Editorial, New York Times, June 22, 2012
The Supreme Court’s ruling this week in Knox v. Service Employees International Union is one of the most brazen of the Roberts court. It shows how defiantly the five justices act in advancing the aggressive conservatism of their majority on the court.
The court’s moderate liberals were rightly dismayed by the majority’s willingness to breach court rules in pursuit of its agenda. In this labor union case, there is no getting around that the legal approach is indistinguishable from politics. The court’s five conservatives ruled that in 2005, Local 1000 of the Service Employees International Union should have sent a notice to all nonmembers it represented when it imposed a temporary 25 percent increase in union dues for public-sector employees in California to fight two anti-union ballot measures.
The court said the union infringed on the free speech rights of the nonmembers by not giving them the chance to prevent the use of their dues to support expressions of political views unrelated to collective bargaining. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed with this narrow judgment only.
This produced a 7-to-2 ruling on that specific question. But Justice Samuel Alito Jr., writing an opinion representing the conservative five only, went far beyond this principle, which has been settled law since 1986.
The majority held that “the union should have sent out a new notice allowing nonmembers to opt in to the special fee.” Justice Alito described the longtime rule allowing union charges to nonmembers unless they opted out of paying part of the dues as “a remarkable boon for unions” that approaches “the limit of what the First Amendment can tolerate.” For the first time and on its own initiative, the court mandated an opt-in requirement.
To reach this decision, Justice Sotomayor explained in an opinion joined by Justice Ginsburg, “the majority breaks our own rules and, more importantly, disregards principles of judicial restraint that define the court’s proper role in our system of separated powers.” Under the court’s rules, only the questions set out in the appeal are to be considered by the court.
As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in a dissent joined by Justice Elena Kagan, “each reason the court offers in support of its ‘opt-in’ conclusion seems in logic to apply, not just to special assessments, but to ordinary yearly fee charges as well.”
The conservative majority strode into the center of the bitter debate about right-to-work laws preventing unions in 23 states from requiring nonmembers to pay any union expenses, including those supporting collective bargaining that benefits nonmembers. It used this narrow case to insert itself into that political controversy when there was no reason to do so.
So much for the Court's "objectivity" and non-partisanship and "independent legal judgements"....that's all merely theatre for the conservative majority. Clearly, this decision can be seen as a signal about the forthcoming decision on Health Care mandates. Now, we can expect that same majority very shortly to overturn the "mandate" requirement in the Health Care Reform Act, the clause which requires individuals to puchase health care, as the only way in which affordability became part of the watered-down bill that President Obama signed after months of political wrangling.
And if and when that decision hits the streets, the partying in the Republican party, in the Tea Party and in the coffers of the super-pacs that fund the Romney campaign, all of whose financial resources were uncapped by this same court, will be heard around the globe.
Such a decision will, in effect, overturn the most important piece of legislation achieved in the Obama presidency, and although it is modelled on the Massacheusetts plan, inaugurated when Romney was governor, striking down even the mandate clause will continue a long shadow of political decisions that began under the presidency, and the appointments to the court of George W. Bush....
Judicial restraint, as argued by both Justies Sotomayer and Ginsberg, has now been brashly breached, given the effective insertion of the court into the presidential campaign once again!
These five justices, apparently, are not satisfied with their ruling on Citizens United that opened the bank vaults of the conservative rich to the Republican party, as leverage enough to buy the presidency. They are continuing their assault on unions, in this most recent decision, and will likely strike a death-blow to the health reform bill, in their overstretch of their reach beyond their court-boundaried decisions.
While unions are already weakened, (a mere 12% of workers are members, as compared with nearly 40% only a few years ago, the court's trampling on them when they are "down" is another sign that the political monsters are in charge in Washington, and that money can buy them and the rights and responsibilities of governing....
Watch out, in November, when their capture of both houses of Congress and the White House will turn the U.S. into the puppet regime, it has already effectively become....the puppet to the rich!