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'Uncertain Justice' And The Roberts Court

Laurence Tribe on the U.S. Constitution, the Roberts Court and what he calls “uncertain justice.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts arrives for President Barack Obama's State of Union address before a joint session of Congress in the House chamber Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014.  (AP)

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts arrives for President Barack Obama’s State of Union address before a joint session of Congress in the House chamber Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. (AP)

We are a nation of law.  Change the law, change the country.  The ultimate arbiter is the Supreme Court.  Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the country is changing.  On campaign finance.  Money politics.  Corporate power.  Unions.  Guns. Health care.  Gay marriage.  Race.  In 5-4 decision after decision, the Roberts court is changing the country.  Critics call it a politicized high court, not above polarization but part of it.  My guest today, constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe, says it’s more subtle than that.  More interesting.  This hour On Point:  the Roberts court, and where it is taking the country.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Laurence Tribe, constitutional law professor at Harvard University. Co-author of “Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and The Constitution.”

Neomi Rao, professor of constitutional law at George Mason University.  Former counsel for President George W. Bush.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Atlantic: Scalia v. Scalia — “The problem of engaging religion openly at the high court extends beyond the unspoken agreement not to talk about the justices’ religions. The Court itself has opted not to probe the intensity or validity of a plaintiff’s religious conviction, in part thanks to Scalia’s reasoning. Get too deep into second-guessing matters of spiritual belief, he noted in his landmark 1990 opinion denying peyote-using Native Americans an exemption from everyday drug laws, and there’s no getting out.”

NPR: Chemical Weapons Law Doesn’t Apply To Jilted Lover, Supreme Court Rules –“Federal laws that were meant to prevent the international use of chemical weapons can’t be applied to a woman who tried to poison her husband’s mistress, the Supreme Court has ruled. Carol Anne Bond had smeared toxic chemicals in the hopes that the other woman would develop a rash. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal law shouldn’t have been used to prosecute Bond, as her actions were forbidden under state or local laws. The opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts.”

Washington Post: Uncertain Justice: Understanding the Roberts Court — “While there is plainly a role for such work, most of the purported “certainties” about the Roberts Court that currently stalk the land are misleading. The justices are too diverse, the Constitution too capacious, and the Court’s role too complex to yield to such reductionism. The story of the Roberts Court is a lot more interesting and more fraught with surprise, treachery and internal disagreement than such too-tidy plot lines suggest.”

Read An Excerpt Of ‘Uncertain Justice” By Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz

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