John Roberts’ decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization Focused on the Majority’s lack of Stare Decisis
What impact will this have on future case and the legitimacy of the court?
As many know, and many don’t know, the Supreme Court is an institution that is only as strong as the legitimacy that people give it. It will always be as so. One of the pillars of maintaining legitimacy is Stare Decisis, a doctrine that the court will “stand by things decided.” This is to maintain some stupid illusion that the court is not simply a manifestation of the political party in power.
John Roberts views this as one of the most important and fundamental components of the court. His rulings have always been small and incremental. He also calls out the majority as being too radical and too fast in decision-making.
Last week and throughout the weekend, the talk of the nation has been the majority of the court’s decision to fully overturn Roe v. Wade. A move that was done during the first full term of this new court. Unlike John Roberts, Clarence Thomas appears to be a justice that doesn’t believe in Stare Decisis. Clarence Thomas believes that the precious court decisions do not offer any special protection. His backing to this belief is his wishing to revisit other cases previously ruled by the Supreme Court. Ultimately, it shows that only political will limits where the court goes and which laws they meddle in.
Personally, I see a trend surrounding states becoming smarter in how they pass laws to the point of making Supreme Court rulings meaningless. Maine altered their laws to make private schools turn down public vouchers which was the initial issue they were sued about. As a result, the court’s decision against Maine has no impact on that state. I think that path is going to gain steam and make the Supreme Court eventually render themselves useless, but they did it to themselves…
I also believe that this is going to be a bigger issue down the road. One in which we will need to map together all the possibilities, all the pros, and all the cons to figure out how to make it work or dismantle it if it doesn't work. For example, there was a New York gun control case that nearly edged its way to the Supreme Court in 2020. The law in question was that New York officials declared you cannot transport a gun in the car anywhere unless it is to one of the very few state-approved shooting ranges in New York. This means that even if you own the gun legally and you wish to take the gun anywhere by means of vehicle transportation, you’re breaking the law.
The Supreme Court would have quite obviously ruled it unconstitutional…
At the same time which the case had made it to the Supreme Court, New York legislative officials repealed it just so the Supreme Court can consider it a moot case. New York officials then revised the law and sent through a new version of it just to amend the particular parts which they figured the Supreme Court would consider unconstitutional.
This outlines a major blueprint for how state legislatures could bypass the Supreme Court on ANY issue and how problematic it may be one day. Unconstitutional laws can exist for years, unfairly criminalizing people and depressing the rights of said people, until the perfect case comes along that highlights why it is unconstitutional and the defendant happens to have the time, money, and legal assistance to take the case to the Supreme Court.
As stated in the New York gun control example, exactly when the person gets to the point of stating their case in front of the Supreme Court, legislation can just change the law slightly and get a moot case decision, or no decision at all, and then can repeat the same exact process over again.
The main questions surrounding this article:
What does the court’s lack of appreciation towards Stare Decisis mean for the future of the Supreme Court?
Is the Supreme Court now more likely to aggressively overturn more cases and how will the public view this?
Will the Supreme Court become more political?
Will legitimacy be lost?
Does this push democrats to take more action on Supreme Court reform?
What can be done to improve the legitimacy of the court?