Uncategorized

Do justices defend the speech they hate?

That’s the question posed by researchers at the University of Southern California who, in a recent study, looked at why and how U.S. Supreme Court Justices aligned themselves over the years when it came to ruling on First Amendment claims.

The conclusion:  The justices are “opportunistic free speechers.”

What the group found, not surprisingly, was that the justices “doth protest too much” when they claim to judge blindly:

Although liberal justices are (overall) more supportive of free speech claims than conservative justices, the votes of both liberal and conservative justices tend to reflect their preferences toward the speakers’ ideological grouping, and not solely an underlying taste for (or against) the First Amendment.

Here’s an example (per The Economist):

If the speaker seeking first amendment solace is a pro-lifer rankled by restrictions on protests near abortion clinics, his rights are very likely to be recognised by Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative, but not by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal (see Hill v Colorado). And if the speaker is a high-school kid holding up a banner reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” on a school trip, you can expect Justice Thomas to harumph while Justice Ginsburg rises to the defend the student’s free-speech rights (see Morse v Frederick). Right-wing justices tend to uphold conservative speakers’ rights and rule against liberal litigants; liberal justices smile on their ideological friends and frown at their foes, too.

And conservatives on the court are far more inclined to bias than their more liberal colleagues, the researchers added, per the chart below.

What ‘s the import of all this? Says The Economist:

 If the justices are to live up to their title, they should, more or less, judge blindly. The extent of a citizen’s freedom of speech should not turn on the degree of affinity between his political views and those of a majority of the justices. Church and state cases should not be decided by a vote of five conservative Catholics against three liberal Jews (joined by one liberal Catholic), as we saw in Town of Greece v Galloway last week. Nor should the contraceptive mandate for pious employers in Obamacare stand or fall depending on the religious and ideological makeup of the Supreme Court. Don’t be surprised if the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases are decided on apparently ideological lines when that decision comes down in the next few weeks.

 

 

Check Also

State Supreme Court rules retroactive application of teacher tenure repeal is unconstitutional

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

Congress has just a few days left this month to enact legislation that would address the immigration [...]

12.2 million - the number of people nationally who signed up for health care coverage using HealthCa [...]

Frenches Creek Finishing lies in the watery lowlands of Bladen County, near Lion Swamp, Conkill and [...]

Historical commission member weighs in on monuments, free speech Valerie Johnson is the Mott Disting [...]

“All speech is free, but some speech is more free than others.” This seems to be the motto of the cu [...]

Trumpists prepare to raze another vital common good law It’s hard to keep up these days with the flo [...]

The post That’s how ‘Humbug’ is done appeared first on NC Policy Watch. [...]

The solid citizens of Johnston County, N.C. – in a fateful quirk of geography – for several years ha [...]

Featured | Special Projects

NC Budget 2017
The maze of the NC Budget is complex. Follow the stories to follow the money.
Read more


NC Redistricting 2017
New map, new districts, new lawmakers. Here’s what you need to know about gerrymandering in NC.
Read more