- July 2 - In its 2001-2002 term, the U.S. Supreme Court attacked civil rights
and liberties, striking blows to the separation of church and state, the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA), the privacy rights of students and other fundamental
rights. The number of close decisions -- often by 5-4 votes -- that were led or
joined by Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas points out the
grave risk presented by future appointees in the mold of these two right-wing
A new report released today by People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF)
chronicles the threat posed by the Supreme Court's ultra-conservative members
to decades of progress on civil rights and liberties, the environment and other
fundamental freedoms. In its annual update to 2000's groundbreaking Courting Disaster,
PFAWF analyzes the 2001-2002 term's non-criminal law decisions in six areas: civil
rights and discrimination, federalism and governmental authority, privacy rights
and reproductive freedom, religious liberty, free expression and censorship, and
consumer and worker protection.
"The last eight years have been the longest gap between Supreme Court
appointments in 179 years. We are long overdue for a new associate justice, who
will help determine the future of our civil rights, environmental protections,
reproductive rights, privacy, religious liberty, freedom of expression and so
much more," People For the American Way Foundation President Ralph G. Neas
The 2002 Courting Disaster report profiles the growing strength of the Court's
right-wing bloc. In one case, the court severely limited the ADA by ruling that
a company need not alter some of its personnel policies to accommodate a disabled
worker. In another decision, the Court promoted a "states' rights" agenda
by ruling that federal administrative agencies cannot hold states responsible
for disobeying federal law, essentially denying citizens effective recourse in
many such cases. And in one of its final rulings, the closely divided Court perilously
undermined the wall between church and state by upholding a school voucher plan.
PFAWF's report also features several cases in which the Court rejected by narrow
margins efforts by Scalia and Thomas to diminish government protections for patients'
rights, the environment, and civil rights.
"By examining the work of these two justices in their own words, we can
see how crucial it is that the next associate justice have a commitment to the
Constitution's protection of all Americans," said Neas. "President Bush
stated that he would seek to fill Supreme Court vacancies with justices like Scalia
and Thomas. The latest installment of Courting Disaster demonstrates the disastrous
consequences that another Scalia or Thomas could bring. Indeed, a Scalia-Thomas
majority could shatter more than a hundred Supreme Court precedents."
The Courting Disaster 2002
update is available online at http://www.pfaw.org/issues/judiciary/reports/courting_disaster_2002.pdf