Posted by: maboulette | February 23, 2020

Scales of Justice Tipped To Trump Administration

Scales of justice

Friday evening the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote allowed the Trump administration’s “wealth test” for immigrants to be put into effect in Illinois.  All 4 liberal justices dissented, which changes little.  Because of the conservative justices’ January intervention, this wealth test is in place to take effect in 49 states, and now with this vote allows the government to apply this in the last state left.  But most remarkable about this decision is that Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s withering dissent which calls out with brutal honesty, a pattern that is distressing and this is the court’s GOP appointees having a very clear bias toward the Trump administration.


Trump’s wealth test marks a shameless attempt to limit legal immigration by pressing immigrants to prove financial status to enter, or to remain in, the United States.  It goes far beyond any statute passed by Congress, making immigrants prove that they will be not a “public charge”—that is, they won’t rely on any public assistance, including Medicaid, housing vouchers, and food stamps. Because the policy departs so drastically from federal law, several courts blocked its operation in 2019. In January, however, the Supreme Court allowed the wealth test to take effect over the dissent of all four liberals. And this majority did not even explain its reasoning. But Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote a concurrence complaining that a district court had blocked it across the country, criticizing the “rise of nationwide injunctions.”


Gorsuch’s opinion raised the possibility that the conservative justices disapproved of the scope of the district court’s injunction, not the reasoning behind it.  If that were true, the conservatives should not have unsettled a narrower injunction limited to Illinois. But they did just that on Friday, once again without explaining themselves. Once again, the liberals dissented, but only Sotomayor wrote separately, in an opinion notable for its caustic tone and frank assessment of her colleague’s biases. Sotomayor wrote:

“Today’s decision follows a now-familiar pattern, the Government seeks emergency relief from this Court, asking it to grant a stay where two lower courts have not. The Government insists—even though review in a court of appeals is imminent—that it will suffer irreparable harm if this Court does not grant a stay. And the Court yields.”


In other words, SCOTUS compensated the Department of Justice for short-circuiting the appellate process and demanding immediate relief.


But this application is perhaps even more concerning than past ones, previously, the DOJ professed urgency because of the form of relief granted in the prior case—a nationwide injunction. Now there’s no nationwide injunction, so there’s no apparent “urgency. The DOJ cannot state with precision any of the supposed harm that would come from the Illinois-specific injunction, and the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has scheduled oral argument for next week. It is hard, to say what is more troubling: that the Government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the Court would grant it.”


Normally, “to justify upending the normal rules,” the government “must also show a likelihood of irreparable harm.” And “it has not made that showing here.” But this shortcut to SCOTUS has become “the new normal”; it has happened over and over and over again, as the DOJ leapfrogs over the lower courts to seize a victory at the Supreme Court. Sotomayor explained:

“Claiming one emergency after another, the Government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases, demanding immediate attention and consuming limited Court resources in each. And with each successive application, of course, its cries of urgency ring increasingly hollow.”

But the Supreme Court’s conservatives repeatedly accept the DOJ’s declarations of an “emergency,” giving Donald J.Trump whatever he wants.


This practice, Sotomayor wrote, has “benefited one litigant over all others”: the Trump administration.  And the injustice of this favoritism is especially painful in light of the court’s recent refusal to halt unconstitutional executions. “This Court often permits executions—where the risk of irreparable harm is the loss of life—to proceed,” Sotomayor noted, blaming death row inmates for their perceived failure “to raise any potentially meritorious claims in a timely manner.” She concluded:

“Yet the Court’s concerns over quick decisions wither when prodded by the Government in far less compelling circumstances—where the Government itself chose to wait to seek relief, and where its claimed harm is continuation of a 20-year status quo in one State. I fear that this disparity in treatment erodes the fair and balanced decision making process that this Court must strive to protect.”


Put simply: When some of the most reviled and powerless among us ask the Supreme Court to spare their lives, the conservative justices turn a cold shoulder. Yet, when the Trump administration demands permission to implement some cruel, nativist, and possibly unlawful immigration restrictions, the conservatives bend over backward to give it everything it wants. There is nothing “fair and balanced” about the court’s double standard that favors the government over everyone else. And, as Sotomayor implies, this blatant bias produces the troubling impression that the Trump administration has a majority of the court in its pocket. 


This also means that the Trump administration has not only taken over the Department of Justice but now the Supreme Court – the rule of law in the United States is now whatever President Donald Trump believes is needed.  The scale of justice are now heavily tipped to the advantage of the Trump Administration.


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