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Friday, May 27, 2022

Taking away rights?

Since the Dobbs draft leaked, I have been trying to figure out what makes the apparent decision to overrule Roe illegitimate and some egregious act of judicial lawlessness.

It cannot be the result simpliciter--that my constitutional understanding differs from that of the apparent five-Justice majority does not make their views wrong in any objective sense, much less illegitimate. It cannot be that it overrules precedent, because the Court has overruled precedent. This is also why it cannot be that recent appointees pledged fealty to stare decisis--case are always subject to reconsideration and stare decisis has standards for overruling cases. It cannot be that the stare decisis analysis is wrong, for the same reason that disagreement with substantive constitutional analysis is not sufficient.

Orly captures where I had tentatively landed--overruling precedent to eliminate or limit individual rights (Orly describes them as "fundamental human rights") and to increase government power is different and something the Court has never done.

But I am not sure the distinction works. First, cases abrogating and overruling Lochner limited or eliminated the due process right to contract, which had been regarded as fundamental. Any potential distinction turns on substantive agreement or disagreement with the right recognized in Lochner compared with the right recognized in Roe. Second, crim pro scholars can correct me, but it seems that the Court has overruled precedent to narrow rights for criminal defendants. Third, at least as to abortion, the Dobbs majority might describe itself as vindicating a right to potential life that had been acknowledged but given undue weight in Roe. Thus the framing--eliminating a fundamental right--does not capture what the Court did (or believes it did). Again, I do not share this view. But the argument that Dobbs is an illegitimate action by an illegitimate Court must hinge on more than "I have a different view of the law."

To be clear, I am not calling out Orly; I had landed on a similar explanation. But I am less confident it works.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 27, 2022 at 12:16 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink

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