Reflecting on Roberts’ Role on Court, Importance of Shoe Leather in Winning Elections

Richard Shugrue
Creighton Law Professor, Ret.

Here’s a few thoughts about recent summer headlines:

• The vote by Chief Justice John Roberts to throw out the Louisiana anti-abortion statute last week did not turn him into a raving liberal.

The 5-4 decision in June Medical Services v. Russo (18-1323) was a ruling for stare decisis. It applied Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), striking down a virtually similar Texas law restricting reproductive rights.

A requirement that an attending physician-provider must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic offering services created an undue burden and made abortion services almost impossible. In siding with the liberals, Roberts did not say that states may not regulate reproductive rights.

While it will not please anti-abortion forces, Roberts’ ruling sustained a well-established doctrine of constitutional law.

• Moreover, Roberts wrote the 5-4 majority opinion for the conservative justices sustaining a core doctrine of Trumpism –deconstruction of the administrative state. See: Seila Law v. CFPD (19-7).

• Eliot Engel is not a household name in the Midwest, but he is a 30-year veteran of the House of Representatives – and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee – who was walloped in his own primary in New York recently.

The winner was newcomer Jamaal Bowman who pulled an Alexandria Ocasio Cortez on Engel, beating the darling of the establishment Democrats 61.7% to 34.9%. You remember that AOC whipped Joe Crowley, a ten-termer, and chair of the Democratic Caucus, by just plain hard work.

AOC’s icon is a pair of grungy, worn-out sneakers, symbolizing her tireless efforts to reach voters. In Nebraska’s 2nd District, both Don Bacon and Kara Eastman could take a lesson from candidates like AOC and Bowman. After all, there are 357,449 voters registered to vote in this district, but only 37.6% of them turned out in the primary.

There was a 5,000 vote margin between the winner and loser the last time around.  A little wear on the sneakers could change all that this fall


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