A few days ago, I wrote about how the Supreme Court, under the influence of Bush appointees Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito, have made the Court more corporation-friendly and have pealed back precedent over this term. Well, four big decisions released today make the latter even more true:
The first case eroded provisions in the Bipartisam Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 that had banned the ads because they were paid for with the non-profit group’s general treasury funds, referred to a specific candidate for public office in an upcoming election, and would have aired in the law's 30-day “blackout period” prior to the primary election. The Court upheld the right of a Wisconsin Right to Life group to air ads urging two senators to oppose the filibustering of judicial nominees. This decision essentially overrules a 2003 decision by the Court upholding the provisions in the law.
In another case, the Supreme Court upheld the right of a Juneau School to censor student speech because it could be interpreted as having a pro-drug message, despite not even being on school grounds. This is particularly disturbing to me because I argued this case in a Moot Court competition for one of my classes last semester and found prior Court precedent to be overwhelmingly on the side of the student in question.
So the Supreme Court finds the regulation of the money that goes into campaign ads that are issue-oriented but clearly meant to influence an election to be a First Amendment no-no, but now students have to leave their free speech rights at the school-house gate. Ridiculous.
In a third case, the Supreme Court held that taxpayers do not have standing to challenge the Bush administration's faith-based initiatives, despite a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that enabled taxpayers to challenge government programs that promote religion. The 1968 decision involved the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which financed teaching and instructional materials in religious schools in low-income areas. I also studied that case and the Court is clearly making an exception here where there shouldn't be one.
Pretty funny that conservatives keep trying to limit the standing of taxpayers to sue government programs on constitutional grounds. I guess promoting religion and executive power always win out.
Lastly, the Supreme Court ruled today that the Environmental Protection Agency can hand over to states the authority to issue water pollution permits, even if doing so appears to violate the Endangered Species Act. Environmental groups had argued that the administration position would eviscerate a key provision of the 1973 endangered species law, which bars federal agency actions that jeopardize a species and requires consultation between federal agencies, but the Court gave precedence to the 1972 Clean Water Act.
Oh, and by the way, these are all 5-4 decisions.
UPDATE: Congress considers "legislative fixes."