By: Shadrack White
Director, Mississippi Justice Institute
This year’s U.S. Supreme Court term is drawing to a close this week, and one thing is plain: this is the best Supreme Court—thanks to Justice Gorsuch and the general trend of the judiciary in the Trump Administration—that our country has had in my lifetime.
For proof, look no further than two cases handed down this week, NIFLA v. Becerra and Trump v. Hawaii.
The first case, NIFLA, was about whether California could require pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to post information about where patients could receive abortions. Forcing the centers to put up that information is forcing them to speak and therefore violating their First Amendment rights. California wanted to require people making pro-life statements to post abortion messages in up to 13 different languages. Even if you just wanted to put up a billboard saying “Choose Life,” you would also have to put up a poster with abortion-related messaging.
The Court found California had overstepped its authority.
Policies like California’s show how extreme the pro-choice movement has become. Thankfully, we have a Court that will protect our right to not be forced to say something we disagree with. You could see the same penchant for respecting speech in the Manskycase earlier this term, where the Court said Minnesota could not ban ideological statements, like “Don’t Tread on Me,” on clothes worn to the polling place.
In the second case, Trump v. Hawaii, the State of Hawaii challenged the Trump Administration’s travel ban, which blocks some people from eight countries from coming into the U.S. The reason these eight countries were chosen is they refused to share information with our government to ensure that their travelers are not a threat. The countries are North Korea, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Chad, Iran, Yemen, and Venezuela.
Despite handwringing from the Left, the Court found that this policy was squarely within the powers of the President. The President has the power to ensure our country is safe, and even if some want to try to spin this policy as bigoted, the truth is that it mirrored policies from past administrations, like the Carter Administration, and was obviously constitutional.
The most encouraging takeaway from this term of the Court is that the Court clearly does not seem to mind making the hard decisions that would be unpopular in the media. Ruling for someone who opposes same-sex marriage, as the Court did in the Masterpiece Cakeshopruling, is an example doing the right thing even though a swath of big corporations and media coverage will be against you. Defending the Trump Administration’s right to have a reasonable immigration policy is another example. This Court cares about following the law and staying within its designated powers, regardless of what names they get called (or what restaurants they get kicked out of). That’s good for our country and good for the judiciary.
Which brings us to the definition of a “good” Supreme Court. A good court is one that does not bend to what is politically popular or even what the justices think the best policy outcome should be. A good court understands its role, follows the plain text of the law, and doesn’t bend the words of the constitution to fit some desired result. Trump v. Hawaiiprovided an example of this approach. The Court knows that the law and constitution provide the President with broad authority in the areas of national security and immigration. It’s not for them to question decisions like the travel ban.
NIFLA and Trump v. Hawaiiwere close votes—both 5 to 4—so if we want more rulings like this, we need more backup for the five justices who stood for the rule of law. But while we wait for more appointment opportunities for this White House, let’s hope for more Supreme Court terms like this one in the meantime.
To learn more about the Mississippi Justice Institute, visit its website at msjustice.org/about-us.