‘Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer signaled that the conservative-stacked bench might be willing to turn over decades-old precedents, including ones regarding abortion.
In his dissenting opinion in Tuesday’s Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt ruling, Breyer, a reliably liberal Bill Clinton appointee, slammed his conservative colleagues for overturning a precedent (Nevada v. Hall) that said there was no blanket constitutional immunity for states in each others’ court systems.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the 5–4 majority in Hyatt that states do have immunity, and that they “could not be hauled involuntarily before each other’s courts.”
Thomas said precedent does not translate to law: “[S]tare decisis does not compel continued adherence to this erroneous precedent,” he wrote.
The case was somewhat low-profile, but Breyer said it could have long-term consequences because it shows that the bench is obviously willing to overturn the status quo.
“It is far more dangerous to overrule a decision only because five Members of a later Court come to agree with earlier dissenters on a difficult legal question,” Breyer wrote.
“The majority has surrendered to the temptation to overrule Hall even though it is a well-reasoned decision that has caused no serious practical problems in the four decades since we decided it,” he said.
Among the cases that deserve respect, Breyer named Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld the right to abortion first stated in Roe v. Wade.
However, Breyer’s argument echoed a longstanding complaint conservatives have waged against judicial activism, which gave rise to the questionable—and often radical—left-wing decisions in the first place.
Breyer’s reference to the abortion cases has led many leftists to believe the Supreme Court could overturn current precedent.
“Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next,” Breyer said.
Following the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to replace the centrist Anthony Kennedy, both red and blue states have doubled down on the abortion battle that is bound to make its way to the court.
After New York passed a controversial law approving third-trimester abortions, a number of Southern states more recently have passed restrictive abortion laws, such as the recently signed “heartbeat bill” in Georgia, that are sure to be challenged.
Breyer disagreed with Thomas’s conclusion that precedent doesn’t translate to law, and said the law is only cohesive if it adheres to precedent.
“The law can retain the necessary stability only if this court resists that temptation, overruling prior precedent only when the circumstances demand it,” Breyer wrote.