Proposals for just a little bit of Court-packing — just a balancing! — are no more stable than the more blatant kind. “There is no magic bullet that will enable either Democrats or Republicans [to] stealthily pack the Supreme Court without risking retaliation in kind.” [Ilya Somin on the Ian Ayres / John Fabian Witt plan; related, Howard Wasserman]
My Wall Street Journal opinion piece from last month on why same-sex marriage isn’t going away under a conservative Supreme Court is now online paywall-free at Cato.
I joined Rick Sincere on his podcast The Score for the Bearing Drift site (Virginia politics) for what turned out to be a two-part interview. You can listen to part 1 on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, and part 2 on why the Court is unlikely to overturn its Obergefell decision on same sex marriage.
- “Why It Was Proper (and Necessary) to Overturn Old Precedent” [Ilya Shapiro and Aaron Barnes, Cato, earlier on Janus v. AFSCME case]
- Mackinac Center has launched national exit-encouraging campaign [My Pay My Say] Class action suits in several states against government unions seek refund of fees paid [Bill McMorris, Free Beacon]
- Proposal to have public employers simply pay unions directly could eliminate workers’ choice in the matter [Benjamin Sachs and Sharon Block, Vox (favoring idea); Eugene Volokh]
- “California’s Government Unions Take Steps to Obliterate Janus Impact” [Edward Ring, California Policy Center, earlier on California aftermaths]
- “How NY will thwart Janus rights” [Ken Girardin, Empire Center; Eric Boehm; earlier on evasion] When right to work came in, “Michigan unions didn’t simply refrain from identifying the exits. They actively worked to make leaving difficult and onerous.” [Joseph G. Lehman and John R. LaPlante, USA Today]
- And now for something completely different: “After Janus, Conservatives and Teachers’ Unions Should Collaborate” [Max Eden; Erica L. Green, New York Times on how American Federation of Teachers is coping with decision]
Yesterday was a two-podcast day for me. The first was a discussion at FIRE on prospects for free speech at the Supreme Court after Anthony Kennedy’s retirement and the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. Other panelists were First Amendment experts Robert Corn-Revere and Paul Sherman and the moderator was FIRE’s Nico Perrino.
At the Cato Daily Podcast, Caleb Brown interviewed me about what we know from nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s career as a judge, which has been spent on the influential but atypical D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. That means we know a lot about his views on some subjects (regulatory and administrative law, separation of powers, national security law) but much less about his approach toward issues that loom larger as a share of the docket in other circuits, such as disputes involving schools, land use, police abuse and prisoner cases, torts, and so forth.
Not very closely related: you’ve probably heard the theory that Trump made the choice he did because Kavanaugh doesn’t think Presidents should be investigated or charged with criminal offenses. Here’s Ben Wittes, who’s anything but a Trump fan, on the problems with that theory. [Lawfare]
More: And now a video of the FIRE panel:
Brett Kavanaugh is a stellar pick, whose name would have been at or near the top of any list of outstanding Republican nominees for the high court. As a longtime judge on the D.C. Circuit he has authored nearly 300 opinions, many in big cases hinging on constitutional issues such as the allocation of powers. Like Chief Justice John Roberts, whom in many ways he resembles, he has unusually close ties already with his eight new colleagues: his decisions on the appeals court have fared exceptionally well on review by the higher court and are often cited as authority there, and he acts as a “feeder judge” sending clerks to Justices across the Court’s ideological spectrum. His qualities of temperament and character are widely respected on all sides, and he is known for advancing diversity among the influential ranks of Supreme Court clerks by recruiting law graduates from many backgrounds.
Yale lawprof Akhil Amar is out with “A Liberal’s Case for Brett Kavanaugh” in the NYT. He writes:
The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court justice is President Trump’s finest hour, his classiest move. Last week the president promised to select “someone with impeccable credentials, great intellect, unbiased judgment, and deep reverence for the laws and Constitution of the United States.” In picking Judge Kavanaugh, he has done just that.
In 2016, I strongly supported Hillary Clinton for president as well as President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland. But today, with the exception of the current justices and Judge Garland, it is hard to name anyone with judicial credentials as strong as those of Judge Kavanaugh.
Jonathan H. Adler on Kavanaugh’s extensive record striking down federal agency action (at least 75 times, according to the White House handout), including several major cases in which his rulings were upheld by the high court on appeal:
Judge Kavanaugh takes administrative law very seriously, and he makes agencies do their homework. As much as any other judge on the D.C. Circuit, he makes sure that agencies act within the scope of the authority they have been delegated by Congress, that they follow the procedures required by the APA, and that they adequately justify their decisions. This has often led to decisions invalidating agency action — both in challenges brought by supporters and opponents of regulation — but Judge Kavanaugh is not an anti-regulatory zealot. Where agencies play by the rules, he has upheld their actions against legal challenge, even where the actions in question may seem unreasonable or unfair.
Plus: Christopher Scalia Twitter thread on why the “theory that Trump picked him because he’d protect the president from indictment” is “nonsense”; Tony Mauro; Ken at Popehat on Kavanaugh’s (good) free-speech record. And Andrew Grossman on the Cato Daily Podcast praises Kavanaugh’s record on the D.C. Circuit, especially his willingness to hold federal agencies to the law rather than allow variance in the name of ambiguity or deference.
The White House has indicated that President Trump will announce a nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy Monday evening. Jonathan Adler breaks it all down at Volokh Conspiracy as does David Lat in a series of posts (sample: feeder judge Brett Kavanaugh “sends clerks to almost all the justices, on both sides of the aisle.”) Other resources while we wait:
- Factually rich cheat sheet with links to writings and opinions of judges thought to be on the list [TIFIS]
- The New Civil Liberties Alliance has evaluated the likely picks on the basis of their posture toward the powers of the administrative state. Chris Walker at the Yale Journal on Regulation examines related issues of their views on administrative law. And the Institute for Free Speech on records on free expression;
- Judge Raymond Kethledge’s concurrence in the Cathedral Buffet case, with observations about government scrutiny of religious beliefs and the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, is getting some attention. I wrote it up at the time here and at Cato at Liberty;
- Hmm. “[Amy Coney] Barrett defended the Supreme Court’s current approach in cases dealing with economic regulation, in which the scales are tipped in favor of lawmakers via the highly permissive standard of judicial review known as the rational-basis test.” [Damon Root, Reason]
- Ilya Shapiro has some kind things to say about another Sixth Circuit judge on many shortlists, Amul Thapar. What got my attention as a confirmed legal formalist is that Judge Thapar threw a case out of court for being one cent short of federal jurisdiction. As I argued way back in The Litigation Explosion, bright-line rules are generally a good thing and jurisdiction, especially, should not be subject to rules of close-enough. This recent Michigan Law Review piece by Judge Thapar and Benjamin Beaton, reviewing a new book by Judge Richard Posner has more on the virtues of formalism and is eminently worth reading;
- Highlights of Kevin Cope’s ideological scoring of the judges for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage: likely picks other than Thapar are clustered closely together, all less conservative than Justice Alito’s Third Circuit record when he was picked; Thapar gets a more moderate rating but his tenure as an appeals judge has been very brief. Note also that Merrick Garland, much promoted as centrist two years back, scores well to the left of the pre-appointment records of Ruth Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.
- You can listen to me briefly discussing the possibilities on the Hartford-area Ray Dunaway show here.
My opinion piece in Monday’s Wall Street Journal offers eight reasons why, no matter who is the next justice, the Supreme Court will not overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, its 2015 same-sex marriage decision.
2. In deciding whether to respect stare decisis and follow a precedent deemed wrongly decided, justices apply standards that can appear wobbly and uncertain. But whatever else is on their minds, they always claim to take seriously the practical dangers of upending a decision on which many people have relied.
Few legal strokes would be as disruptive, yet fully avoidable, as trying to unscramble the Obergefell omelet. Large numbers of marriages would be legally nullified in a moment, imperiling everyday rights of inheritance, custody, pensions, tax status and much more. These effects would hit on day one because an earlier generation of social conservatives managed to write bans on same-sex marriage and equivalents into many state constitutions. Those bans would prevent elected officials from finding legal half-measures to avert massive dislocation for innocent persons.
Roger Pilon and I join Caleb Brown in This Cato podcast assessing the 30-year tenure of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who usually reached sound outcomes but often not by the reasoning we might have liked. Among the topics discussed: the gay rights cases, Kennedy’s change of tune on enumerated powers, and his authorship of Citizens United.