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Nevilledog

(50,952 posts)
Mon Mar 4, 2024, 06:37 PM Mar 4

Supreme Court Inadvertently Reveals Confounding Late Change in Trump Ballot Ruling [View all]

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2024/03/supreme-court-metadata-sotomayor-trump-dissent.html

The Supreme Court’s decision on Monday to keep Donald Trump on Colorado’s ballot was styled as a unanimous one without any dissents. But the metadata tells a different story. On the page, a separate opinion by the liberal justices is styled as a concurrence in the judgment, authored jointly by the trio. In the metadata of the link to the opinion posted by the court, however, this opinion is styled as an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, authored not by all three justices but by Sonia Sotomayor alone. Even a techphobic reader can discern this incongruity through careful copying and pasting, piercing the facade of unanimity that the conservative justices sought to present.

What happened? Most obviously, the Supreme Court rushed out this opinion and forgot to check the metadata. The court, after all, scheduled the opinion’s release only one day earlier, on Sunday afternoon, evidently to hand it down before Tuesday’s Colorado primary. Moreover, the justices did not take the bench to announce the opinion, as they usually do—probably because they had not all planned to be in D.C.—further proving that it was a last-minute release. The deeper question remains, of course: Why was an opinion originally authored by a lone justice as a partial dissent transformed into a concurrence authored by all three liberals together?

We cannot know with any real certainty. We may never. But we can certainly speculate!

First, a recap: The Supreme Court ruled that an individual state may not disqualify a presidential candidate from the ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars insurrectionists from regaining public office. All nine justices agreed with this bottom line. Five justices went further, however, declaring that only Congress may enforce Section 3 against federal candidates. In a brief opinion, Justice Amy Coney Barrett said the court should not have reached this broader question about congressional authority. Sotomayor made the same point in a longer, more acerbic opinion joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Her opinion was styled as a concurrence, but we now know that it was actually, probably until late in the drafting process, labeled a dissent. We also know that the opinion was originally ascribed only to Sotomayor.

Now the speculation: We can guess that the bulk of this opinion was authored by Sotomayor herself. It bears some of the justice’s trademarks, including a realpolitik assessment of the majority’s handiwork and stormy rhetoric about its consequences for democracy. In addition, during oral arguments last month, Sotomayor sounded the most skeptical of Trump and his various legal theories. Perhaps, after arguments, the court convened to vote on the case, and a majority settled on a sweeping rationale in Trump’s favor. Sotomayor then moved forward with a dissent faulting the majority’s overreach. At some point, that dissent turned into the opinion “concurring in the judgment” that we saw on Monday.

*snip*
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