The United States Supreme Court followed President Bush’s lead on Tuesday, doing its part to turn the country’s justice system back half a century. In one day, the high court issued two decisions, one inhibiting enforcement of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the other allowing police officers greater leeway to make arrests for minor violations. In a word, it is evil.
This Supreme Court – a five-out-of-nine-member conservative majority – was never a group of angels. Well before Dubya’s inauguration, this group was heckling liberals, abortion rights groups and environmentalists, but its decisions were restrained, creating more of an uphill battle than an impermeable mountain. In December, the bench hopped on the Bush bandwagon and something shook loose. Now it is minorities who have the most to fear.
On Tuesday, the majority decision delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia made it more difficult to enforce U.S. anti-discrimination laws by reinterpreting part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Court overturned an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which held that Alabama’s use of English-only driver license exams discriminated against Latinos. Currently, institutions, agencies and organizations that receive federal money are barred from deliberately discriminating against individuals on the basis of race or national origin. However, this week’s verdict loosens the strings by prohibiting lawsuits against policies that discriminate “indirectly.”
Another likely application of the ruling is the numerous cases pending against the University of California Board of Regents, which allege that the use of the Standard Aptitude Test (SAT) as admission criteria discriminates against minorities. Also in question is Title IX, a federal law that bars sexual discrimination and forces public universities to beef up their female sports programs. For 35 years, justices have upheld strict interpretations of these laws, and they have been enforced by means of private lawsuits.
By blocking this route, the Supreme Court puts full responsibility for anti-discrimination suits in the hands of the Bush administration. Unfortunately for the minorities who suffer from this decision, our president is too busy raping the environment and provoking war with China to watch out for their rights. These decisions send America back to the 1950s, when individuals were forced to fight intolerance through sit-ins, boycotts and riots.
The Court’s second masterpiece of the day, a verdict sanctioning arrest for minor violations, made matters even worse.
The conservative end of the bench upheld the arrest of a Texas woman who was pulled over for failure to fasten her seatbelt and those of her two children. All 50 states have laws authorizing the arrest of any individual committing a crime, regardless of severity. As a matter of procedure, most departments do not permit arrests for violations such as speeding, littering or jaywalking. However, the same guidelines are laid out on a national scale by the 4th Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures.” By denying this fact, the Supreme Court pushes America one step closer to Orwellian 1984.
In the majority opinion, David Soutar justified the ruling with a history lesson, referring to medieval England and a sheriffs’ right to detain “nightwalkers” and “rogues.” Maybe somebody ought to remind the bench that people do not go around fighting with broadswords anymore.
Lending law enforcement officers an excessive amount of authority can violently intrude upon an individual’s civil liberties. The Court’s decision will lead to gross abuses in the form of racial profiling. If a mother and her children can fall victim to this oppressive law, minorities do not stand a chance, nor does anybody who is not clean-shaven and “respectable” looking.
We are living in dark days. Unfortunately, a Supreme Court decision is the trump card of the United States government, and this week’s rulings give those in power, whether they are university officials or police, greater license to enact discriminatory and oppressive policies and procedures. Individuals will have to fend for themselves for a while. With any luck, a few of the conservative justices will soon retire or die. We can only keep hope alive.