SCOTUS Post-Scalia: Mixed Decisions End of Term, No Noticeable Swing Yet

sctThe U.S. Supreme Court issued its last seven decisions remaining this term last Thursday and Monday. With the passing away of conservative justice Antonin Scalia, the court’s decisions were expected to shift to the left, but the results were mixed as some of the justices took surprising positions. Scalia’s vote likely would not have affected the outcome except possibly in one relatively minor case.

1. Immigration

On immigration, the Court split 4-4 in U.S. v. Texas, meaning an injunction against the Obama administration’s attempt to go around Congress in providing legal status to millions of illegal immigrants was upheld for the states covered by the Fifth Circuit. Obama’s “deferred action” program would have stopped the deportation of many illegal immigrants, granting them work permits and taxpayer benefits. Texas had led a group of 26 states with the lawsuit, complaining in particular about the increased cost to the states for driver’s licenses.

The decision has less to do with ideology and more to do with constitutional procedure. Immigrant advocates said the Court should have allowed the administration flexibility in how it interprets congressional statutes, while conservatives said the decision empowered proper separation of powers.

President Obama responded that the administration had simply focused “our enforcement resources — which are necessarily limited — on the highest priorities:  convicted criminals, recent border crossers, and threats to our national security.” Texas Governor Greg Abbott denounced his response, as did Rep. Louie Gohmert, arguing that the case was not about immigration, but an unconstitutional Executive Order. “The president is not permitted to write laws — only Congress is. This is another major victory in our fight to restore the separation of powers,”said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Some, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) , noted that the decision should encourage opposition to liberal judge Merrick Garland’s nomination for the court. If he had been appointed, said Judicial Crisis Network Chief Counsel Carrie Severino, “this case would have eviscerated the Constitution’s checks and balances.” 

2. Affirmative Action

In Fischer v. University of Texas, liberal Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from voting, but the decision still came down favorable to the left, since Kennedy voted with the liberal wing of the court. The 4-3 decision allows the University of Texas to consider race in student admissions in order to achieve “diversity,” opening the door for colleges all across the country to use affirmative action policies. It requires the university to regularly evaluate its programs for relevance.

Read the rest of the article at The Stream

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