WASHINGTON (Reuters) – For the second time in six weeks, on Friday, the US Supreme Conservative majority took over a decade of court case law, this time with property rights and raising alarm bells among its liberal members.
FILE PHOTO: US Chief Justice General Counsel John Roberts resigns with his wife Jane after US President Donald Trump completed his second state for the Union address for a joint session of the US Congress in the House Chamber of US Capitol in Washington, US February 5 2019. REUTERS / Joshua Roberts / File Photo
In a 5-4 decision run by the conservative righteous with the Liberals in dissent, the court anchored the rights of private property holders in public disputes and decided by a Pennsylvania woman to fight for a city ordinance to keep cemeteries in private land open to the public.
The ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, overruled a ruling of the Supreme Court in 1985, which had forced property owners against a state-led land takeover for public purposes to seek compensation under state law before bringing an action before Federal government.
The domination comes between growing concern among abortionists and democratic politicians about whether the court can violate Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court, who legalized abortion nationwide. The Republican President, Donald Trump, promised in the 2016 election campaign to nominate adversaries against Roe, and has since called two conservative lawyers to the bench, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.
On May 13, the Conservative Supreme Court decided 5-4 to persuade a 40-year decision that allowed private citizens to sue a state in the courts of another state, causing liberal justice Stephen Breyer to issue a sharp disagreement.
Breyer said there was no particular need to remove the precedent and that it was "dangerous" to persuade a prior decision on difficult legal issues simply because five members of the court disagree with it. The May decision, Breyer wrote at the time, "can only make one wonder what cases the court will override next."
"Well, it didn't take long," Liberal Justice Elena Kagan said in a disagreement on Friday, extending Breyer's previous criticism. "Now you can wonder again."
Both Breyer and Kagan said that the court should have complied with the long-standing tradition of the court to comply with previous decisions, a principle known as stare decisis. Supporters of the principle have said that it protects the credibility of the court by avoiding politicization and keeping the law stable and straightforward.
The criticism indicates a growing division between the courts as to when it is appropriate for the court to overthrow its own decisions, as liberal lawyers have also voted in favor of it earlier. A prominent example of returning to the precedent came in the Court's landmark 1954 decision to ban racial segregation in public schools that returned in 1896 that the constitution allowed racially separated schools "separate but equal".
Breyer and Kagan both voted to overthrow a lesser-known decades-old precedent, as the court in 2015 legalized homosexual marriage nationwide.
Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas specifically points out that the court is less bound by precedent. Thomas wrote a summary statement on Monday in a gun case, and Thomas said the court should reconsider its standard and not maintain precedents that were "demonstrably mistaken". In his opinion, Thomas referred to the Court's 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, who confirmed Roe.
When he announced Friday's decision from the bench, Roberts seemed to address Kagan's disagreement as he noted that in other decisions this week, the court had refused to persuade precedents.
Reporting by Andrew Chung; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham