Undermining our rights in the legal system
The Supreme Court considered five cases that limit Americans’ ability to defend themselves in court.
1. In Sheen vs. Ramirez, the court ruled 6-3 that federal judges cannot hear new evidence from death row inmates, arguing that their state-appointed attorneys failed to provide a constitutionally adequate defense, gutting the Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel. The Sixth Amendment guarantees everyone the right to an effective, competent attorney, even if they can’t pay.
In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the “perverse” decision “makes it difficult for the federal courts to protect [the Sixth Amendment] rights” and that “the court’s decision will leave many people convicted in violation of the Sixth Amendment facing imprisonment or even the death penalty without any meaningful opportunity to defend their right to counsel.” Throughout that term, the court stripped people of their rights and made it harder for them to file for habeas corpus, one of the most powerful means of challenging wrongful convictions and sentences.
2. In another 6-3 ruling, the court struck down our Miranda rights, rights that have been given to people in the United States upon arrest since the 1966 ruling. Miranda v. Arizona, which requires law enforcement agencies to inform suspects of their rights to remain silent, to legal representation and against self-incrimination. In Vega v. Running, the court ruled 6-3 on partisan lines that Americans cannot sue officers who fail to inform them of their right to remain silent and to an attorney during an arrest. By eliminating the consequences of violating Miranda rights, the court almost certainly increased the likelihood that law enforcement would violate people’s rights and threaten their legal status and safety.
3. The Supreme Court’s attack on the Constitution included the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. In Egbert v. Bull, the court ruled — again 6-3 along partisan lines — that Border Patrol officers who violate Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure cannot be sued. This gives these officers more power to search anyone’s home within 100 miles of the border without fear of repercussions.
This ruling affects not only immigrants. That’s everyone who lives in the border area—nearly two out of three Americans. The ruling does not take away your Fourth Amendment rights under the Constitution. It just makes it easier for the Border Patrol and possibly other federal law enforcement officers to avoid trespassing.
4. Trump’s packed court majority rejected every application for a stay of execution filed before the last session, eliminating rights for vulnerable people facing the death penalty. The Supreme Court rejected an emergency stay of execution petitions and lifted two stays of execution imposed by lower courts, allowing all 13 people who sought relief to be put to death.
Four people on death row had intellectual disabilities. Four people challenged the lethal injection protocols of Oklahoma, a state with a brutal history of botched executions, but the court refused to stay their executions. After all, one of the people executed in Oklahoma, John Grant, suffocated from vomit during the lethal injection. A lower court had stayed Grant’s execution, but the Supreme Court overturned the order and moved the execution forward; he was killed just a few hours later.
5. The court used its shadow protocol to shield police who use excessive force from liability. In Rivas-Villegas v Corteslun and City of Tahlequah, OK v. Bond, the Court overturned two lower court decisions that denied qualified immunity to officers involved in two excessive force cases. One of the cases was a fatal shooting. Qualified immunity shields police officers from liability for their actions in excessive force claims, allowing them to essentially torture at will. Doing so almost certainly increases the likelihood that officers will use excessive force. It’s from a shadow document, so the decision doesn’t have the judges’ fingerprints on it.
Undermining our voting rights
6. In three voting rights cases, the Supreme Court upheld racially gerrymandered maps in three separate states. In the trifecta of voting rights cases—Merrill v. Milligan, Wisconsin Legislature v. Wisconsin Election Commissionand Ardoin v. Robinson— the court continued its assault on the Voting Rights Act with three shadow decisions undermining black voting rights.
In February, a court allowed Alabama to reinstate a racist voting map after a lower court ruled the map illegal. Several weeks later, the court overturned a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that upheld a map that added a majority black seat to the state legislature. And in the final week of the term, the court stepped in to revive Louisiana’s racially favorable congressional map, which had been blocked by a lower court.
7. The court made it extremely difficult for immigrants to get help when the government violates their rights. In Garland v. GonzalezThe court’s conservative majority ruled 6-3 based on the party’s position that non-citizens cannot receive class-wide injunctive relief when the government violates the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). As a result, when the government violates the rights of an entire class of noncitizens, courts cannot require immigration officials to provide assistance, such as hearings, for all affected people; instead, each individual noncitizen must separately request and be granted a hearing.
On the same day, June 13, the court ruled 8-1 Johnson v. Arteaga-Martinez, holding that noncitizens are not entitled to a specialized bond hearing after being detained for more than six months. Together, these two cases leave many vulnerable non-citizens without any opportunity to defend their rights and can leave people in detention indefinitely.
8. The Court also harmed resident immigrants by leaving thousands without the ability to challenge unfair Board of Immigration Appeals decisions. In Patel v. Garland, the court ruled that federal courts cannot review decisions made by immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals, leaving some of the most vulnerable among us with no way to challenge unfair decisions. Pankajkumar Patel, who has lived and worked in the United States for more than 30 years and raised a family here, was denied permanent resident status because of a mistake made on his driver’s license application years ago. The Supreme Court prevented him from challenging the decision, and he and his wife face deportation proceedings without recourse.
Harm to vulnerable communities and tribes
9. The court denied US citizens living in Puerto Rico the right to access certain Social Security benefits USv Vaello-Madero. Jose Luis Vaello Madero received SSI benefits while living in New York and then moved to Puerto Rico in 2013. He continued to receive benefits, but when the government discovered he had moved, they stopped his benefits and tried to recover $28,000. from him. He sued, arguing that the exclusion of Puerto Ricans — U.S. citizens — violated the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The court ruled that the U.S. government can deny SSI benefits to disabled U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico, a population that is predominantly Latino and people of color. This ruling affected more than 300,000 people.
In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor noted that the decision is particularly devastating because Puerto Rico has no representation in Congress and therefore has no other means of redressing “the disparity in punishment suffered by the citizens of Puerto Rico as a result of unequal treatment by Congress.”
In 10, the court dealt a devastating blow to tribal sovereignty Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, which plays on decades of precedent and fundamental principles of Indian federal law to strip tribes of power in criminal justice cases on Native lands. National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) president Fawn Sharp called the ruling “an attack on tribal sovereignty and the hard-won progress of our ancestors to exercise our inherent sovereignty over our own lands.”
“Just a few months ago, Congress vociferously supported tribal sovereignty and tribal criminal jurisdiction by passing the Violence Against Women Act, which reaffirmed the right of tribal peoples to protect their people and communities, but today, make no mistake, the Supreme Court has dealt a huge blow to tribal sovereignty, and Congress once again has must react.
11. Court made it harder for victims of illegal FBI surveillance of Muslim communities to defend their rights. In FBI v. Fazag, the court held that the FBI could cloak its discriminatory surveillance of American Muslims under “state secrets,” barring the plaintiffs’ claims of religious discrimination. The allegations were based on evidence that the government illegally spied on mosque-goers in violation of their constitutional religious freedoms and federal law by illegally recording their home videos and recording conversations at several California mosques.
Future environmental protection
12. In addition, more widely reported West Virginia v. United States. EPA, that attacked the Clean Air Act, the court also addressed the Clean Water Act and the health and safety of communities, this time from a shadow docket. In Louisiana v. American RiversThe court handed down a radical environmental decision that reinvigorated Trump-era politics, overturning decades of precedent and standing law giving states and tribes the power to protect their waters.
The ruling severely limits the power of states and tribes to limit environmentally risky projects such as pipelines and coal export facilities. The Supreme Court once again gave no reason for overturning 50 years of precedent with a one-paragraph opinion on polluting industries over tribes and communities whose safety is at risk.
These 12 decisions show why the legality of the court is being questioned. It’s not “simply because people disagree,” as Chief Justice John Roberts whined earlier this month. That’s because the radical, extreme majority has dismantled the basic tenets of the Constitution and standing law, undermining the will of the majority of Americans, throwing out decades, even centuries of precedent, and demonstrating that it is an existential threat to state power. law.
The court’s next term, which begins in just two weeks, will hear cases that threaten LGBTQ rights, environmental safety, election integrity, affirmative action and more. It includes Moore v. Harper, an effort by North Carolina Republican lawmakers to declare themselves the sole arbiters of federal elections, placing them above the state constitution and state courts. The false and radical theory they argue for – that of an “independent state legislature” – is based on an early 19th century document that “is a well-known forgery”. In other words: fraud.
The Supreme Court has lost its legitimacy and there is not much time to fix it. Congress and President Biden must expand the court today to ensure our safety, liberties, and future.