Issuing stays and injunctions in a range of recent cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has pursued political gamesmanship, Professor David S. Cohen argued in an article published in Slate on Oct. 8.
Cohen, a constitutional scholar, notes that the court has granted emergency stays in several recent cases involving same-sex marriage and voting rights, each time taking the side of conservative states that seek support for laws that federal courts found unconstitutional.
Like injunctions, stays are procedural actions typically noticed only in academic footnotes, Cohen said.
Yet the Supreme Court’s recent use of stays and injunctions reveal a willingness to favor abstract principles over the needs of people with actual problems, Cohen said.
On Oct. 8, Cohen wrote, the court granted an emergency stay in Idaho, where the governor hoped to put on hold a federal court ruling that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
“It is very hard to say that the state of Idaho is suffering such serious harm that an emergency order should be issued,” Cohen said. “On the other side of the scale is the harm of continuing to deny couples access to all the legal rights and protections of being married. Delay on this point can have real and serious consequences to people’s lives.”
The court undermined citizens’ voting rights by granting a stay in Ohio, where a court had blocked efforts to shorten the state’s early voting period, and in North Carolina, where a federal appeals court had ruled its voting law violated the Voting Rights Act, Cohen added.