. Many a time the court has to provide a verdict on issues on which there exists severe disagreement within the society, like the abortion law or economic regulation. Proving a judgment on such cases is bound to make the decision political. This arises the issue of a political court and criticism regarding the role of the court to move a political agenda. However, if the court is assumed a political body then such issues will not arise. The Court has the constitutional right to interfere and change legislation, is it impossible that the judges will be completely apolitical in their views? In this paper, I would argue that Roberts Court has played a strong role in policy-making in the US and has influenced the democratic political system, inadvertently helping a certain group. In other words, the paper will investigate the position and the disagreements the Roberts Court has faced since 2012 in passing some and/or stopping some laws. This essay is an investigation of the relationship between Roberts Court and the Obama administration.

Roberts Court and Conservative Law

The history of American judicial system is marred with accusations of the Supreme Court being blind to the unequal economic power that the legislations of the US governments were promoting. During the reign of President Roosevelt, the advent of the Great Depression the Supreme Court upheld the minimum wage law against the freedom of contract, thus invoking Lochner-era. With a divided political space in America, the divide between the conservatives and the liberals have widened more starkly. The conservatives believe that laws ensuring individual freedom like abortion law and same sex marriage law are simply political gimmicks to create vote bank while the liberals believe judicial interference into the economic regulation is infringement. However, the recent action of the Supreme Court is not confined to mere name-calling among the political spectrum, as the court has made some serious decisions to counter the laws made by the government.

John Roberts was appointed as the Chief Justice of Supreme Court of America in 2005. The sequence of dissents that Chief Justice Roberts have given to government laws was observed since 2006. The first of which was in the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case where the dissent was against the Bush administration’s decision to prosecute the Guantanamo detainees through military commissions. His decisions also made a few laws unconstitutional, upheld against abortion laws, and limited the scope of the gun control law passed by the local government of Chicago. In 2012, Roberts Court restricted the scope of the strict immigration laws, as the court believed it caused problems for the government to function. In another landmark decision in 2011, Roberts Court adjudged that the women complainants did not have enough support to prove Wal-Mart’s gender discriminatory practices. In 2010, the Roberts court passed the judgment that private corporations can buy advertisements to support political election campaigns. A more conservative ruling of the Roberts court was taken in 2014 when the court upheld that owners of religious families owning a corporation could not be forced to pay for contraceptive to their female employees. A more definitive attack on the political parties came with the court limiting the contributions given by individuals to political leaders or parties in 2014. Hence, the verdicts that have been discussed in the above section clearly depicts a conservative streak in the decision making of the Roberts Court that has upheld religious rights of employers, abortion, and unions.

So how can we describe Roberts Court – is it conservative, divided, popularized? Robert Dahl in his article published in 1957 discusses that courts usually work as an amalgamation rather than a disjoint body that counters the policies created by government bodies (285). He points out that it would be most “unrealistic to suppose that the Court would, for more than a few years at most, stand against any major alternatives sought by a lawmaking majority” (Dahl 285). The explanation that Dahl presents to support his argument is too simplistic as he simply assumes that as the justices are appointed by party leaders, they inadvertently assumes sides with the “dominant alliance” (293). Thus, he points out that the courts have the power to formulate policies but their power is limited by the goals of the “dominant alliance” (294). However, this does not hold true in case of the Roberts Court.

Roberts Court has found itself in conflict with the Obama administration since the president’s first term. Political stalwarts believe that the first term of President Obama aimed at creating a new electoral order for the country (Clayton and McMillan 142). In his first term as President Obama aimed at electing a bench of justice based on diversity than ideology. The Hispanic chief justices Obama appointed were assumed to be moderates however, their voting practices showed that they were more conservative compared to their predecessors. The philosophy that Obama seemed to abide by was in his belief that the judicial bench was there to uphold and protect the “basic rights” and “show restraint by not overturning the policies enacted by the elected branches” (Clayton and McMillan 143). Thus, the divide between the court and the president became abundantly apparent. Paradoxical, as it may be, was the rift between the progressive president who supports judicial restrain and conservative Chief Justices who “aspire to continue the conservative counter-revolution” (Clayton and McMillan 143).

Chief Justice Roberts too has faced a divided and polarized Court and has continued in its agenda to forge the path for constitutional amendments and demonstrate the conservative nature of Roberts Court (Clayton and McMillan 138). The first judgment passed by the Court that amply demonstrates the conservative nature of the judicial is the use of “original intent jurisprudence to advance the conservative version of the Constitution” has been often observed as a process to reinterpret the Second Amendment (Clayton and McMillan 138). In 2009, Roberts Court provided a victory to Bush administration and National Rifle Association (NRA) and uphold the right of individuals to posses’ firearms as a constitutional right. Roberts Court has been found to take a conservative stand in the private corporate financing political parties and leader case, as well as the eliminating the wall between the church and the state in the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn (2011). A more recent verdict in 2014 adjudged unconstitutional a Massachusetts law of creating a 35-foot zone outside the abortion clinics to keep the anti-abortion activists at bay. In many other cases, Roberts Court has been found to be more inclined towards building a conservative constitutional order in America.

Conclusion

The essay finds that the Roberts Court has passed certain decisions that has shifted the balance of the constitutional justice to wards the conservative wing of American politics. The decisive judgments in many of the cases have shifted the balance towards the conservative political wing and have created a polarized and divided Court. Roberts Court has taken a series of decisions that shows inkling towards conservative politics. Usually, the bench of nine Chief Justices appointed by the president is aimed a creating a balance between the liberals, moderates, and conservatives. However, Roberts Court has been found to be more conservative than expected as many of the moderate judges have shifted their decision towards the conservative group.

Works Cited

Clayton, Cornell W. and Lucas K. McMillan. “The Roberts Court in an Era of Polarized Politics.” The Forum 10.4 (2012): 132-146. Print.

Dahl, Robert A. “Decision-making in a democracy: The Supreme Court as a national policy-maker.” Journal of Public Law 6 (1957): 279-295. Print.

Drehle, David Von. 2014. Time. Web.

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