As the White House and Congress descend deeper into turmoil, the US Supreme Court is showing signs of becoming as politically fractured as the rest of Washington.
It may likewise be shifting more to the right.
Indications from the few decisions issued so far and from oral arguments in yet-to-be decided cases suggest the five conservatives on the nine-member bench may be ready to wield their majority power. Led by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by President Donald Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch, the five have already prevailed in recent ideologically charged cases regarding prisoners’ civil rights and immigrants in custody.
Historic delays in issuing decisions and at-times sharp jabs between justices on the bench also point to disharmony at a time when the Supreme Court could play a larger role in American life. The Trump administration faces numerous lawsuits over its policies, including new challenges based on the administration’s announcement that theCensus will include a question about individual’s citizenship.
A looming question since January 2017 has been whether the justices would become a check on Trump, who has flouted legal norms, criticized federal judges, and revealed disdain for the rule of law.
In the Supreme Court dispute over immigrants denied bail, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer took the unusual step late last month of reading a lengthy and impassioned dissenting statement from the bench, warning of a new breach of constitutional due process. Such dramatic oral dissents typically occur later in the session, when tensions rise as the court faces a late June deadline and highly anticipated cases with national implications.