The fundamental constitutional question presented by the case of United States v. Texas is not whether the President is constitutionally required to enforce immigration laws (he is), but whether the Supreme Court is constitutionally empowered to police every constitutional dispute. If it decides to do the work of Congress and restrain the executive, it will, more than it did in Cooper v. Aaron (1958), proclaim a doctrine of judicial supremacy over constitutional questions.
There is happy news from state supreme courts—more justices committed to correct methods of legal interpretation are being appointed. To name just two of the most recent additions: Rebecca Bradley of Wisconsin and Joan Larsen of Michigan as well as a still relatively recent addition, David Stras of the Minnesota Supreme Court All three have fine credentials. Stras and Larsen were professors before ascending the bench, and professors turned judges have often turned out to be the most influential of jurists.
The Federalist Society’s decision to establish chapters throughout the nation is in no small measure responsible for the flowering of state conservative jurisprudence. The Society was founded on law school campuses and then migrated to Washington, as some of its leaders took jobs in the Reagan administration. But creating a presence in the hinterlands then made it possible for lawyers of like mind to focus on the judiciary in their states. All too often, Republican governors had not paid much attention to judicial nominees’ stances on legal interpretation, believing that identification with the Republican party was enough to assure good decisions. But even Republican lawyers emerge from a legal culture that leans decidedly left, and the recognition and awards from that culture move judges to in that direction unless they come anchored in the right. The Federalist Society provides the merry fellowship that helps these jurists resist the temptation to drift.
The increase in the number of justices committed to fidelity to law on state benches has several good consequences.
Amid all the controversy surrounding the recent SCOTUS decisions, it is easy to forget that federal courts do not have a monopoly on judicial activism. State courts—and in particular state supreme courts—can and do make bad decisions, often cleverly insulating themselves from further appellate review by resting their decisions on “independent state grounds.”