The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Bush administration, corporations, and a “pro-life” group in a series of decisions announced today, reaffirming the conservative, business-friendly bent the Court has taken under Chief Justice John Roberts
EPA’s responsibility to protect endangered species weakened:
In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the federal government can avoid its responsibility to protect species under the Endangered Species Act by handing off authority to the states. The EPA routinely delegates administration of the Clean Water Act to states. The Court’s decision means the EPA does not have to ensure that states abide by the federal Endangered Species Act when they issue Clean Water Act permits. [National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife and a companion case]
Ordinary taxpayers cannot challenge Faith-Based Initiative:
In a 5-4 decision, the Court “barred ordinary taxpayers from challenging a White House initiative helping religious charities get a share of federal money.” A taypayers’ group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued eight Bush administration officials, including the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, objecting to “government conferences in which administration officials encourage religious charities to apply for federal grants.” [Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation]
Campaign finance restrictions weakened for corporate- and union-funded ads:
In a 5-4 decision, the Court loosened restrictions on corporate- and union-funded television ads that air close to elections, “weakening a key provision of a landmark campaign finance law.” The court “upheld an appeals court ruling that an anti-abortion group should have been allowed to air ads during the final two months before the 2004 elections.” [Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right-to-Life]
UPDATE: In all three decisions, the majority was formed by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy.
UPDATE II: In implicit criticism of President Bush’s recent appointees Roberts and Alito, Justice David Souter chose to read his dissent in the campaign finance case from the bench “to signal his displeasure with the changing court.”
“The court (and, I think, the country), loses when important precedent is overruled without good reason, and there is no justification for departure from our usual rule of stare decisis here,” he said, referring to the court’s rule of following past judgments.
UPDATE III: Steve Benen has an excellent wrap-up.