Supreme Court splits again
February 21, 2001 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Supreme Court splits again I leave it to others to comment on this. All I can offer: don't get a disability.
posted by Postroad (16 comments total)
The ADA was being abused. A lot of the lawsuits belittled the struggles people with actual disabilities face daily.

The ruling just re-affirms the concept of states' rights. One of the basic (and most abused) concepts of the Constitution.

This law limits the power of the Federal Gov, sometimes the ideas it outlaws are good - sometimes they suck (abortion should be a state issue, not a mandate from DC).
posted by Mick at 8:34 AM on February 21, 2001

That has got to be one of the most poorly-written articles I've ever seen about a legal opinion, period. Postroad, no wonder you don't know what to say - there's absolutely no way of telling from this article:

1. What was at issue in the case
2. What conclusion the court reached
3. What the basis for their ruling was, and
4. What effect this will have on the furture application of the ADA.

(not to mention: 5. Whether the headline had any real bearing to the actual case, an important question with journalism this shoddy.)

For gosh sakes, let's wait until the Findlaw analysis comes out, (or any other by a competent source) and then try to discuss it.
posted by mikewas at 8:42 AM on February 21, 2001

The ruling just re-affirms the concept of states' rights.

The Supreme Court lost all credibility on the subject of states rights in Bush v. Gore. It's just a buzzword that rationalizes efforts by the court to roll back federal laws supported by Democrats.
posted by rcade at 8:59 AM on February 21, 2001

You beat me to the punch, rcade. I don't ever want to hear the words "states' rights" and U.S. Supreme Court in the same sentence.
posted by darren at 9:21 AM on February 21, 2001

from the WSJ:

Wednesday's ruling reversed a federal appeals court decision that let Patricia Garrett and Milton Ash sue over alleged bias in their state jobs.

Ms. Garrett had been a University of Alabama nurse for 17 years when she took a four-month leave to undergo surgery, radiation and chemotherapy for breast cancer. When she returned, she said she was ordered to take a lower-paying job or quit.

Her lawsuit said her supervisor made negative comments about her illness. She took the lower-paying job and later retired.

Mr. Ash, a security guard for the Alabama Department of Youth Services, said his severe asthma was aggravated by the agency's refusal to enforce its no-smoking policy or repair exhaust problems on a vehicle he had to drive.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the two could sue under the ADA, saying the law canceled the states' constitutional immunity from being sued in federal court against their will.

The Supreme Court said Wednesday the appeals court was wrong.

tort deform?
posted by kliuless at 9:22 AM on February 21, 2001

Repeal the 11th Amendment!
posted by grimmelm at 10:38 AM on February 21, 2001

"States' rights" != "right to ignore Federal laws that states don't like." In the case of Bush v Gore, the state of Florida was attempting to completely flout the US Constitution's equal protection clause, even after being specifically warned by the US Supreme Court not to try to do so.
posted by aaron at 10:44 AM on February 21, 2001

Congress of the sixties was more progressive than the Supreme Court of the ought-oughts. Instead of trying to create a society built on justice the Court is well on it’s way to re-writing the Constitution. They stopped a legal recount and choose the candidate of their party. Had Bush asked for a recount, the Court, in their twisted logic and party affilation, would've found a reason to count the chads and shuffle Bush into Washington. Scalia, in his opinion, wrote that people do not have a right to vote.

Now, we have the Supreme Court gutting more rights in favor Federal power. The recent history of the Court goes like this: limiting individual power against huge institutions, limiting state power in favor of federal power, selecting the president. This is fascism; a creeping coup d’ etat over individual rights.

Scalia vs. Democracy
posted by capt.crackpipe at 11:19 AM on February 21, 2001

Just a year or two ago, I remember hearing people marvel that the Supreme Court was the only branch of government which still held popular respect.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:33 AM on February 21, 2001

Aaron: Do you believe for a minute that the Supreme Court would have conjured up "equal protection" to stop the counting of votes if Gore was ahead and Bush was gaining in a recount? Until Bush v. Gore, the Rehnquist Court had consistently rejected equal protection arguments.

Even sympathetic legal scholars can't defend the court's ludicrous adoption of equal protection in this case.

"The equal protection holding is a bolt out of the blue. There is no precedent for it and there's no support in history for this type of ruling. And for it to come now in a 5-4 decision, it's just very hard to explain." -- University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, author of the 1999 book One Case at a Time in praise of the Rehnquist court
posted by rcade at 11:56 AM on February 21, 2001

Now that I've read the opinion, ( I think that the hysteria exhibited in this thread is misplaced.

In this case, the Supreme Court issued a very narrow holding - that Congress did not, by passing the ADA, abrogate the Eleventh Amendment which protects states from being sued by individuals. They did NOT hold that the state sare exempt from the other provisions of the ADA, and expressly held that the Federal government can sue states to enforce the ADA because all states have effectively consented to be sued by the federal government.

Breyer's dissent, in which he waxes eleoquent about state actions which "might" violate the Constution, is unpersuasive, since citizens may sue states to enforce Constitutional rights regardless of the ADA. (Unless of course, they're seeking to enforce the Fifth Amendment, but that's a different story.)

posted by mikewas at 12:02 PM on February 21, 2001

Even sympathetic legal scholars can't defend the court's ludicrous adoption of equal protection in this case.

In Sunstein's case, it's apparently because he hasn't read that part of the opinion that actually deals with equal protection. That wasn't 5-4, it was 7-2, including such notable conservative firebrands as Souter and Breyer.

In fact, it was one of those two, I can't recall which, who was the strongest advocate for the equal protection argument in the first place among the justices.

Had Gore been the plaintiff in that case, would it have been a 7-2 decision the OTHER way, with only Souter and Breyer finding an equal protection problem? We'll never know.

But it doesn't change the fact that, for equal protection purposes, voting receives the HIGHEST level of judical scrutiny, and there was no dispute that different (i.e. unequal) standards were being applied not just from county to county, but from counting table to counting table.

And had it been the other way, it would have been those same liberal voices telling us how Souter and Breyer were right.

Incidentally, if you are trying to insinuate that Cass Sunstein is conservative, it got a belly laugh out of me. A nice guy, yes, but not at all conservative. Allow me to quote his school's web site:

But Chicago is also home to Cass Sunstein and David Strauss, two of the country’s most prominent (and liberal) constitutional scholars. (
posted by mikewas at 12:19 PM on February 21, 2001

What does that mean that chicago is the home of two law teachers and therefore they are liberal? They are at Univ of Chicago and that school is well known for it general conservative cast of mind, despite being located in a city.
What struck me as odd about the Surpemes is that they ordered vote counting to stop till they decided what to do about the court case. Why? If they had come out against Gore, the vote counting would not have mattered, right? By stopping the count (every one has a right to havea his vote counted) they in fact said it is too late to change much of anything etc. cause should Gore win by votes and the Court held Gore wrong, then they would indeed look very biased.
posted by Postroad at 12:49 PM on February 21, 2001

My favorite from the article - the first sentence of the last paragraph:

The four dissenters disagreed.

Excellence in writing right there.
posted by fuzzynavel at 1:20 PM on February 21, 2001

Incidentally, if you are trying to insinuate that Cass Sunstein is conservative, it got a belly laugh out of me.

I called him a sympathetic legal scholar, not a conservative one. If you're at all familiar with One Case at a Time, you'll know that Sunstein has been strong in his praise for the Rehnquist court.
posted by rcade at 1:34 PM on February 21, 2001

I studied with both Sunstein and Strauss while at the University of Chicago Law School, and neither is conservative at all. Strauss is definitely a more partisan Democrat (he was one of Clinton's many lawyers for a brief period of time in one of his many cases), while Sunstein tries to take a more even-handed position.

Sunstein is deeply suspicious of courts abandoning principled legal reasoning for political purposes, and he admired the fact that the Rhenquist Court (not so much Rhequist himself) seemed in Kennedy and O'Connor to have two justices who kept the court on an even keel.

Sunstein's (unusual, for him) outrage at Bush v. Gore flows, I think, not so much from the outcome as from his sense of betrayal by Kennedy and O'Connor, for whom he'd had a relatively strong degree of appreciation.

posted by MattD at 3:40 PM on February 21, 2001

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