Professors discuss Supreme Court’s year ahead

By Rhema Hokama

The undergraduate chapter of the ACLUofC hosted University law professors Geoffrey Stone and Adam Samaha in a panel discussion on the future of the U.S. Supreme Court. The January 16 talk explored several landmark judicial decisions of the past year and their implications for the current term.

Both panelists clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justices before taking positions at the University of Chicago Law School.

Stone commented on the Court’s decision to overturn the post–9/11 executive order that sought to prosecute war criminals using procedures that would circumvent federal due process. He predicted that the ruling will shape future interplay between the executive and legislative branches.

“The Court decided that federal limitation bounds presidential power. The President is not a king and does not have the power to disregard Congress,” Stone said.

Samaha assessed the future of abortion rights in a discussion of the 2003 federal ban on partial-birth abortion. He said that the act was unlikely to be overturned during the current judicial term and that he expects to see continued reluctance to affirm late-term abortion rights from Justice Anthony Kennedy. “Maybe Kennedy will shift to please moderates, but that just seems unlikely,” Samaha said.

Both Stone and Samaha predicted a bleak future for the gay and lesbian rights movement this term, but neither panelist foresaw any major rulings on the issue.

Samaha added that the current Court will not offer its support to the gay and lesbian movement in the midst of national antagonism toward the issue. “The basic consensus this term is ‘No gay marriage rights.’ I just don’t think the Court is ready, just because the country isn’t ready. The Court accepts the national aggregate will,” he said.

Samaha’s forecast for the upcoming term was one of “old questions with new faces,” and he does not anticipate radical judicial change in the near future. “In law, you sometimes have to wonder whether we ever ask new questions. I think we are going to get new directions, but they may not be major in this current term. As we look forward, though, there will be opportunities for greater changes,” Samaha said.