The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against the challengers opposed to partisan gerrymandering, the practice in which the party that controls the state legislature draws voting maps to help elect its candidates. The vote in two cases was 5 to 4, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority. The court appeared to close the door on such claims.
In his first 13 years on the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s main challenge was trying to assemble five votes to move the court to the right though there were only four reliably conservatives justices. Now he faces a very different problem. With the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and his replacement by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, the chief justice has the votes he needs on issues like abortion, racial discrimination, religion and voting. At the same time, he has taken Justice Kennedy’s place as the swing vote at the court’s ideological center, making him the most powerful chief justice in 80 years.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. defended the independence and integrity of the federal judiciary on Wednesday, issuing a statement rebuking President Trump’s criticism of a judge who had ruled against the administration’s asylum policy. The chief justice seemed particularly offended by Mr. Trump’s assertion that Judge Jon S. Tigar, of the United States District Court in San Francisco, was “an Obama judge.”
Mr. Trump’s choice for the court, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, has expressed strong support for executive power, hostility to administrative agencies and support for gun rights and religious freedom. Those are all conventional positions among conservative lawyers and judges. But there is one stance that sets Judge Kavanaugh apart, and it could not be more timely: his deep skepticism of the wisdom of forcing a sitting president to answer questions in criminal cases.
There were no direct efforts to pressure or lobby Justice Kennedy to announce his resignation on Wednesday, and it was hardly the first time a president had done his best to create a court opening. But in subtle and not so subtle ways, the White House waged a quiet campaign to ensure that Mr. Trump had a second opportunity in his administration’s first 18 months to fulfill one of his most important campaign promises to his conservative followers — that he would change the complexion and direction of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court dealt a major blow on Wednesday to organized labor. By a 5-to-4 vote, with the more conservative justices in the majority, the court ruled that government workers who choose not to join unions may not be required to help pay for collective bargaining.
In a 5-to-4 vote, the court’s conservatives said the president’s statutory power over immigration was not undermined by his history of incendiary statements about the dangers he said Muslims pose to Americans. Mr. Trump, who has battled court challenges to the travel ban since the first days of his administration, hailed the decision to uphold his third version of an executive order as a “tremendous victory” and promised to continue using his office to defend the country against terrorism and extremism.
A second federal appeals court has ruled against President Trump’s revised travel ban, delivering on Monday the latest in a string of defeats for the administration’s efforts to limit travel from several predominantly Muslim countries. The administration has already sought a Supreme Court review of a similar decision issued last month by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va. Monday’s decision came from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco.