September 24, 2021

Courts Matter and this SCOTUS Term Does More Than Ever

Russ Feingold President

Russ Feingold
ACS President Russ Feingold

This week, we hosted our annual Supreme Court Preview, focused on the upcoming SCOTUS term. Every Supreme Court term is consequential, but it is hard to recall a term with greater potential to rewrite many constitutional rights as we know them than this upcoming term.

In the coming months, the Court will take up cases related to reproductive freedom, the 2nd Amendment, capital punishment, the separation of church and state, and more. We make a point of stressing how much courts matter because of moments like these. Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to be watching the Court this term because all of our lives could be substantially impacted by the upcoming decisions.

Let’s start with what is probably the most high-profile case, and that is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. This is the case that could be used by this Court’s conservative supermajority to overturn Roe v. Wade. Given the Court’s decision to allow the Texas’ abortion ban to take effect, it is all too easy to imagine this Court throwing nearly fifty years of precedent out the window and leaving the question of abortion rights to the states to decide. Such a decision would be absolutely devastating. The Court’s increasing disregard for Roe v. Wade is reprehensible and one of the reasons that we need to urgently undertake Supreme Court reform. This Court is failing to fulfill one of its most basic missions and that is to protect constitutional rights.

The Court is also taking up a series of cases related to capital punishment. Among them are cases that pose the alarming question of whether “someone can be properly put to death in this country without receiving a fair trial,” as Professor Alexis Hoag described it at our SCOTUS Preview. It is bad enough that we are one of the few countries in the world that retains capital punishment. Even the possibility that the Court will answer this question in the affirmative, despite recent precedent clearly to the contrary, is beyond upsetting. This is further motivation for our support and advocacy for death penalty abolition.

There is also a case that Professor Darrell Miller described as, “the 2nd Amendment case that gun advocates have been waiting for.” New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v Bruen asks whether the Court’s holding in Heller extends to the possession of guns in public, and if so, what measures a state is permitted to take to keeps its resident safe from gun violence.

And the Court will also hear a set of cases related to the state secrets privilege. These cases, including FBI v. Fazaga, have the potential to enable the government to use the state secrets privilege to evade a whole range of litigation.

ACS will be tracking all of these cases. I know I sound like a broken record, but I’ll say it again. Courts matter. They impact our lives as much as the legislature does. Thank you for being a member of ACS and helping us educate the public about why courts matter and why we all need to pay attention this upcoming Supreme Court term.