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The Supremes Bid a fond Adieu for the Term

supreme2.jpgI’m a busy bird right now, so I can’t really tell you much about the big Supreme decisions that came out today, and I certainly haven’t read the massive opinions themselves just yet. But here’s a quick run-down on what some other folks are talking about (and you can also check out a nice round-up over at SCOTUSblog).

Taking a general look at the state of things, Slate’s Emily Bazelon asks what “the liberal and moderate lawyers who supported John Roberts’ nomination say today?” She notes that he’s pretty much always sided time with the conservatives Alito, Thomas and the Saclia, and that this week’s rash of 5-4 decisions were all pretty much wins for conservatives and losses for liberal-moderates. In fact, if you look at his record over the term, says Bazelon, “John Roberts is proving to be an extremely conservative chief justice,” even if he doesn’t “go in for the rhetorical swashbuckling.”

You surely heard the big news from today, which was that the Court was “bitterly divided” in its landmark decision “ruling that race cannot be a factor in the assignment of children to public schools.” Chief Justice Johnny gave the smack-down to two programs using race in Lousiville and Seattle to create diversity (SCOTUSblog has a breakdown of the school plans that were at issue in the cases), saying that diversity should be achieved without considering race. The money quote? “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” However, Justice Kennedy’s concurrence is really the decision with all the meat here, and he did hedge things a touch, saying that there are narrow circumstances when one might be able to use race to properly integrate a school. If one believes David Lat, Justice Steven’s dissent consists of little more than a spot-on impersonation of a certain celebrity Scientologist, calling Chief Justice Johnny glib.

Over at the WSJ Law Blog, there’s a great Q&A giving you the nuts and bolts of the “big race case.” Among other things, it makes it clear that this decision does not flat-out overturn Brown v. Board of Education, although “it does reflect a deep division over Brown.” And Professor Dorf finds “the silver lining” in the integration cases, which is that the end result of the decisions isn’t “as drastic as suggested by some of the rhetoric” in Chief Justice Johnny’s opinion.

Oh yeah - there were two other decisions as well. In those decisions, both of which were also 5-4: (a) the Supremes overturned an almost-one hundred year old antitrust decision by ruling that challenges to vertical price restraints should now be judged with a rule-of-reason analysis; and (b) the Supremes said that the Fifth Circuit was being too strict in deciding whether someone is mentally competent enough to get thwacked with the death penalty.

The Court is now in recess until October 1.

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Comments

Reminds me of Milton Friedman. Too bad he's dead, I guess?

I'm not sure what to think, personally. On one hand, programs like bussing kids across town and Affirmative Action do, at their center, rest on the belief that people are different based on their racial group. On the other hand, these are meant to combat a very real problem within our society.