Why Dysfunction Reigns in the Supreme Court Right Now
Are you in search of a new cause to get behind? Looking for some downtrodden folks whose lot in life you can lament? Well do I have the people for you: the surviving eight justices of the Supreme Court.
Their job is to decide legal cases. They’re also supposed to try to announce a clear legal principle for the rest of the profession and country to use going forward. But, for the justices who remain on the Court after Antonin Scalia’s death, that’s proven difficult. The result is that we have a more or less dysfunctional Supreme Court at the moment.
What’s a Court to do when it’s evenly split on some of the most divisive legal and social issues of the day and no one seems willing to give an inch? Ideally, a ninth justice would join them to break the tie. But thanks to the Senate seeming to care more about literally anything in the world than filling the current Supreme Court vacancy, we’ll be lucky if we see a ninth justice before the 2018 midterm elections. (After all, shouldn’t those future voters also have a say in this important issue?)
In the meantime, the eight existing justices plod away, amid a terrible situation.
This week, that terrible situation was on full display. On Monday, the Supreme Court all but implored the Obama administration and religious objectors to contraception to hold hands and play nicer with each other. The legal issue was, once again, whether the Affordable Care Act can require employers with religious objections to provide contraception as part of their health care plans. After the infamous Hobby Lobby decision allowed for-profit corporations owned by religious individuals to opt out, non-profit religious organizations wanted the same.