It's another red alert day on The BradCast today, regarding the precedent crushing plans of our stolen, corrupted and packed Rightwing U.S. Supreme Court majority. They've got two different plans, in fact, for two different ways to overturn decades, if not centuries of critical precedent on federal elections and the power of federal agencies. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]
FIRST UP, we begin in the state of North Carolina where, last year, a 4 to 3 Democratic majority on the state's Supreme Court found the GOP-majority state legislature had drawn up new legislative and Congressional district maps that constituted unlawful partisan gerrymanders under the state Constitution. The state court ordered fair maps to be drawn up, resulting in the election of a Congressional delegation in 2022 that had 7 Democrats and 7 Republicans in the very closely divided state.
State Republicans, however, challenged the high court's ruling by filing a case named Moore v. Harper with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that an obscure clause in the U.S. Constitution allows state legislatures and only state legislatures to create rules and laws for federal elections. Neither state courts nor constitutions can tell them otherwise, they are arguing.
It's a fringe concept known as the Independent State Legislature theory, which has never been blessed by a majority at SCOTUS. But Republicans are hoping the current, corrupted Republican Court will approve the theory, blocking Governors or Secretaries of State or state Supreme Courts or state constitutions or even voters from setting election laws. We have long warned of the dangers of this case for American elections as we know them. Under this theory, if SCOTUS grants its blessing as many fear [raises hand!], state legislatures could even choose Presidential electors no matter how the state's voters may vote. The U.S. Supreme Court heard Moore v. Harper last December, after we'd spent months setting off sirens to try and let you know about what could happen in that case in advance of next year's 2024 Presidential election.
Last November, however, NC voters elected two new Republicans for their state's high court, giving Republicans a 5 to 2 majority. And, last Friday, after rehearing the exact same gerrymandering case in which they had previously ordered new maps, the new Republican court majority reversed the same court's previous ruling, allowing partisan gerrymanders to return in advance of 2024. The likely result will be a House delegation with 10 Republicans and 4 Democrats. That, even though there had been no changes to the law, and no new facts were presented to the newly GOP-led state Supreme Court. (They also reversed a previous ruling that had restored voting rights to some 55,000 former felons, and a ruling that had blocked a photo ID voting restriction that violated the state's Constitution.)
What does this unprecedented reversal at the NC Supreme Court of a month's old ruling mean for the U.S. Supreme Court's pending ruling in Moore v. Harper? We're joined today to discuss exactly that by DAN VICUÑA, national redistricting manager at Common Cause, plaintiffs in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case challenging an earlier gerrymandered map in North Carolina following the 2010 U.S. Census.
"I think just the blatant hypocrisy, the clear partisanship, is laid so bare it's hard to see how a decision like this stands" in North Carolina, at least over time, argues Vicuña. But, as to what may happen in Moore v. Harper at SCOTUS, and whether the case will be found moot or the Court will go ahead and issue an opinion anyway, Vicuña would rather get a ruling now than in the next term, when a ruling would come in the middle of the 2024 Presidential election.
"We didn't want this case to be heard in the first place, because the Independent State Legislature theory is, quite frankly, ridiculous," he tells me. "It defies logic, defies legal precedent, defies the intent of the framers of the Constitution. But it was heard. We made our case. We think we won very clearly on the law and the facts, and the history. So getting clarity on the facts well in advance of the 2024 election makes a lot of sense. So we're okay with that, and hope it goes our way."
NEXT UP, more disturbing news today out of SCOTUS. The Court announced on Monday they will take up a case next term that challenges the so-called "Chevron Deference", a landmark ruling from a 1984 case (Chevron v. National Resources Defense Council) which established that experts at federal agencies should be given deference when creating rules and regulations meant to enforce federal laws in which Congress may have been ambiguous regarding certain details.
For example, as Desi Doyen joins us to explain today, the Clean Air Act may grant the EPA a mandate to regulate pollution, but it may not specifically mention which pollutants must be regulated, or how many parts per million constitute unlawful pollution. That's left to experts at the EPA to determine through the rule-making procedures. But Republicans wish to dismantle the ability of federal agencies to make any such rules, granting that authority instead to courts (without expertise) and the industry lobbyists who influence them.
Our corrupted, packed and stolen rightwing SCOTUS now appears ready to "dismantle the administrative state" (as Steve Bannon has long been promising) in a ruling next term that could affect the ability of agencies to create federal regulations regarding everything from the climate crisis to health care to immigration and beyond.
Finally, we finish up with some listener email and phone calls to round out another disturbing hour of The BradCast. Enjoy!...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)