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Recent Supreme Court Rulings Trump Media Narrative

Two recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings tell a much different story than you’ll hear from many media pundits, who seem always at the ready with insinuations that high court justices are more like legislators-in-robes than impartial interpreters of the law when deciding politically-charged cases. 

In the first case, the high court held unanimously that a Texas federal court panel had improperly redrawn congressional districts after throwing out those submitted by the Republican-controlled legislature. By most estimates, substituting the court’s map for the legislature’s would have resulted in Democrats picking up three more coveted Congressional seats. In the end, all nine high court justices agreed that the lower court had overstepped its bounds.

Three days later, the justices again reached a unanimous ruling after finding that law enforcement officers cannot surreptitiously attach a GPS tracking device to a motor vehicle without a warrant because it amounts to an unconstitutional search and seizure.  While the justices split on the reasoning – though not entirely along ideological lines, with both Justice Alito and Justice Sotomayor joining unexpected coalitions – the result nonetheless was perceived as a setback for law-and-order conservatives and a victory for liberals who prefer a broad interpretation of the Fourth Amendment’s  prohibition against unlawful search and seizure.

How could nine justices with completely different judicial and (presumably) political philosophies unanimously reach diametrically opposed ideological conclusions on two politically-divisive cases in the span of just three days?  The answer to that question won’t come from political pundits. If you really want a peek inside the justices’ minds, the best place to start is to read their opinions
 

Posted: 1/31/2012 10:21:54 AM by On the Merits Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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