01 November 2023, The Tablet

History in court

US Constitution

History in court

The Supreme Court of the United States has begun its 2023-24 term amid continuing complaints that the justices – six appointed by Republican presidents, three by Democrats – are driven by their political affiliations

They are often described as “politicians in robes”. But in some prominent cases now facing the US Supreme Court, the justices may instead become “historians in robes”, interpreting the often opaque provisions of the US Constitution on the basis of their understanding of history. They will be considering myriad issues arising from the Constitution or federal laws, including the scope of a sentencing-reform law and allegations that the state of South Carolina engaged in racial gerrymandering when it drew the boundary lines of a congressional district. Some of the most consequential cases involve issues that also dominate political debate in a polarised US: gun control, the authority of federal regulatory agencies and regulation of the internet.


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