Supreme Court veers to left, galling Trump and Republicans

The much-hyped return to a staunchly conservative Supreme Court under President Trump has been just that — hype — as the court has sided with liberals in several new landmark cases.

It must be galling Trump to see the high court reject his positions as it’s done lately in the case of immigration, gay and lesbian rights and now abortion rights.

Right in the center of the legal drama has been Chief Justice John Roberts, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush in 2005 who conservatives once thought could be counted on to protect their flank. Roberts was viewed as such a potential conservative jurist that 22 Democrats — including then-Democratic Senators Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry — voted against his confirmation.

Roberts, in fact, has turned out to be a swing vote and a bitter disappointment to some conservative Republicans, especially Donald Trump.

For the third high profile case in a row, the Republican appointee has sided with liberal justices — twice to break a 4-4 deadlock.

In the latest ruling on Monday, Roberts voted to uphold Roe v. Wade and declare unconstitutional Louisiana’s restrictive new abortion rights law, which critics claimed would have closed nearly all the abortion clinics in the state.

The court also struck down a similar anti-abortion law out of Texas four years ago, but that was when moderate Judge Anthony Kennedy was on the bench.

When Kennedy left, replaced by Brett Kavanaugh, conservatives and the White House rejoiced, thinking that the court would now be dominated by more conservative doctrine. Liberals in particular feared the new bent of the court would jeopardize Roe v. Wade, which for decades has upheld a woman’s right to an abortion.

But in the first major abortion case faced by the new court, conservatives failed to win the majority they so desperately craved, as Roberts sided with Democratic appointees Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer. It was Massachusetts’ own Breyer who wrote the decision rejecting the Louisiana law, saying that “the evidence … shows that opposition to abortion played a significant role in some hospitals’ decisions to deny admitting privileges” to doctors.

Roberts wrote a separate opinion saying that the Louisiana law “imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law. … Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

It was the third straight victory for liberals, coming on the heels of the court’s decision temporarily upholding the DACA program for children of illegal immigrants and extending anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ employees.

And once again the Trump administration was relegated to blasting the court’s ruling.

Roberts did leave some wiggle room in his opinion that could leave the door open for other states attempting to restrict abortion, but that was of little comfort to abortion opponents and Trump.

The court’s future will soon be in the hands of voters who will have the ultimate say in November over whether Trump gets the chance to pack the court even more with conservatives.

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