The Supreme Court term ended Monday. The New York Times correspondent and lawyer Adam Liptak talks with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about what the decisions reveal about the nine justices.
RELATED: The Supreme Court concluded its term today with a pair of decisions widely described as “narrow”—that is, of limited application except to the parties in the lawsuits. Don’t believe it. In fact, the Court’s decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn conform to an established pattern for the Roberts Court. It’s generally a two-step process: in confronting a politically charged issue, the court first decides a case in a “narrow” way, but then uses that decision as a precedent to move in a more dramatic, conservative direction in a subsequent case. […] The Hobby Lobby decision follows the same pattern. Again, Justice Alito’s opinion (for the same five-to-four majority) expressed its ruling in narrow terms. Alito asserted that the case concerned only a single “closely held” private company whose owners had religious objections to providing certain forms of birth control. According to the court, federal law required that those wishes be honored. But, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent, there is almost no limitation on the logic of the majority’s view. Almost any closely held companies—which make up a substantial chunk of the American economy—can now claim a religious orientation, and they can now seek to excuse themselves from all sorts of obligations, including honoring certain anti-discrimination laws. And after today’s “narrow” rulings, those cases will come. MORE