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Art: Gavel

Almost the end of Supreme Court season.

The media seemed surprised by Milligan and Moore. But in Milligan, it’s hard to see how they could have completely gutted the rest of the Voting Rights Act without places like Alabama completely stripping Black voters of their ability to elect legislators.

And in Moore, the idea that the court would voluntarily give up the ability to hear disputes over state laws regarding federal elections seems contrary to the general direction of the court and the executive hording power while Congress fights amongst itself. (The fact that the executive and the Supreme Court are controlled by one party or the other while the Congress is divided plays only some part of that.)

Students for Fair Admissions, Incorporated was a different case altogether. The sad fact is that America needs more universities. More supply to lower prices. America needs to move away from the notion of prestige education. When the call goes up in the restaurant or on the plane, “Is there a doctor in the house?” “Is there a doctor on board?” Nobody is asking for a Harvard doctor. If two respond, nobody is checking what school they attended.

For centuries the wealthy and the lucky have used the brand name of their education as though it stands for something more than wealth or luck. If there were Harvard-educated plumbers, would you really want to pay the premium price for them to fix a leak? I would not.

In that view, I see cases like this one as prestige assholes arguing about who should get in the club. To hell with the club. We need universal education, not to waste time on the assholes and their clubs.

Art: Lonely Jet Seat

Sometimes you wanna go where everybody owns a plane…

“Federal Socialists Hotline, Randall Sinclair speaking. How may I direct your call?”

“This is an emergency,” declared self-made billionaire Paul Singer. “I have an empty seat on my jet, and I need someone badly.”

“One moment,” Sinclair said. “I’ll transfer you to the lonely jet emergency companion line.”

Singer wiped the sweat from his brow with a crisp $100 bill. “It’s going to be okay,” he told himself. “They’ll come through. Federal Socialists always do.”

A few hours later, the justice, still in robes and wearing a pair of rollerskates with little flame decals on the sides and a snakeskin crash helmet, came shuffling up to the tarmac gate at high speed. “I came as fast as I could. Where do you need me?!” he called to the security guard. The guard pointed out over the plain, to a jet waiting on the runway.

The justice wasted no time, rolling himself with long steps and hard pushes against the concrete ground, over to the lowered stairway even as he heard the engines begin to twirl, heard the pitch rising to a roar.

“You Singer?” he yelled above the engines as he ran chest-first into the stairrail, where Paul Singer was sitting, head down, fretting.

“Oh, thank you Federal Socialists! The day is saved! The trip is saved!” Singer cried out, standing up and sticking out a stiff hand to shake the justice’s. “Welcome aboard. Would you like some wine?”

The justice’s eyes squinted. “How much does a bottle of it cost?” he asked as the stairs closed behind him.

Thoughts on the Balance of the Supreme Court.

With a Republican-packed court, what are the power dynamics to look like? Where is the new center of gravity?

It’s important to note that most decisions by the court will probably still be unanimous or joined by liberals and conservatives alike. The contentious cases are typically only a handful or fewer per annum. But those cases are the ones with the biggest risks for all concerned.

Right now the court looks not so much 3-6 (because of the left-right axis of the court, its balanced will be listed left-to-right), but 3-1-5. At the moment Chief Justice Roberts looks more poised to be a moderate that is not fully aligned with the rest of the conservatives.

If the five right-fielders stick together, it will be their court for good or ill. That’s math. But on some cases, some issues, at least one of the five won’t want the same result. Those cases will be the ones that shape the court and the politics of the judiciary, not the ones where all five decide to plow under the crops of American law.

It is those cases where Justice Gorsuch or Justice Kavanaugh split that will matter most, in two ways. First, whether the chief justice plugs the hole in those instances, and if not, how much leverage the liberals have in shaping the opinion of their occasional majority.

The dynamics of having Roberts and one of the five join the liberals are unpredictable in terms of leverage. Roberts might be able to seek moderate opinions, depending on how greedy the five get in their majority cases. But the moderate-left members of the court, with fewer opportunities to balance the scales of justice, may actually have more leverage in those rare cases.

But the court may not prove to be 3-1-5. It could be 3-6, but that seems less likely as Roberts isn’t just trying to be a moderating voice, but is largely just that. More likely than 3-6, but perhaps less than 3-1-5 are the 3-2-4 or even 3-1-2-3 or 3-1-3-2 courts. These represent a clearer spectrum that might develop, as the prism of cases separates out the conservatives into their truer colors.

Already we have seen the likes of Justice Alito and Justice Thomas being boldly sectional in their rhetoric, and it seems likely that at least one more will slip into their bed, but perhaps not two or three. The power position would be to join Roberts in the middle, but it’s not clear that any of the five are candidates for that.

So, in terms of ranking, the likeliest to least seem to be:

  1. 3-1-5
  2. 3-1-2-3
  3. 3-2-4
  4. 3-1-3-2
  5. 3-6

The fourth possibility is interesting, for what it represents in terms of outcomes. In it, the three judges seated during this administration would be a bloc unto themselves, not agreeing to go as far as the Hun bloc in trying to tattoo Lady Liberty with a Federalist Society tramp-stamp, but trying to find some right-of-Roberts ground. They would need to either pull in Roberts and a Hun or else pull in both Huns or Roberts and a liberal.

But it will take at least a few terms to see where things lead. In the meantime, the inauguration is in seven-ish weeks.