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No One Court Should Have All That Power


Here are some fun facts about the Supreme Court’s conservative majority: they love taking luxury vacations paid for by billionaires; they are engaged in a sustained effort to increase their power at the expense of other institutional actors; they are using this power to impose their conservative Christian policy preferences on an unwitting public; they like to make up the facts of the cases before them, don’t mind setting aside scientific realities, and have a fondness for playing amateur historian. Also, under some plausible assumptions, they will likely control the Court until 2065.

Anyone clear-eyed about this situation will inevitably arrive at the following question: But what is to be done? Well, clear-eyed LPE reader, you’re in luck. Tomorrow, the LPE Project and the People’s Parity Project are launching an open course/reading group to consider this very question.

Over six sessions this reading group will address disempowering the courts: how to understand the problem, historical and international perspectives on disempowerment reform efforts, the strengths and weaknesses of the tools available to us, as well as what building up a political movement around disempowering the courts might look like.

Each session will begin with a speaker or speakers – including Niko Bowie, Aziz RanaSabeel Rahman, Amy Kapczynski, Ryan DoerflerSamuel Moyn, and Astra Taylor offering approximately 20-30 minutes of framing thoughts and questions. We will divide the participants into breakout rooms of approximately 15 people each to discuss amongst themselves.

The course is free, open to all, and aimed at students, lawyers, and non-lawyers alike. The readings for each session will be posted at least 1 week ahead, as well as emailed to all registered participants.

In the first session, which will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, 1/30) at 8p ET, Professor Nikolas Bowie (Harvard Law School) will discuss the the origins, dangers, and remedies to judicial supremacy. Over the past few years, the Supreme Court has struck down laws and policies intended to cancel student debt, address climate change, and ensure racial diversity in education on the basis that they violated the Constitution. Judicial supremacy is the idea that the courts have the final say on what the Constitution allows. It appears nowhere in the Constitution and has come as the result of a long-term campaign by the Supreme Court to center power in itself, at the expense of the elected branches. In this session, we will discuss how we came to have such a powerful judiciary–and how Congress can act to limit its power.

Registration: (you do not need to be able to make every session in order to register/participate, but we strongly encourage you to attend as many as you are able)

The course schedule

Jan 30 (8pm ET) – The Problem of the Court

Feb 20 (8pm ET) – History of Reform Efforts (1865–2022)

Mar 19 (8pm ET) – International Comparative Perspective on the Courts

Apr 16 (8pm ET) –  Tools to Disempower the Court (pt. I)

May 28 (8pm ET) –  Tools to Disempower the Court (pt. II)

Jun 25 (8pm ET) – What is to be Done