Trump’s greatest disaster is still unfolding

Published On: June 29, 2024

Trump selected three justices to the Supreme Court - creating a conservative supermajority.

Every land and nation on this planet we call home is in the midst of our climate disruption – so powerful it threatens mass extinction, and unlivable conditions. Meanwhile, Trump created a conservative supermajority in the U.S. Supreme Court – now paving the way for more delay on climate action.

 

Background

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all U.S. federal court cases, and over state court cases that turn on questions of U.S. constitutional or federal law.

The expansion of a 5–4 conservative majority to a 6–3 supermajority during the presidency of Donald Trump led to analysts calling the court the most conservative since the 1930s as well as calls for an expansion in the court’s size to fix what some saw as an imbalance, with Republicans having now appointed 14 of the last 18 justices.

NYT: A foundational 1984 decision required courts to defer to agencies’ reasonable interpretations of ambiguous statutes, underpinning regulations on health care, safety and the environment.

The Supreme Court swept aside a longstanding legal precedent on Friday, reducing the power of executive agencies and endangering countless regulations by transferring power from the executive branch to Congress and the courts. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said that “agencies have no special competence” and that judges should determine the meaning of federal laws.

The precedent, Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, is one of the most cited in American law, underpinning 70 Supreme Court decisions and roughly 17,000 in the lower courts. Critics of regulatory authority immediately hailed the decision, suggesting it could open new avenues to challenge federal rules in areas ranging from abortion pills to the environment.

NYT: Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, called the Supreme Court’s ruling “another deeply troubling decision that takes our country backwards” and the latest decision by the court to side with Republican-backed special interests and block commonsense rules on health, the environment and worker protection.

BBC What is the Chevron deference, and why it mattered – Commercial fishing companies – supported by conservative and corporate groups including the billionaire Charles Koch – sued in two separate cases.

The Verge What SCOTUS just did to broadband, the right to repair, the environment, and more – By overturning Chevron, the Supreme Court has declared war on an administrative state that touches everything from net neutrality to climate change.

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Approval ratings

Public trust in the court peaked in the late 1980s. Since the 2022 Dobbs ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and permitted states to restrict abortion rights, Democrats and independents have increasingly lost trust in the court, seen the court as political, and expressed support for reforming the institution.

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Composition and selection

The electoral college (which elects the President who nominates the justices) and the US Senate which confirms the justices, have selection biases that favor rural states that tend to vote Republican, resulting in a conservative Supreme Court. Ziblatt and Levitsky estimate that 3 or 4 of the seats held by conservative justices on the court would be held by justices appointed by a Democratic president if the Presidency and Senate were selected directly by the popular vote.

The three Trump appointees to the court were all nominated by a president who finished second in the popular vote and confirmed by Senators representing a minority of Americans. In addition, Clarence Thomas’ confirmation and Merrick Garland’s blocked confirmation in 2016 were both decided by Senators representing a minority of Americans. Greg Price also critiqued the Court as minority rule.

Secretive proceedings

The court has been criticized for keeping its deliberations hidden from public view. For example, the increasing use of a ‘shadow docket‘ facilitates the court making decisions in secret without knowing how each Justice came to their decision. In 2024, after comparing the analysis of shadow-docket decisions to Kremlinology, Matt Ford called this trend of secrecy “increasingly troubling”, arguing the court’s power comes entirely from persuasion and explanation.

A 2007 review of Jeffrey Toobin‘s book compared the Court to a cartel where its inner-workings are mostly unknown, arguing this lack of transparency reduces scrutiny which hurts ordinary Americans who know little about the nine extremely consequential Justices.

The Nation: We Just Witnessed the Biggest Supreme Court Power Grab Since 1803 – The court has given itself nearly unlimited power over the administrative state, putting everything from environmental protections to workers’ rights at risk.

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About the Author: Climate State
Climate State
Climate State covers the broad spectrum of climate change, and the solutions, since 2011 with the focus on the sciences. Climate State – we endorse data, facts, empirical evidence.
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