CRF Blog

The Supreme Court’s supremely flawed record

by Bill Hayes

In The Supreme Court’s supremely flawed record for the Los Angeles Times, constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky argues that the U.S. Supreme Court historically has failed to stand up for individual rights.

Citizens think of the nation’s highest court as the last resort for the individual, but the Supreme Court has continually failed to stand up to majoritarian pressures in times of crisis. During World War I, individuals were imprisoned for speech that criticized the draft and the war without the slightest evidence that the expression had any adverse effect on military recruitment or the war effort. During World War II, 110,000 Japanese Americans were uprooted from their homes and placed in what President Franklin Roosevelt referred to as concentration camps. During the McCarthy era, people were imprisoned simply for teaching works by Marx. In all of these instances, the court ruled in favor of the government and erred by failing to enforce the basic constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and equal protection.

Given the court’s tendencies, here are some of the pending cases that worry me this term. [more]