Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Worst Supreme Court Decisions (Part II)


In Helvering v. Davis (1937) the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Social Security. This yielded Congress unlimited power to tax and spend on anything in the name of “general welfare”. This, without question, led to all the anti-poverty and welfare programs in American history. In NFIB v. Sibelius (2012) - (ObamaCare), the Court limited the commerce clause for the first time in 70 years, but unfortunately the ruling that healthcare can be mandated through a tax was a horrible decision. The question then becomes: What can’t Congress mandate through a tax? Nothing! Hence, this ruling yields a great deal of power to the federal government.

First Amendment

In Schneck v. United States (1919) the Court upheld the Espionage Act of 1917. In doing so, Schneck was imprisoned for handing out anti-war pamphlets during WWI. This was the first time the Court placed limits on free speech. Many liberals believe Citizens United v FEC (2010) is the worst First Amendment decision, but quite to the contrary, it overruled bad Court decisions limiting political free speech (campaign contributions) such as in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and McConnell v. FEC (2003). Many argue that money is not free speech, but free speech includes freedom of expression (i.e. flag burning is Constitutional etc.) which includes how we spend money.

Privileges and Immunities Clause

Only one case was decided on the privileges and immunities clause in the Fourteenth Amendment in American history and that was the Slaughter House Cases v. United States (1873). Many scholars believe this was a horrible decision because it basically read the privileges and immunities clause out of the Constitution and that precedent has held up for nearly 150 years. Thus, the Court could have done a better job in striking down the butchers’ claims in these cases without eviscerating the privileges clause, but this was not a bad decision otherwise. The key here was the Court ruled in favor of the liberties of the people of New Orleans to protect them from Cholera and other diseases caused by bad sanitary practices by the butchers. Very rarely in bad decisions did the Court see the big picture in cases to protect the liberties of a majority of Americans over the few: Miranda, Roe, Obergefell, Kelo, Sibelius, Baker, etc.


In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), the Court essentially overruled the 1978 decision in Cal Berkley v. Bakke that ruled schools could not use racial quota systems for determining admissions. In essence, the Court gave the University of Michigan the right to discriminate by using skin color as a main determinant in the admission process.

Contracts Clause

In Home Building and Loan Association v. Blaisdell (1934) the Court wiped out the Contracts Clause of the Constitution by letting states alter contracts after the fact. The Court cited unusual circumstances caused by the Great Depression as the basis for its decision. Extenuating circumstances is never an excuse for judicial activism to set bad precedents.

Eminent Domain (Takings Clause)

Both Kelo v. New London (2005) and Tahoe Preservation Council v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (2002) have set a very bad precedent. In essence, the government can take (confiscate) any property it sees fit to increase tax revenue (even to take from the poor and give to the wealthy) and not properly compensate prior owners. In Bennis v. Michigan (1996) the Court ruled it could confiscate Tina Bennis’s car without due process because her husband used the car to sleep with prostitutes and it was a crime scene.

There are dozens more poor or bad decisions made by the Supreme Court over the past 200 plus years. But the above is a pretty good representation of the Courts shortcomings and judicial activism.

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