WASHINGTON: Under the impetus of justices appointed by Donald Trump, the United States Supreme Court has taken a complete turn to the right, the effects of which should be felt for decades.
In the past ten days, the highest court in the United States has canceled the right of American women to have an abortion, enshrined the right to carry a gun in public, expanded the place of religion in the public sphere and drastically limited federal means. to fight global warming.
These decisions, adopted by the Court’s six conservative judges to the dismay of its three progressive sages, are the first illustration of a powerful return of the judicial pendulum after more tempered years, sometimes marked by progressive historic judgments, such as the legalization of same-sex marriage. in 2015.
With their solid Conservative majority reinforced under Donald Trump’s presidency, the judges are taking revenge on the Republican right, which since the 1970s has sought to seize real control of the temple of the law in order to overturn certain key decisions that it considered excessive. .
During the tumultuous 2021-2022 session that ended Thursday, the Court took “a dramatic and sudden turn in a much more conservative direction,” says Stephen Wermiel, a professor of constitutional law at American University.
This is “one of the rare situations where the Supreme Court has radically withdrawn constitutional rights,” he said.
– Polarization –
The last time a Supreme Court was relatively ideologically homogeneous was in the 1960s, when it enacted some of its most progressive reforms, recalls Neal Devins, a law expert at William & Mary University.
Under the presidency of Judge Earl Warren (1953-1969), the temple of the law radically changed the daily lives of millions of Americans, ending segregation, strengthening the power of the federal state, and laying the groundwork for the 1973 decision that made abortion a right for all American women.
Earl Warren’s court was vehemently denounced by conservatives, just as the left today attacks the work of the one chaired by conservative John Roberts.
But, unlike today, judges did not necessarily decide the most crucial decisions according to their supposed political affinities.
Five of the seven judges who supported the 1973 decision to extend abortion rights to all Americans were, for example, nominated by Republicans.
In today’s Supreme Court, the common ground between the two camps is much rarer.
– Positive discrimination, elections –
The conservative bloc presided over by John Roberts is also distinguished by its deep conviction that the Supreme Court has, in the past, agreed to examine issues it should not have to decide.
This is the argument these judges used to justify canceling the right to abortion, believing that it was up to voters in each American state to decide this social issue.
This court also held that it was up to Congress, not an independent government agency, to set regulatory standards, such as limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
His critics accuse him of deliberately ignoring the reality on the ground, with American states so deeply divided, from progressive California to conservative Wyoming.
The Supreme Court also knows that Congress, which struggles to enact major reforms on social issues, “doesn’t work,” said Richard Lazarus, a law professor at the prestigious Harvard University.
And yet, “it threatens the State’s ability to ensure the health and well-being of its people, even as the United States and every nation in the world face the greatest environmental challenge in history,” he laments.
It seems unlikely that the court’s conservative bloc will stop in its tracks. Its judges agreed to examine a number of potentially crucial cases at the start of the school year, mainly related to positive discrimination and the way elections are regulated.
After 50 years of waiting, conservatives “have the opportunity to take a radically different course” for the country, says Professor Wermiel. “They won’t let this chance slip away.”