The Roberts Court
This Colloquy will focus on the role of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts as a moderating influence in the present equally divided conservative/liberal Supreme Court. Topics will be 1) the long period of liberal dominance and its enhancement of individual and civil rights has been followed by the impressive and successful conservative reaction as reflected academically, politically and in think tanks and activist organizations. 2) The governmental issues at stake: voter suppression, voting rights, gerrymandering and generally the Court’s role in protecting and preserving democracy and democratic institutions. 3) The likely impact of the Court on personal and individual rights and liberties: abortion rights, gun rights and control, discrimination and affirmative action, religious rights and expression. And 4) the effect of a conservative/reactionary Court and court system in the event of a possible progressive victory and attempts to enhance social and political rights by federal or state action. Reading will be from The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts by Joan Biskupic and supplemented by articles in the colloquy’s readings pages.
David Snow, a retired lawyer and judge, has more recently indulged his interest in constitutional law and political philosophy by teaching several courses at the University of Maine and facilitating several colloquies.
Please read The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts by Joan Biskupic prior to the colloquy.
Each Session will include materials intended to supplement The Chief, provide background and keep the Colloquy current. Many, probably most of you, are concerned by the authoritarian impulse sweeping not only the U.S. but much of the rest of the world. Dozens of books have been written about the current threats to democracy, both here and abroad. We will look at what, if anything, the Court or the Chief might do to protect and preserve our democratic institutions and values? But our principal focus will be on our civil right and liberties and how the Roberts Court may affect them.
The First Session will briefly explore the history and liberal accomplishments of the Warren Court which this Court has already curtailed and seeks to roll back further. The first two Sessions will also explore the political and legal objectives of the five conservatives who control the Roberts’ Court. The balance of the Second Session and the Third and Fourth Sessions will analyze and explore the likely impact of the Roberts’ Court on our polarized politics and on gerrymandering, abortion, gun rights, affirmative action religious freedom and other fraught issues.
The Colloquy will meet with a presidential election in the offing that promises to be unpredictable and nasty. The general expectation is that it will be a turbulent pressured time for John Roberts, who has made clear that he wants to achieve conservative goals without sacrificing the Court’s reputation as fair, just and nonpolitical. The loss of Ruth Bader Ginsberg could frustrate the possibility of moderating this Court, whatever Roberts wants.
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