Georgia College Connections | Matt Roessing Returns to Review the 2019 Session of the Supreme Court

The West Facade of the Supreme Court Building in Washington DC, shows the columned portico of the building with one of its two reflecting pools in the foreground.
The West Facade of the Supreme Court Building in Washington DC, shows the columned portico of the building with one of its two reflecting pools in the foreground.

Each year, lawyer and business law professor Matt Roessing helps us better understand our democratic experiment by joining host Daniel McDonald to talk about the cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States.

In this conversation, Roessing looks back on the 2019 session of the high court, with an emphasis on the issues of gerrymandering, the citizenship question on the 2020 census and the evolving role of Chief Justice John Roberts.

 

Highlights from the conversation include:

 

Is the Supreme Court undergoing a conservative shift with the addition of Trump-nominees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh:

“At the same time though, we have Chief Justice John Roberts who has kind of made it one of his plans on the court is to make it less partisan or at least make it seem less partisan.

So he’s acted as a bit of a counter weight or a balancing force so even though the court’s decisions are skewing more conservative, maybe not as you might expect from a clear conservative majority.”

 

On what comes next for a more-conservative-leaning Supreme Court:

Next year there are quite a few [big issues] that are loaded for review. There are a few cases that involve the Administrative state--how much deference we should give to administrative agencies…cases involving [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], 2nd Amendment cases, cases involving LGBTQ employment protections, tax credits for religious schools, Obamacare and maybe even an abortion case.

So, I think next year will be a lot more exciting with some [more] kind of big transformative cases than we saw this term and having a solid conservative majority certainly tees up some change.

 

On Roberts’ surprise rebuke of the Trump administration on the census citizenship question:

So, he basically said Secretary Ross you just got too cute with this. If from the beginning you just told us exactly what you were doing, that would have been fine. But by looking for political cover, for basically getting these agencies to request it and once that was exposed, …that was the only reason you gave, it’s clearly not why you did it.  And I’m not having it.

 

 

What seemingly delineates the line between gerrymandering based on partisanship and racial profiling:

The Supreme Court is clearly uncomfortable when there is a record, you know, an email, a map or something that explicitly mentions ‘we are using race we are targeting African Americans.’

Even if they later say look it’s not about white versus black; it’s about republican versus democrat.

But if you can scrub the record in a way or set it up so that it is pretty clear

that you’re not doing this based on race you’re just doing this based on partisanship, then you can evade judicial review.

 

How Roessing recommends people engage in the Supreme Court and its work:

I think one of the most important things that citizens can do is actually read the opinions, because it’s often not ‘this is good this is bad.’ The opinions really dig deep into legal, moral, philosophical issues.

They’re beautifully written.

All the current members of the Supreme Court are excellent writers. And in fact, in the last 10 years or so—or maybe longer—the Supreme Court opinions, I think, have really been written for a common audience. There’s certainly some procedural stuff you have to wade through. But on these major cultural issues—if you read the opinion—you probably will understand it.

And it may be a lot more nuanced than what you would get from the news or a tweet.

And I highly encourage everyone to really access the words of these justices, as they put them forth on the page.