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NEWS COVERAGE

The Garrett Supreme Court Decision:
Editorial writers and columnists comment

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 The Supreme Court today carved out a new area of immunity for the states from the reach of federal civil rights law, ruling that state employees cannot sue for damages for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The 5-to-4 vote was the same by which the court, in a series of decisions over the past six years, has constricted the power of Congress and correspondingly expanded the sphere of state immunity to a degree unmatched in the modern era. The New York Times's Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse offers reporting and analysis. (Free registration required to access The New York Times online.)

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 -- Advocates for the disabled said today that the direct effect of the Supreme Court's ruling on disability rights might be limited but that the decision was a serious blow because it suggested the court might not allow disabled people to sue states over blatant discrimination in schools, hospitals and other government institutions. "This definitely diminishes our civil rights," said Bob Kafka, an organizer in Texas for ADAPT. ... Ruling on Disability Rights Is a Blow, Advocates Sayby The New York Times's David Rosenbaum (Free registration required to access The New York Times online).

The judicial activists on the Rehnquist Court were at it again this week. By the usual 5 to 4 majority, the Supreme Court decided that it had more power than the people's branch of government, Congress. It ruled that state employees cannot use the Americans With Disabilities Act to sue their states for damages, voiding part of Congress's intent. Worse, the very justices who claim to be "strict constructionists" acknowledged outright that they had stretched the meaning of the 11th Amendment to the Constitution in order to enshrine a doctrine of states' rights that happens to be to their liking. Please forgive me for noting that the same five justices had no problem overriding states' rights in the case of Bush v. Gore. Read "The Overreaching Court" by Washington Post Opinion Columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. (Feb. 22)

A CENTURY AGO, the Supreme Court approved of the right of Louisiana and the nation to segregate black people from white people on trains in Plessy v. Ferguson. Last week the court seemed to make time stand still at 1896. It stood with Alabama in discriminating against the disabled. "High Court Makes A Case for Discrimination," The Boston Globe's Derrick Z. Jackson. Feb. 28. (Available through The Boston Globe archives.)

Most Americans believe that politics should not be part of Supreme Court jurisprudence. But the Supreme Court is unavoidably a political as well as a legal institution. And the current Supreme Court has a definite political agenda -- one devoted chiefly to reallocating governmental power in ways that suit the views of its conservative majority. "The Supreme Court v. Balance of Powers," opinion article by Larry D. Kramer in the March 3, 2001 New York Times. (Free registration required to access The New York Times online).

 


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