Lawrence Hurley –
The US Supreme Court’s reluctance to take up new cases on volatile social issues is putting it on a collision course with President Donald Trump, whose Justice Department is trying to rush such disputes through the appeals system to get them before the nine justices as quickly as possible.
That tension could come to head in 2019 if the court continues to avoid cases that the Republican president’s lawyers are aggressively trying to bring to the justices. The court’s 5-4 conservative majority includes Trump appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.
While Trump has suffered a series of setbacks in lower federal courts since taking office last year, he has collected major victories at the Supreme Court. Most notably, the court in June upheld in a 5-4 ruling Trump’s travel ban targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries, with Gorsuch casting a pivotal vote, after lower courts had blocked the policy.
But since Kavanaugh joined the bench in October after a bitter Senate confirmation fight, the court has declined to take up appeals by conservative-leaning states seeking to deny public funds to women’s healthcare provider Planned Parenthood, while postponing action on a dispute over federal employment protections opposed by Trump’s administration.
At the same time, the administration has been seeking to leap-frog more liberal-leaning lower courts to get cases on divisive questions over immigration and the US census before the justices more rapidly.
“The court seems to be in go-slow mode at the moment when it comes to big cases. The court appears content to focus on meat-and-potatoes cases rather than blockbuster ones,” said Kannon Shanmugam, a lawyer who regularly argues cases before the justices.
Trump has frequently railed against the lower courts, especially the liberal-leaning San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, that have ruled against him in some major cases including the travel ban. In a setback to social and religious conservatives who strongly support Trump, the high court on Monday declined to take up appeals by Kansas and Louisiana to deny Planned Parenthood public funds under the Medicaid health insurance programme for the poor.
Three of the court’s five conservatives voted to hear the matter, but with conservatives Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts declining to join them they fell a vote short of the required four needed to take up a case.
Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas accused his colleagues of ducking the case because of its controversial nature.
Last week, the court put off action in another divisive case involving whether federal employment law. — Reuters
Lawrence Hurley –