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‘Moore v. Harper’ decision ‘middle of the road,’ says constitutional scholar 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there are limits on the degree to which state legislatures can set legislative lines.

U.S. Supreme Court building. Photo by Brandon Bourdages/Shutterstock.
U.S. Supreme Court building. Photo by Brandon Bourdages/Shutterstock.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a June 27 decision in the case of Moore v. Harper, ruling against the North Carolina General Assembly, which maintained that it had the power to set the state’s congressional map without being subject to the judiciary.

“Although this ruling will be hailed as a loss for conservatives, it’s very much a middle-of-the-road decision, which says that state courts still have a role to play in interpreting state constitutional provisions,” tweeted Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow and director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute. “But they can go too far, and there’s a federal-court backstop.”

“Anyone looking for guidance in evaluating whether what a state supreme court does ahead of the 2024 election is constitutionally kosher will have to wait until the justices are forced to make that hard balls-and-strikes call,” he added.

Jonathan Turley, chair of public-interest law at George Washington University and a frequent news commentator on the law, wrote that the legislative power grab—or the so-called independent state legislature theory—turned out to be “the coup that never was.”

“The fall of American democracy arrived yesterday morning with a thud,” he wrote. “For months, liberal law professors and pundits have filled the media with dire predictions that the Supreme Court was about to carry out a long-planned ‘coup’ and ‘power grab’—one even wrote that the court could be on the brink of establishing ‘one-party rule’ in the United States.”

The Anti-Defamation League, which filed a brief with the Union for Reform Judaism and others, called the decision “a win for voters and democracy.”

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and senior vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism, told JNS that the organization was inspired to co-sign the brief “based on our historic commitment to voting and civil rights.”

“As Reform Jews, we believe democracy is strongest when the electorate reflects the population—and it suffers when citizens are shut out from the democratic process,” added Pesner. “As Jews, we are deeply aware that unchecked majority rule has historically harmed religious minorities, and we recognize that the judicial and executive branches have provided a critical safeguard against the perils of an unchecked majority.”

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