Friday, April 18, 2014

SCOTUS begins new term

Despite the recent government shutdown, the U.S. Supreme Court has released the docket for its new term that started Monday, Oct. 7, according to an Associated Press article by Mark Sherman.

According to an NPR article by Nina Totenberg, the upcoming cases will not likely be defined by landmark decisions, but a few important ones are worth noting.

Indeed, the docket does seem to include a number of issues that will fire people up, particularly a case dealing with the regulatory power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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“The justices already have one case dealing with air pollution on their docket, so the new cases — which will be consolidated into one — make environmental regulation a major topic for this term,” Richard Wolf wrote in his USA Today article.

Other cases address limits on money given to political campaigns, affirmative action policies used by colleges and prayer in city council meetings. Particularly interesting are the cases dealing with abortion and the EPA.

“While there is no direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, there are cases that would allow the court to chip away at the right to abortion,” Totenberg wrote.

I do not classify abortion as a right under any circumstances, and steps to remove or ban it would represent a positive change in U.S. policy. These changes would further demonstrate acknowledgement of humans’ right to life.

Sherman wrote that the Supreme Court leans toward conservative ideologies, so I predict that the modifications it makes will be constructive. For example, in regards to the EPA case, the Supreme Court has the chance to curtail the agency’s power.

“(T)he Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to consider limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gases,” Wolf’s article said. “The court appealed six separate petitions that sought to roll back EPA’s clout over carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.”

I would welcome a decision to weaken the EPA. Its influence has spread to an alarming degree, yet it seems to base its policies on untenable assertions and unreliable data.

The judicial branch of the U.S. government has often been accused of holding too much influence concerning these cases, causing an imbalance between the three branches. After all, the Supreme Court has the power to determine the constitutionality of a law.

But the Supreme Court is not too powerful. For one thing, it does not actively involve itself in politics or lawmaking. People and states brought the cases to the court — the court did not pursue the cases.

Another positive aspect of the Supreme Court is that the justices hold their position for life, unless they die, retire or are impeached. They are not popularly elected, but are selected by the president. Thus, the justices avoid the political drama that plagues congressional and presidential elections.

Accurate interpretation of America’s laws and Constitution is the Supreme Court’s objective. The justices are supposed to be apolitical when adjudicating on all disputes. They frequently base their decisions on precedents set by earlier courts, rather than forming new opinions.

As in any government institution, political divides exist, perhaps unfortunately, by default. I expect that some people will point accusatory fingers at the Supreme Court, whining about its alleged agenda, when it passes a verdict they dislike. But so it goes.

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