“The switch in time saved nine.” Humorist Cal Tinney in 1937 after Justice Owen Roberts changed his position and allowed a Washington state minimum wage bill to stand.
With Republican Senators prepared to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as the 2020 election is in full swing, after blocking President Obama’s ability to fill a vacancy for almost a year, both parties are raising the issue of court-packing. Democrats have charged Trump with packing the court with nominees who passed his litmus test of vowing to overturn Row v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act. Republicans are attempting to make a big deal over Biden’s refusal to disavow court reform, including legislation to increase the size of the court should the Court undo longstanding precedents.
In 1937 Republicans made “Court-packing” a rallying cry after President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed for legislation, The Judicial Procedures Reform Bill, that would have added up to six additional justices should incumbents fail to retire within six months of their seventieth birthday. Since the Constitution does not specify the number of Supreme Court justices, this would have been perfectly legal. At the time there were four reactionaries on the high bench, three progressives, and two “swing votes,” those of Owen Roberts and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, sophisticated in the ways of politics, being a former New York governor and Presidential candidate. In a series of 5-4 decisions the Court had invalidated many New Deal measures and threatened to nullify Social Security and the Wagner Act, the latter that protected labor unions’ right to bargain collectively. While FDR failed to get Congress to pass the bill, it had the desired effect of convincing Roberts and Hughes to pay more attention to public opinion and political realities. In Roberts’ case, while in Adkins v. Children’s Hospital he had voted to strike down a New York minimum wage law, in West Coast Hotel v. Parrish he reversed course.
During the Barrett hearings Democrats, fearful of alienating Roman Catholics, treaded lightly when bringing up Roe v Wade while emphasizing the damage, especially during the pandemic, to the uninsured and folks with previous medical conditions should Obamacare be struck down. In my view, this was cowardly and wrong. Should Democrats win the Presidency and both houses of Congress, they could save and even improve on the Affordable Care Act. On the other hand, the main threat to a woman’s right to choose – to control her own body – is emanating from Red states over which Congress has only indirect control. As John F. Kennedy stated in 1960 when a candidate for president, an officeholder’s religious faith should not dictate his position on issues of state. Amy Coney Barrett, who is on record as being morally opposed to abortions, calling them barbaric, at the very least should have pledged to recuse herself from decisions involving this issue on which she holds rigid religious beliefs.
Furthermore, it would be foolhardy for Joe Biden to make any pledges that would diminish his freedom of action once in the White House. During the Democratic primaries he made clear that he is cool to the idea of expanding the court, and hopefully that will not be necessary. Chief Justice John Roberts has shown that he cares deeply about the integrity of the Court, and there are indications that he has an unlikely ally in Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch even if both are expected to give conservatives a 6-3 majority. An overwhelming Democratic victory in November is vital in protecting the integrity of all three branches of government.
Dean Bottorff commented:
It occurs to me that despite lofty aspirations to the contrary, the Supreme Court does not operate in a political vacuum. I suspect that the justices, particularly Chief Justice Roberts, fully understand that any decisions rendered that are far distant from the will of the majority of Americans will, ultimately, undermine the power of the court. If the majority of Americans, say 74%, support Roe v. Wade, and if the Supreme Court were to overturn this, the faith of the majority in the legitimacy of the Supreme Court will, to a degree, vanish. Ultimately, no court has the power of enforcement. That power rests only with those who accept the legitimacy of a court’s decisions and have the ability to enforce them. Therefore, if the Supreme Court becomes seen as only the tool of a political party it will be seen as little more than the judicial system of Germany in the 1930s when all judges were required to be members of the NAZI party. Were such the outcome, no one would see the court’s decisions as valid or enforceable. Sadly, although the long-time justices on the court may understand this, the appointments selected by Trump, especially Amy Coney Barrett, seem to be intellectual lightweights whose limited acuity and devotion to right-wing dogma, will lead to lasting damage to the courts and, by inference, the rule of law.
We celebrated Angie’s fiftieth birthday at the condo with a scallops and crab clusters meal that Toni prepared followed by French silk chocolate pie and ice cream. James had a dance rehearsal that included hip hop (which he first learned at IUN’s Kids College a decade ago) but found time to play Space Base with Dave and me. Next day, I watched the Bears edge out Carolina; meanwhile both Washington and Philadelphia lost heartbreakers when last-minute two-point conversions failed.
IUN Dean of Student Services Beth Tyler (above) polled freshmen on their first semester experiences. Despite dislocations caused by the pandemic, most responses were upbeat. In addition to balancing schoolwork and obligations at home and work, the biggest problems seemed to mastering the technology and taking subjects like math and a foreign language online. Here’s a sample of the 87 responses:
1. This is my first semester attending IUN, and I absolutely love it! I am doing well in all my classes and I enjoy being here. The biggest challenge would be trying to remember what days are on zoom and in person. I am glad to be attending this school and I am looking forward to the next four years!
2. I’m a little stressed with homework and classes. I feel like I’m having to teach myself some things. I’m struggling with asking teachers questions because most respond a while after I email them. I also feel I’m bothering them because I’m asking so many questions. I don’t know many people so I don’t know who to reach out to for help.
3. The only challenge is getting used to Canvas; it is very new to me and I have never used it before. To be a student now it is really fun actually; so far all the students and all the staff are extremely nice and happy to help when I get lost on campus or have trouble getting in a zoom meeting. All of my professors are great; they are very kind and always asking questions to make sure that everyone is doing well, if people can hear them, if they need to go slower, and much more.
4. I am feeling burnt out already, so that is worrisome. Being a student right now, at IUN or anywhere else I'm sure, is exhausting. I feel like I am teaching myself everything, even more so than usual. That in combination with the workload is rough, plus outside factors like money and stressors of the world. I am pushing through but it is hard. I am hoping that once I get through these first exams, I will have time to refocus and feel better.
5. I am doing fairly well all things considered. I didn’t know if I wanted to go back to school with the uncertainties this year has brought, but I am glad I did. Finding out the other day that my best friend is hospitalized with Covid has made it hard to concentrate, but I am managing. I love the fact that all my classes are online; if I have had a question, my professors have gotten back to me in what seems like record time.
6. The university is really enjoyable. I even found out there’s a Muslim Association and in the library an Islamic room.
7. I'm doing ok. The things that are super challenging right now is balancing work and school and not having childcare still due to Covid,
8. It's a really weird time to be a student, and I'm sure it's just as weird to be faculty as well. I would say my biggest challenge this semester is stress. Balancing work and school, surviving pandemic culture, all of that. The only challenge outside of that is transportation. I can't afford a car and live a bit far from campus, so getting there for things like picking up shirts from orientation, or for campus events just can't happen right now so I miss out on that.
9. In one course the professor is oblivious to how technology works. I have personally attempted to help the 2 days we've been able to have in person classes but some profs need a little extra assistance.
10. It definitely has become a very un-easy time as my personal life has frequent turns of unfortunate events, not knowing if my job is secured, and completing a practicum with virtual barriers. While the unfortunate events are not something I can control, I leave it to God to handle what is out of my control.
11. IUN has gone above and beyond to make sure that everyone is learning in a safe environment. At this point I do not have a challenge being a student at IUN. Last semester my challenge was my math class. I do not like math and at the age of almost 50, some things do not always "stick" with me. This semester I was able to take the class online and I'm able to go at my own pace which helps a lot. I pray that I do better this time around. My second class, Career Perspectives, was also offered online this semester. I could not go further with my studies until I completed this course. I'm a single mom to two teens who are very active in sports and other groups at school and I work full time, so being on campus half of the day was not an option for me.