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The 'Hubris' Of The Supreme Court's Voting Rights Ruling

Publication Date: 
June 25, 2013
The Atlantic
Garrett Epps

An essay by Professor Pam Karlan titled "Democracy and Disdain" is cited in this Atlantic article by Garrett Epps in relation to the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision and the emergying contempt for Congress. 

"Hubris is a fit word for today's demolition of the [Voting Rights Act]," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent from the 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, announced Monday.

She nailed it.


As Andrew points out, in practical terms this result is bad enough. But beyond the question of voting rights lies this underlying contempt for Congress. Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan described the emerging attitude brilliantly in her recent essay, "Democracy and Disdain." We saw it displayed during oral argument in the health-care cases, when, for example, Justice Scalia suggested striking down the whole law if any part of it was unconstitutional, on the grounds that Congress couldn't be trusted to fix it to the Court's satisfaction. It has been apparent in the campaign-finance cases, which dismiss the judgments of legislators on the role of money in politics on the grounds that, in essence, they must be rigging the system to get themselves re-elected. It also glimmers as the substrate of decisions restricting anti-discrimination laws, reading broad language more and more narrowly on the cynical grounds that Congress could not have meant what the statutes seem to say.