Sometimes I think taking issues to the Supreme Court is a crap shoot.
That’s because the same court that apparently upholds one side in one case can side with the other on the same kind of case days later. And in many cases, the decisions it takes (or doesn’t) are inexplicable.
Most recently was Calvary Chapel vs. Sisolak: that church sued Nevada governor Steve Silolak over his COVID-19 executive order restricting churches and other houses of worship to 50 people – yet permitting other entities to accommodate up to 50 percent of capacity, even if there were many more than 50 people. Looked like a slam-dunk: the U.S. Constitution both requires equal protection under the law and forbids prohibition of the free exercise of religion.
But in a 5-4 decision July 24, the Court rejected Calvary Chapel’s appeal without explanation: “The application for injunctive relief ... is denied.”
However, another pair of cases unequally restricting religious institutions came to the Supreme Court, with the opposite result. One, on Nov. 25, saw the 5-4 decision going in favor of ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups who’d noted in their litigation that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had singled them out for restrictions not imposed on others. According to westernjournal.com on Nov. 16, New York’s coronavirus restrictions prohibited more than 10 people from gathering in places of worship in “red zones,” regions where the state has identified the risk of the virus to be the highest. “If you’re not willing to live with these rules,” Cuomo reportedly told Orthodox Jews, “then I’m going to close the synagogues.”
The other, on Dec. 3 saw the Court, in light of its Nov. 25 ruling, order the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to revisit its earlier ruling against Pasadena, Calif.-based Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministries. They’d argued Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on indoor services had violated the First Amendment. The state’s coronavirus laws prohibited in-person services for counties in the most restrictive “purple tier.” At the time of the church’s filing, 94 percent of the state’s population lived in “purple tier” counties. Simultaneously, the church’s filing noted, Newsom had been “publicly encouraging and supporting mass protestors, rioters, and looters to gather without numerical restriction in blatant disregard for his own Orders.”
At last, I thought, the court was getting it right.
Nope: on Dec. 11 it rejected a Texas lawsuit challenging the election results in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. Said Texas “didn’t have standing” to sue: one state can’t sue to overturn another state’s election result.
But a group of Pennsylvania legislators had joined that lawsuit, accusing the Pennsylvania Supreme Court of violating the Constitution by “offering extrajudicial guidance to the Commonwealth’s county boards of elections ... These efforts were condoned and furthered by the overreaching of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, in clear violation of the ... U.S. Constitution.”
So Pennsylvania’s legislators don’t have standing to overturn their own state’s election results?
My faith was again crushed.
But then came its decision on Dec. 18 to put off hearing a complaint against the Trump Administration’s desire to exclude illegal aliens from the census count for Congressional apportionment. “At present, this case is riddled with contingencies and speculation that impede judicial review,” said the unsigned opinion of six of the nine justices. Honestly, I’m all for excluding illegals from any and all aspects of the American scene that accrues benefits to anybody from their illegal presence. Let those fleeing persecution seek asylum; let the rest follow our immigration laws. Who needs folks who break our laws as their very first act in coming here?
True: I see nothing in the Constitution’s Article One Section 2 distinguishing illegally immigrated “Persons” from any other “Persons.” Still, I am hopeful the court will eventually decide in favor of not counting illegals for apportionment – or for any other purpose. Too many of its other decisions seem to be determined by a dice roll.
In addition, Donald Trump himself is reportedly considering filing his own lawsuit to overturn those four states’ election outcomes, just as Texas tried to do. (Surely he has “standing” ...)
So let’s roll dem bones: 7-come-11!