SUPREME COURT:  Where the Action Is!

By President Emeritus Dan Mikel


The Supreme Court is in the forefront of issues to be considered in our election environment in 2020.

Just over an hour after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky announced that a vote would be held soon on her replacement.  President Trump obliged by nominating Amy Coney Barrett as Ginsburg’s successor a few days later.

The Supreme Court has had a significant impact on our lives.  Resisting the temptation to have a long list, here are just a few cases that have changed the history of the United States.

1954.  The Brown V. Board of Education unanimous decision declared that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. The culmination of a long series of lower court decisions, the Brown decision paved the way for the civil rights movement in the following decade.  The movement is not over, issues remain, but in the Brown decision, the Court provided a major impetus for changing America.

2010.  Citizens United struck down a federal law prohibiting corporations and unions from spending money on federal elections.  The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of the three justices who dissented with the opinion.  Money poured into federal elections.    As President Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO stated on September 4, 2014, “Since the Supreme Court’s devastating Citizens United decision, corporate dark money has flooded our elections and made our American politics even less fair for working people.”

2013. The Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted most of the Voting Rights Act, first passed in 1965.  Chief Justice Roberts claimed that the protections of the Voting Rights Act were no longer needed.  (See my article on Voter Suppression.)  WRONG!

2018.  The long-awaited Janus decision declared that unions could not collect agency fees (also known as fair share fees) to handle the collective bargaining process.  Once again, the late Justice Ginsburg led the dissenters.  Some workers have indeed opted out of paying any kind of dues and those unions have had some decline in union membership.  Other unions used the pending Janus decision to launch internal organizing campaigns and signed up fair share members and increased their membership. The full impact of the Janus decision remains to be seen, but it demonstrated the power of the Court to imperil the union movement.

2020.  On November 10 (one week after the last day of voting), the Supreme Court will hear a case relating to the Affordable Care Act (sometimes called Obamacare).  This will be the third time this act will be judged by the Supreme Court.  With the addition of President Trump’s choice of Amy Coney Barrett, it is entirely possible that the act will be struck down.  As Joe Biden has said, “In the middle of the worst global health crisis in living memory, Donald Trump is at the Supreme Court trying to strip health coverage away from tens of millions of families and to strip away the peace of mind from more than 100 million people with pre-existing conditions.”  The final decision in this case will come during 2021.

2021 and Beyond.  There will be other key decisions coming down in the future.  In voting for President in 2020, we must bear in mind that elections have consequences and the choice we make for president will influence future decisions of the Supreme Court on a wide variety of issues.




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