For a decade, the John Roberts-led Supreme Court has upended precedent and struck down legislation to help large corporations and right-wing interests at the expense of everyone else—especially employees, consumers, people of color, women, and criminal defendants. And some of the Court’s conservative justices have indicated they want to push the law even further to the right.
Last term, the Court’s decisions upholding disparate impact claims under the Fair Housing Act, recognizing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, and making a common-sense interpretation of the Affordable Care Act, were heralded by court pundits as the emergence of a liberal or at least more balanced Supreme Court. But in reality those cases merely upheld the status quo. Two of the cases—the healthcare and fair housing cases—should have never been reviewed in the first place. And even the marriage case, while an unquestionable victory for civil rights, affirmed the near unanimous view of the lower courts. The Court’s supposed shift to the left was a product of its docket more than the substance of its decisions, and reflects how the Court has invited conservative litigants to bring increasingly aggressive legal claims.
In the 2015-2016 term, the Roberts Court will return to the issues that have had progressives on the defensive for the last decade: the rights of consumers to sue, the use of race in college admissions, and the rights of public sector workers to organize. Justice Anthony Kennedy will again be the swing vote in many crucial cases, and the stakes will be high.
This term, the Court could:
- Limit the ability of unions to collectively bargain (Friedrichs).
- Further restrict the use of race in college admissions (Fisher).
- Drastically limit the ability of people to band together in class actions to stop corporate wrongdoing (Spokeo, Campbell-Ewald, Tyson Foods).
- Dismantle environmental regulations (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).
- Expand the scope of forced arbitration (DIRECTV and Zaborowski).
- Further undermine the voting rights of communities of color in urban areas (Evenwel).
- Sanction far-right efforts to radically restrict women’s abortion rights and ability to obtain contraceptive medical coverage (Whole Woman’s Health and Zubik).