Obama overreach slapped down by 9-0 Supreme Court
Those of us who follow Supreme Court decisions spend most of our time debating the contentious issues that divide justices 5-4 along predictable ideological lines. Often, that's where the loudest public debates are as well. Just consider the recent rulings on gay marriage.Arrogance seems to be a common element in these cases. For a guy who claims to be a constitutional scholar, Obama sure has a poor track record with the court.
But we might do well to pay more attention where the court rules unanimously, particularly when they go against the White House.
When a president pursues policies that require such expansive federal power that he can't get a single justice to agree, something is probably amiss.
Such overreach, though, has become a part of our political culture. Administrations of both parties are often unwilling to accept constitutional limits on their authority.
In Horne v. Department of Agriculture, a decision issued in June, the justices unanimously rejected the Obama administration's argument that raisin farmers did not have the right to go to court to contest the seizure of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of raisins. The Fifth Amendment states that the government must pay "just compensation" whenever the government takes private property for "public use." But the administration claimed that farmers could not even raise the takings issue in court without first enduring lengthy delays and paying a $483,000 fine.
Horne was the administration's third unanimous defeat in a property rights case in 18 months. In Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, it claimed that a couple had no right to go to court to seek compensation after the EPA blocked construction of their "dream house."
In Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. United States, it unsuccessfully argued that the Fifth Amendment doesn't require compensation when the federal government repeatedly and deliberately floods property owners' land. Even liberal justices normally skeptical of property rights claims, including one of President Obama's appointees, found these arguments too much to swallow.
The Obama administration has also suffered unanimous defeats in several other important cases.
Last year, the justices rejected the administration's position that the religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment does not apply to churches' decisons to hire and fire employees with religious duties, such as teaching theology. Obama appointee Justice Elena Kagan called the administration's position "amazing."
In United States v. Jones, another 2012 case, the justices unanimously rejected the administration's claim that the Fourth Amendment does not restrict the government's authority to attach a GPS tracking device to a car.