The US Supreme Court handed down several landmark rulings last week. As both conservatives and liberals claimed victories, the justices – including Trump’s appointees – seemed to be sending the message: don’t take us for granted
Even before the United States Supreme Court handed down its final rulings of its 2019-2020 term on 9 July – a later-than-usual conclusion because of delays associated with the coronavirus pandemic – it was clear that this term was unusually consequential. The court produced several landmark rulings, including a resounding victory for gay rights in the workplace and a timely decision that states may punish members of the Electoral College who don’t honour the voters’ choice of a presidential candidate.
Equally important, members of the court – particularly Chief Justice John Roberts – took pains to demonstrate that they aren’t politicians in black robes or agents of the presidents who appointed them. A case decided on the final day of the term offered a rebuke to such cynicism. Voting 7-2, the court rejected the claim that President Trump enjoyed a blanket immunity to subpoenas from a grand jury in New York seeking his tax records and other documents.
Writing for the court, Roberts said: “In our judicial system, the public has a right to every man’s evidence. Since the earliest days of the republic, ‘every man’ has included the president of the United States.” In a separate opinion, Trump’s two appointees, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, agreed that “a president does not possess absolute immunity from a state criminal subpoena”.