15 July 2020, The Tablet

US Supreme Court judges show they won't be taken for granted

US Supreme Court judges show they won't be taken for granted

The US Supreme Court’s recent rulings have kept legal scholars and journalists busy
Photo: CNS/Reuters, Carlos Barria


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”.

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