The Supreme Court completed its term with what has been described as a conservative tilt, and I certainly applaud the rulings in most of the key decisions, but I regret that more was not accomplished with more substantive decisions in the two most recent critical cases. In a significant voting rights case, Northwest Austin MUD vs. Holder, the court ruled in favor of the utility district, but unfortunately declined to address the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as it applies to any change in the voting procedures in southern states, an omission duly noted by Justice Thomas in his separate opinion, which preferred ruling the 1965 Act unconstitutional.
Likewise and more prominently, in an obvious case of “reverse discrimination”, the Court ruled in Ricci vs. DeStefano that white firemen were subject to discrimination in their denial of promotion in spite of their performance on qualifying examinations because no black candidates qualified, but the Court declined to address the larger constitutional issue of affirmative action in general under the equal treatment clause of the 14th Amendment. As noted by Justice Scalia in his concurring opinion in Ricci, the ruling “merely postpones the evil day” on which the Court must decide “whether or to what extent” existing disparate impact law conflicts with the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law. We have again missed an opportunity to once and for all address the injustice of the embedded violation of the equal protection clause in our institutionalized system of racial preferences in hiring, contracting, and college admissions.
These cases illustrate the leadership of Chief Justice Roberts and the legacy of George Bush, but as well they indicate the tenuous nature of the balance of the Court in favor of our founding principles.