Nan Aron, the president of Alliance for Justice, spoke at Hamilton on Nov. 4 about the cases on the Supreme Court’s docket this upcoming term as well as close-minded opinions about how the Supreme Court should function. In Aron’s opinion, the four most important cases this term involve unions, abortion, voting rights and affirmative action, all of which are more “hot button” issues than the court faced last term.

Aron argued that the case about unions is “the most important case on the docket” as it deals with essential questions of collective bargaining. In essence, the case calls into question whether non-union members can be obligated to pay “fair share” dues, an amount paid when someone in a unionized industry does not pay for union dues but still benefits from the work and collective bargaining of the union members. According to Aron, if non-union members aren’t required to pay fair share dues, significantly fewer Americans will join unions and we will lose a fundamental aspect of our public work system.  

Next, Aron addressed a case about abortion, which has yet to be officially added to the docket, but likely will be on Nov. 9. This case revolves around a Texas law that regulates doctors and equipment at health clinics. At these clinics, women can receive a wide range of medical help and advice including abortions, some types of routine care and contraceptive counseling.  While, to some, the law seems at its face to be justifiably in the best interest of patients and the common good, Aron argues, and is supported by groups of doctors and activists, that the law is a “sham law” with the intention of “[doing] away with clinics.”

The next case Aron discussed is one about voting rights. The issue brought forth is how states should draw district lines for elections. In the past, this has been done by considering population size. Now, the proponents of the case want to draw district lines based on the number of eligible voters. Aron argues that this will inevitably exclude people from voting, especially people of color.

The final case Aron addressed was about affirmative action. Specifically, it’s about the University of Texas’ unique admission policy to accept everyone who graduated high school in the top 10 percent of their class, which amounts to about 60-70% of the University’s incoming class, and to evaluate students for the other 30-40% of the class by a variety of criteria, one of which is race.

While the outcome is not certain in any of these cases, Aron believes that we will likely hear conservative decisions on most, if not all, of these cases. With this in mind, she stated that the upcoming presidential election will have incredibly important ramifications on the composition of the future Supreme Court, and that not enough people take the Court seriously enough.

As for the Republicans, she noted that their candidates have all stated that the Court, and Justice Roberts in particular, is too liberal. Aron argues that Republicans tend to attack the Court during every presidential election and in doing so, signal to the rest of the party that they will appoint and confirm demonstrably conservative justices to the Court when given the opportunity. This supports a kind of close-mindedness that Aron wholeheartedly disagrees with, and is also present among Democrats. She noted that of the two major Democratic candidates, Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the only statement either has given about the Supreme Court was about how they would appoint someone who will overturn Citizens United v. FEC (2010).  Aron disagrees with this approach to the judiciary, and thinks that regardless of a Justice’s political views, it’s most important that we don’t appoint Justices “whose minds are made up before they’ve heard the facts.”

Aron's lecture was sponsored by the Sociology Department.

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