The key fault line in the Supreme Court that Donald Trump built is not the ideological clash between right and left- it’s the increasingly acrimonious conflict within the court’s now-dominant conservative wing.
Those rifts burst wide open on Thursday with two of the highest-profile decisions of the court’s current term. In both the big cases – involving Obamacare and a Catholic group refusing to vet same-sex couples as foster parents in Philadelphia- conservative justices unleashed sharp attacks that seemed aimed at their fellow GOP appointees for failing to grapple with the core issues the cases presented.
Some liberal legal commentators noted that the most carefully dissected rhetorical sparring is now taking place among members of the new six-justice conservative majority, with the three remaining liberal justices often left as mere spectators.
“We’re arguing about the battles among the conservatives and when that coalition breaks and where it goes,” lamented Harvard Law School lecturer Nancy Gertner, a former federal judge. “It’s a dramatic difference from only two or three years ago.”
Leading the charge from the right in both cases Thursday was Justice Samuel Alito, who penned caustic opinions taking his colleagues to task for issuing narrow rulings that seemed to him to be aimed at defusing political tensions rather than interpreting the law.
“After receiving more than 2,500 pages of briefing and after more than a half-year of post-argument cogitation, the Court has emitted a wisp of a decision that leaves religious liberty in a confused and vulnerable state. Those who count on this Court to stand up for the First Amendment have every right to be disappointed- as am I,” Alito wrote in the foster-care case, notwithstanding the Catholic charity’s unanimous victory. Read more…