SCOTUS reactionary and harmful rulings

By Otis Grotewohl
July 4, 2024

The right-wing dominated Supreme Court of the United States recently unleashed several reactionary rulings that jeopardize the health, safety and wellbeing of workers and oppressed people. Two of their latest decisions essentially reduce government regulations and oversight, while giving more power to corporations and the capitalist courts.

Poll shows lowest confidence rating in SCOTUS since June 1, 2022. Credit: Reddit

On June 27, SCOTUS ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) longstanding “Good Neighbor” policy through a 5-4 vote. The “Good Neighbor” policy was designed to curb harmful air pollution that crosses from one state to another.

In 2023, the final Good Neighbor Plan was projected to improve air quality for millions of people living in downwind communities, saving thousands of lives, keeping people out of the hospital, preventing asthma attacks and reducing workers’ sick days.

Coal and oil industry bosses, along with capitalist investors, were among the most vocal opponents of the “Good Neighbor” policy. They, along with politicians in three Republican-led states — Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia — granted requests to overturn the EPA policy, and SCOTUS willingly honored those profit-driven pleas.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion regarding their EPA decision. On June 28, SCOTUS had to correct their written decision at least five times, because Gorsuch and his staff clerks mistakenly wrote “nitrous oxide,” a laughing gas, when they meant to type “nitrogen oxide,” which is an air pollutant and a serious danger to human health. This irresponsible oversight did not change the SCOTUS decision, and it reflects the inconsiderate, careless attitude of the reactionary Justices.

Gorsuch has a personal vendetta against government agencies, especially the EPA.  Gorsuch’s mother, Anne Gorsuch, was appointed by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan to head the EPA in 1981, with the goal of rolling back environmental restrictions. Anne Gorsuch was forced to resign from the EPA in 1983 as a result of her involvement in a hazardous waste cleanup scandal where she refused to provide subpoenaed documents, landing her with a contempt citation.  (CNN, Feb. 1, 2017)

The appointment of Anne Gorsuch to the EPA was part of the right-wing’s earlier attempt to push a deregulation agenda. In another example, in 1986 the Reagan administration appointed Clarence Thomas — later to become another reactionary SCOTUS Justice — as Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

SCOTUS overturns its own 1984 “Chevron” decision

Also on June 28, the same far-right SCOTUS justices responsible for the EPA decision overturned a landmark 40-year-old ruling that became known as the “Chevron” doctrine. The Chevron doctrine came out of a 1984 SCOTUS decision in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council.

As a result of that ruling, it was an understood practice that if Congress was unable to directly address a particular question at the center of a dispute, a court was required to uphold an agency’s interpretation of the statute, as long as it was “reasonable.” The idea was that if Congress passed a law where something was unclear — or there was a “gap” — it was up to the agency responsible to fill in the gap.

The U.S. ruling class and right-wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation have sought to overturn the Chevron deference for decades. The new verdict weakens federal programs created to help people, and it gives more power to corporations and far-right unelected judges. Now, bosses and judges can arbitrarily reach their own interpretations about laws that have a major impact on people’s daily lives.

Many people fear the new ruling can negatively affect numerous issues, ranging from environmental regulation to health care costs. Several advocacy groups warn the new changes may harm public health, fair lending, worker safety and other areas where people rely on federal help. For example, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization called the new ruling “a monumental setback that will harm all Americans and profoundly impact our nation’s environmental safeguards and public health protections.” (BBC, June 28)

SCOTUS: an enemy of workers and oppressed

The majority Republican-appointed SCOTUS justices are making dangerous decisions that hurt working and oppressed people in the U.S. and around the world. They tried to bust public sector unions through their 2018 Janus decision; they have attacked women and other people who can become pregnant by reversing Roe v. Wade in 2022, thus, denying the right to abortion and now they are making toxic decisions that will harm our environment, as well as tamper with the safety of food and medicine.

Workers World has long been critical of SCOTUS. In 2016, WW wrote, “Of the three branches of the U.S. government — the legislative branch, Congress; the executive branch, the president; and the judicial branch, the Supreme Court — SCOTUS is the most undemocratic. Its members are unelected, appointed for life by the president and approved by the Senate composed of millionaires, and it has been the most stable bulwark of class oppression and exploitation.

SCOTUS defended the enslavers in the 19th century and the big capitalists and bankers against the working class and oppressed peoples in the 20th and 21st [centuries] with only a few exceptions in times of great mass struggle.” (WW, Feb. 16, 2016)

Revolutionaries and anti-fascists should collectively unite to combat the reactionary and bigoted direction of the highest U.S. court. SCOTUS is a judicial representative of the enemy capitalist class, and it should be viewed as such. In defense of the planet, the working class and oppressed, we must demand, “Abolish  SCOTUS!”