Supreme Court could finally fire racialist university bureaucrats, but there is a new obstacle. The justices’ next term could become a test of whether the court can fire its own.
| Sep 9, 2010 – 6:34am
The University of California in Davis made headlines this month for firing a black employee for allegedly being inappropriate in relation to a student’s request for a job. The employee, who according to a letter on the university’s website is now back on the job, is black.
But in a case that also threatens to turn the U.S. Supreme Court into a test of the court’s own authority, the Supreme Court could soon take another step toward its own destruction.
The U.S. Supreme Court has long struggled with how much deference it should give to the authority of lower courts to make judgments about complex legal issues.
The court also has grappled with whether it has any power to issue its own decisions, or whether it is a court like any other, subject to the rule of law. Both issues have become increasingly critical in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s increasingly activist approach to issues.
In February, the justices had a case of their own to decide when they issued an unsigned unsigned ruling that seemed to side with a lower court in a dispute that seemed to be a case of contract law—but was really about abortion policy.
In his dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned that if lower courts cannot make judgments about complex legal issues, the federal judiciary could start doing so on its own.
It is true that the Supreme Court rarely issues what many would consider to be its own decision. For example, in 2002, the court issued more decisions than any other single court in its history—and in some cases those decisions were signed into law. But it is a fact that the Supreme Court has always given lower courts the discretion to decide cases.
In his decision in a dispute involving a man who had been convicted of murder, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that judges have the authority to “refuse to accept” a state’s proposed findings of fact when the facts are “largely or wholly irrelevant” or when the state has not “adequately explained the relevance and significance of the facts.”