North Texas Daily

Conservatives looking to federal courts for partisan support may be fighting an uphill battle

Conservatives looking to federal courts for partisan support may be fighting an uphill battle

Conservatives looking to federal courts for partisan support may be fighting an uphill battle
November 30
06:00 2018

by Amber Gaudet | contributing writer

All pretense of respect for constitutional freedoms fell away this November as political tactics pushing a conservative agenda have grown increasingly aggressive, making federal courts the last vestige of due process.

On both national and state levels, the latest conservative political maneuvers have signaled the end of a tradition of holding constitutional freedoms in higher esteem than political differences. Republicans fed up with due process are openly defying legal precedence, betting that federal courts will side with them in the interpretation of the law — but those bets may not pay off.

The Trump administration’s decision to revoke the press pass of CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta for “conduct” earlier this month revealed just how far the administration would go to attempt to control the narrative surrounding Trump’s presidency. After a contentious exchange between Trump and Acosta, in which Trump openly criticized the correspondent for asking follow-up questions and not immediately relinquishing the microphone, the White House announced they were revoking Acosta’s press pass in an unprecedented direct threat to the freedom of the press.

Meanwhile in Ohio, lawmakers have launched a vicious assault on women’s rights, flouting federal rulings on the constitutionality of abortion by passing a “heartbeat bill” in the Republican-majority House on Nov. 15, and are now considering legislation which would ban abortion outright. HB 565 would assign rights to unborn fetuses, criminalizing both getting and receiving abortions with no exceptions for incest, rape or medical necessity. Punishments for violating the proposed law could include capital punishment.

The “heartbeat bill” that already passed the Ohio House bans all abortions at six weeks and is a revival of a 2016 law with the same restrictions that was vetoed by Gov. John Kasich. Despite the Roe v. Wade ruling which legalized abortion, states are pushing abortion bans not because they think they will stick, but to get the case before the majority Republican-nominated Supreme Court in the hope that abortion will be outlawed on a federal level.

But Republicans fed up with bureaucratic red tape and looking to federal courts to rule in their favor may be disappointed. Despite political affiliation, judges have been reluctant to openly violate precedence in cases of constitutional law. On Nov. 20, a federal judge dismissed Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, citing a clear violation of Supreme Court rulings.

Trump-appointed federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ruled against the White House on Friday, presiding in CNN’s favor based on the administration’s lack of due process in revoking the pass. Kelly’s failure to address CNN’s claims that the administration violated Acosta’s First Amendment rights has allowed the Trump administration to implement conduct rules which could serve as a basis for future revocations. However, the ruling was ultimately a win for democracy.

Recent rulings follow a long tradition of erring on the side of the right to personal liberty in constitutional interpretation. The 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion was passed by a majority Republican-elected Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts made a statement recently in response to criticisms President Trump made about 9th Circuit judges — Roberts emphasized the independence of the judiciary and the responsibility of judges to prioritize fair interpretation over political leanings.

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”

Roberts’ speech echoed earlier sentiments by himself and other judges, like those reflected in an October speech Roberts made following Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Roberts cited historical rulings which defied party allegiance in highlighting the neutrality of the Supreme Court within the political arena.

“The court has, from time to time, erred and erred greatly,” Roberts said, according to an article by the Star Tribune. “But when it has, it has been because the court yielded to political pressure.”

Republicans face an uphill battle if they hope to redefine constitutional freedoms in the courtroom — a battle reflective of the contentiousness that has defined politics since the 2016 presidential election.

Featured Image: File

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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