“Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer warned on Monday that his right-wing colleagues are threatening longstanding rulings – causing panic among liberals and especially feminists.
The court this week found that a state government cannot be subject to lawsuits filed in another state, thereby overturning a 1979 precedent. In his dissent, Breyer, 80, complained that past decisions were not being respected, putting his life’s work as a liberal justice at risk.
“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,” Breyer wrote. “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.”
Liberal analysts and activists read Breyer’s words as confirmation of their judicial nightmare: that the nationwide abortion rights enshrined in 1972’s Roe v. Wade will be overturned, too.
A Supreme Court Justice is never going to send a bigger warning siren than Breyer does in his dissent today. pic.twitter.com/uTc9gE5ZRZ
— Daniel Jacobson (@Dan_F_Jacobson) May 13, 2019
Slate legal writer Mark Joseph Stern called the judge’s dissent a “red flag.”
Wow: Breyer hoists a red flag today, writing: "Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next."
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) May 13, 2019
Ilyse Hogue, the president of abortion rights group NARAL, compared it to an “assault.”
What happened today in #SCOTUS is an assault on precedent that goes well beyond this one case. See #RoeVWade Breyer wrote "Today's decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next." https://t.co/KJWrYRTEaq
— ilyse hogue (@ilyseh) May 13, 2019
Kristen Clark, the head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the conservative justices had shown disregard for stare decisis, or respect for precedent, putting the court “on a perilous path.”
The Supreme Court is on a perilous path.
We have 5 Justices who will abandon precedent and not be faithful to the principle of stare decisis.
Justice Breyer issued a dissent that makes clear the jeopardy that we are now in. He asks “which cases the Court will overrule next”? pic.twitter.com/Y1TuQXbygq
— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) May 13, 2019
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin repeated his prediction that the landmark ruling is “doomed.”
— Jeffrey Toobin (@JeffreyToobin) May 13, 2019
CNN contributor Irin Carmon said Democrats need to focus on regaining control of the Senate, which controls judicial appointments.
Stephen Breyer is telling you that more high profile Democrats need to be running for Senate.
— Irin Carmon (@irin) May 13, 2019
Actress and feminist activist Alyssa Milano urged her followers to be ‘very afraid.”
Be afraid. Be very afraid. https://t.co/M51571oPWr
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) May 13, 2019
Breyer was not the first member of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing to complain about precedent. Last term, Justice Elena Kagan issued a similar warning in dissent of a ruling that overturned another 40-year old precedent involving union fees.
However, that was before Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the court in November, solidifying its 5-4 conservative majority.
Since then, the left has been on death watch for nationwide abortion rights. A series of state laws passed this year to regulate abortion – and test the court’s commitment to the procedure – have only ratcheted up their anxiety.
Milano was concerned enough to last week declare a women’s #SexStrike.