SCOTUS Rulings Show Roberts As Swing Vote

SCOTUS Rulings Show Roberts As Swing Vote

SCOTUS Rulings Show Roberts As Swing Vote

Two new SCOTUS rulings came down this morning, and they show that the ideological split in the court is still alive and well, with Chief Justice Roberts playing the swing vote.

The first case was about gerrymandering. It was a 5-4 split, with Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority. The short summary? “This is politics, and we can’t fix it.”

The opinion on gerrymandering, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, stated that federal courts do not have jurisdiction to rule on political questions such as this. It is up to lawmakers to deal with such issues.”

“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” Roberts wrote. “Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.”

The cases, Benisek v. Lamone and Rucho v. Common Cause, dealt with the mapping of congressional districts in Maryland and North Carolina, respectively, in ways that blatantly favored one party over another. Lower courts ruled that the redistricting was improper and ordered them to adopt new plans.”

Now they will no longer have to, as the lower courts’ rulings were vacated by the Supreme Court’s ruling.”

“No one can accuse this Court of having a crabbed view of the reach of its competence,” Roberts concluded. “But we have no commission to allocate political power and influence in the absence of a constitutional directive or legal standards to guide us in the exercise of such authority.”

The court is essentially conceding that gerrymandering is part of a political power play by whatever party is in charge. The majority says that it’s not their job – and it’s beyond their reach – to make anything “fair” between the parties. “Fix this yourself” was the overriding message to the states.

The other ruling concerned the citizenship question that the Trump administration wanted back on the census. In a 5-4 split, with Roberts again siding with and writing for the majority, SCOTUS declined to put the question on the census and sent the case back to the lower courts.

The court said the administration’s explanation for adding such a question is insufficient and sent it back to the lower courts for further consideration. The ruling marks a setback for the administration, though the issue is not yet resolved.”

Still, while further lower-court litigation is possible, it would be very difficult for the administration to get the question on the census in time for the forms to be printed by the government’s own self-declared summer deadline.”

The 5-4 court majority raised concerns about the Trump administration’s explanations for their proposal. The ruling, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, said that the court was presented “with an explanation for agency action that is incongruent with what the record reveals about the agency’s priorities and decisionmaking process.”

He added that the court “cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given.”

The Supreme Court majority concluded the executive branch has broad authority to decide what goes onto the census, saying the survey routinely asks a range of questions on the form, beyond the number of people in a household. Roberts wrote that “neither respondents nor my colleagues have been able to identify any relevant, judicially manageable limits on the Secretary’s decision to put a core demographic question back on the census.”

But the opinion said “the evidence tells a story that does not match the explanation the [Commerce] Secretary gave for his decision.”

He continued: “In the Secretary’s telling, Commerce was simply acting on a routine data request from another agency. Yet the materials before us indicate that Commerce went to great lengths to elicit the request from DOJ (or any other willing agency).”

There’s no doubt that this SCOTUS ruling is not what the Trump administration wanted.


I don’t see how the lower courts feel the need to resolve this case before census forms start being printed, so this does, in effect, keep the question off the census in 2020 and allow wild conspiracy theories to continue to fester.

How the left thinks this current SCOTUS could overturn Roe v. Wade is beyond me. Today, Chief Justice Roberts was the swing vote. Tomorrow, it will probably be someone else. We are still firmly in the era of split decisions.

Featured image: The Supreme Court (image via Pixabay, Pixabay license)

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2 Comments
  • Since the Obamacare pretzel-twist, I have felt that Roberts should be the swinging vote.

  • Hal says:

    1. I believe SCOTUS made the right decision on gerrymandering. 2. I wish i could have helped with the arguments in tht Citizenship question case. Does not one need to be a U.S.Citizen to vote in Federal Elections? If one is counted in the populus and House Members are allocated according to this count , then would not by proxy these “non-citizens” be voting on Federal Matters through House Members and for the Federal President through the Electoral Process ?

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