Supreme Court Upholds Tyranny of the Majority — and Tarnishes Itself

Voting Rights Decision Will Only Speed Erosion of Credibility

Voting Rights: Representatives of various groups including the NAACP gathered outside of the Supreme Court to hear the ruling on the Voting Rights Act challenge.
getty images
Voting Rights: Representatives of various groups including the NAACP gathered outside of the Supreme Court to hear the ruling on the Voting Rights Act challenge.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published June 28, 2013, issue of July 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: … Do not do injustice in judgment by favoring the poor or deferring to the rich, but judge your neighbor in righteousness. (LEV. 19:1-15)

Joshua ben Perachiah said: Judge every person to the side of merit. (MISHNAH PIRKEI AVOT 1:6)

Rabbi Samuel bar Nachmani said, quoting Rabbi Jonathan: A judge who does not deliver judgments in perfect truth causes the divine presence to depart from the midst of Israel, for it is written: Because of the oppression of the poor, because of the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord.

(Ps. 12:6) (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 7a)

Many Americans were rightly appalled on hearing the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Alabama challenge to the Voting Rights Act. The five conservative justices essentially gutted what’s often called the most effective civil rights law in our history. It’s been the surest safeguard of the 15th Amendment’s promise, that the right of every citizen to vote shall not be denied or abridged. And it was gutted at a moment in history when too many states are trying any way they can to abridge that right: reducing voting hours, moving polling places, erecting expensive runarounds. This was no coincidence.

But the Voting Rights decision did something even more pernicious: It added a dangerous new layer to the incivility and hypocrisy that’s encrusting the Supreme Court’s functions and eroding its credibility. In blatant violation of their own declared principles, the justices gutted the voting law not because it transgressed any particular clause of the Constitution, but because it didn’t fit their conception of current facts on the ground. Congress had re-examined and reaffirmed the law as recently as 2006. The justices didn’t like the way Congress voted, so they outvoted it.

This is what’s known as judicial activism, or legislating from the bench. It’s precisely what conservatives have been vowing to eliminate from federal courts since they began filling them with like-minded judges during the Reagan years. It’s just what John Roberts promised not to do during his Senate confirmation hearings in 2005. “Judges are like umpires,” he said then. “Umpires don’t make the rules — they apply them.”

In reality, Roberts and his four conservative allies have been making rules at will since he took over. In 2006, in Rapanos v. United States, they attacked conservation, removing miles of wetlands from the protection of the Clean Water Act and opening them to development. In 2007, in Parents v. Seattle School District, they attacked affirmative action, outlawing a legitimate program for diversity in public schools.

In 2008, in Stoneridge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta, they attacked investor fraud protection, raising huge hurdles for investors trying to sue brokers selling fraudulent securities. In 2009, in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, they attacked employee rights, making it harder for older employees to seek federal protection against age discrimination.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.