Post date: April 13, 2001
Q: What are the major issues facing the Supreme Court in this current term?
A: The Supreme Court has a number of important cases before it this term–and has already resolved some of them. The docket includes cases about privacy, the First Amendment, voting rights, and the power of Congress to subject states to suit for civil rights violations. One of the most important cases decided thus far is University of Alabama Bd. of Trustees v. Garrett, which limited the power of Congress to subject states to suit under the American with Disabilities Act. Garrett may hold long-term implications for the reach and constitutionality of other civil rights statutes, including the Voting Rights Act.
Q: What surprises might we expect from the Court?
A: It is hard to predict what the Supreme Court will do this Term. One of my hopes is that the Court will provide more guidance for states about the constitutionality of majority-minority districts. States must draw majority-minority districts under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in order to give racial minorities a fair chance to participate in the political process. The Supreme Court has declared a number of these districts unconstitutional, but it has not provided very clear guidance for states engaged in redistricting after the Census data are released.
Q: Will there be any lingering institutional impact from the Bush v. Gore decision?
A: Many law professors think that Bush v. Gore will have a long-term impact on the Court’s status. Thus far, however, we haven’t seen much of an effect on public opinion. In my view, the biggest test for the Supreme Court will occur when it faces the next case involving a Bush v. Gore equal protection challenge. Such suits have been filed in states across the country to challenge differences in voting machinery and the disparities in the amount of resources allocated to different parts of the states. The question on everyone’s mind is whether Bush v. Gore is what Justice [Owen] Roberts would call a “one-way ticket” — a precedent confined to the narrow facts of Bush v. Gore — or whether the Supreme Court will instead extend its reasoning to other suits invoking the same type of equal protection principles.
Q: If Chief Justice Rehnquist retires, do you expect Bush to elevate an Associate Justice to Chief Justice or will he appoint one from outside the court? Who might his first appointment be?
A: It is hard to predict what President Bush will do in terms of appointments. Many believe it quite likely that President Bush will offer a position to his new White House Counsel, Al Gonzales. Others have speculated that Senator Hatch is a strong possibility. While many presidents prefer to appoint an Associate Justice on the Court to the position of Chief, there is no requirement that President Bush do so. Moreover, some of the current Justices appointed by Republicans — for example, Justices Scalia and Thomas — may be too controversial for Bush to appoint as Chief.