Posts tagged with "Supreme Court"

Supreme Court severely limits regulation of carbon emissions

July 1, 2022

In a 6-3 decision in the case of West Virginia v. EPA, the Supreme Court just made it much harder for the federal government to respond to climate change, reports The Huffington Post.

The Thursday, June 30, decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by the other five conservative justices, the decision preemptively strikes down any regulations the Biden Administration might consider issuing under a provision of the Clean Air Act to limit carbon emissions at power plants.

The court ruled that EPA regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions under a specific provision of the 1970 Clean Air Act are not permissible because Congress did not specifically authorize the EPA to regulate carbon emissions.

According to the court, the EPA’s regulation of power plant emissions amounts to a large enough new regulatory proposal targeting a large enough segment of the economy to require specific congressional authorization.

The court’s decision follows the expanding logic of its so-called major questions doctrine.” The doctrine states that the Supreme Court can strike down regulatory action of “vast economic and political significance,” if Congress did not specifically delegate a rule-issuing agency to issue that regulation.

This expansive use of the major questions doctrine threatens to resurrect the court’s rarely invoked “nondelegation doctrine.” The nondelegation doctrine claims that executive branch agencies cannot update and write new regulations unless Congress specifically delegates that authority to them. The court most famously invoked this doctrine to strike down two New Deal programs in the 1930s. Since then, the court has long relied on other interpretations of law and its own precedents to let Congress delegate rule-writing authority to executive branch agencies without the kind of precise delegation that the doctrine would require.

While not fully resurrecting nondelegation, the court will now no longer just assume that Congress has delegated authority to the agencies. This could have significant implications for many executive branch agency regulations—including any that further regulate carbon emissions.

The Supreme Court decision results from years of litigation over the issue of carbon emission regulation across three different administrations, all centered on an obscure clause of the Clean Air Act.

The Obama Administration used the law’s Section 111D to justify rules in the Clean Power Plan—its signature plan to cut carbon from electricity-generating stations—spurring utilities to shift production from high-emitting plants to more efficient ones.

But opponents of regulation accused the White House of misinterpreting legal language, which they said only gave the EPA the right to dictate what power station owners could do within the facility’s “fenceline.” The Clean Power Plan gave companies options “beyond the fenceline” to comply with the rule by building renewable energy farms or running lower-emitting plants to offset dirtier coal-fired stations.

The Obama EPA’s interpretation was “a reach,” Brendan Collins, a partner at the Philadelphia-based environmental law firm Ballard Spahr, tells HuffPost. But the policy was really meant to be a stopgap that would give utilities more flexibility until carbon capture technology—hardware that can be retrofitted onto the smokestacks of a plant to collect and store carbon gas before it enters the atmospher —becomes feasible enough to mandate.

“At the end of the day, if EPA isn’t ready to say carbon capture is a technology that’s sufficiently feasible from a technical and financial standpoint that it can impose that obligation, then the best thing you can do is use less coal to make the same amount of electricity,” said Collins, whose firm’s clients are not involved in the case.

Whereas the Clean Power Plan gave multiple options for achieving that outcome, including by giving utilities the right to shift generation from dirtier to cleaner plants, the Trump Administration’s Affordable Clean Energy, or ACE, rule narrowed the regulation’s scope, requiring power station operators to make coal-fired units more efficient. The rule actually gave plant owners an incentive to burn more coal, as long as the generators in use were more efficient.

Had the Trump Administration stopped at just withdrawing and replacing the Clean Power Plan, there might not be a case here today. But the Trump-era EPA specifically argued that its interpretation of Section 111D as limiting federal authority to the area “within the fenceline” was correct.

“The political reason was to lock in the victory,” Collins said. “But the Trump Administration did not hedge. They did not say, ‘We can only do this, and even if we could do more and had the discretion to make that choice, we exercise discretion to only do this because we think that’s the most technically feasible choice.’ No. They went for it all by saying, ‘We must do no more than this, and we cannot do more than this.’”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the ACE rule on those grounds, ruling that Section 111D does, in fact, grant the EPA authority beyond a facility’s fenceline.

In disagreeing with the D.C. Circuit, the Supreme Court has largely left the EPA where it started. The Clean Power Plan already has been rescinded, and the Biden Administration has said it would not revive the regulation. The ACE rule already has been struck down, and the Biden Administration has said it would not reinstate the regulation. And the EPA has yet to announce what it plans to propose in place of the ACE rule.

Given how much legal doubt the Obama Administration’s use of Section 111D caused, few policy observers expected rule-makers at Biden’s EPA to rely on that same statute this time around.

“There isn’t going to be any effect on power plants from this case, win, lose or draw,” Collins said ahead of the decision.

But Collins said to expect that the Biden Administration’s forthcoming power plant plan will be far more aggressive as a result of West Virginia v. EPA. Stripped of its ability to offer a similar menu of compliance options, the agency will likely have to rely more heavily on emissions cuts directly at facilities.

In other words, new solar panels or more use of a gas plant won’t bail out a coal-fired power station; the plant would have to either capture its emissions or shut down.

That, he said, is why the plaintiffs in West Virginia v. EPA were primarily a coal-mining company and Republican states.

“Westmoreland Coal? They’re in the business of selling coal. Red states? They’re in the business of getting elected. So, you don’t have anybody who has to deal with the consequences of what this outcome will be,” Collins said. “And the consequences would be a more ironfisted approach. … It’ll be an uncomfortable world for power generators.”

According to HuffPost, based on the court’s logic in the West Virginia case, it may well find that any other regulation issued by the EPA to limit carbon emissions without specific instruction from Congress violates its major question doctrine.

With Congress polarized on whether or not to even respond to climate change, let alone how, the court may well have cut off major avenues for regulation.

In the meantime, U.S. emissions are on pace to spike again this year.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Senate Democrats warn of G.O.P. effort to restrict abortion nationwide

May 10, 2022

Democrats rang alarm bells on Sunday, May 8, about the likelihood that Republicans would try to restrict abortion nationwide, two days after an interview was published in which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said a ban was “possible” if his party gained control in Washington, D.C., reports The New York Times.

On the Sunday talk shows and in other public statements, Democratic senators said Republicans would not stop at letting the states decide the issue, but would most likely push for federal restrictions. That made it paramount, they said, that the Democratic Party maintain control of the Senate as it tries to codify abortion rights into federal law.

“We need to make sure that every single voter understands that the Republican Party and Mitch McConnell does not believe that their daughters, that their mothers, that their sisters have rights to make fundamental life and death decisions,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We are half-citizens under this ruling. And if this is put into law, it changes the foundation of America.”

After a leaked draft decision indicated that the Supreme Court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that established a constitutional right to abortion, McConnell said in an interview with USA Today that a national abortion ban was “possible” if that draft document became an official opinion of the court.

“If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislative bodies—not only at the state level but at the federal level—certainly could legislate in that area,” McConnell said when asked if a national abortion ban was “worthy of debate.”

McConnell argued that the discussion about a federal ban was premature, but that it was clear that the Republican Party has long been opposed to abortion.

Discussions already are underway among some Republican senators about pushing to ban abortion after a certain number of weeks, ranging from six to 20, depending on the proposal.

“If and when the court makes a final decision, I expect everybody will be more definitive,” McConnell said. “But I don’t think it’s much secret where Senate Republicans stand on that issue.”

Indeed, the Times reports, a document circulated by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and obtained by Axios urged candidates to be low key about abortion, casting themselves as “compassionate consensus builders” with a post-Roe America looming as early as next month.

“States should have the flexibility to implement reasonable restrictions,” the document states.

Research contact: @nytimes

Roe v. Wade may be overturned, a leaked draft of Supreme Court opinion reveals

May 4, 2022

A leaked Supreme Court draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito  and  published late Monday by Politico  indicates that the court may be preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 precedent that established a constitutional right to an abortion, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The draft, dated from February, couldn’t be independently confirmed, but legal observers said it appeared to be authentic. On Tuesday, May 2, Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the draft was authentic and launched an investigation into the leak, according to a report by HuffPost.

According to the Journal, the 67-page opinion, marked as a first draft, declared that Roe was “egregiously wrong and deeply damaging,” and that Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 decision that limited but didn’t eliminate abortion rights, prolonged the court’s error.

“Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” the draft opinion said. “Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”

The draft does not necessarily represent the court’s ultimate decision in the case or even the majority’s current thinking. However, it is consistent with the tenor of December’s oral arguments in the case challenging Roe, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationconcerning Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. The draft was labeled the opinion of the court—implying that a majority of justices had agreed with it.

The apparent leak represents a nearly unheard of breach of the court’s private, behind-the-scenes deliberations on a blockbuster case that the court hasn’t yet publicly issued. It also could threaten longstanding bonds of trust on a court that has already been under ideological and personal strains.

After an initial vote among justices on a case, Supreme Court decisions can undergo considerable evolution in tone and substance as justices circulate draft opinions for weeks and months. Those drafts are circulated between chambers—with justices typically offering feedback, support, and criticism in writing—until the court arrives at a final ruling, which is frequently accompanied by concurring and dissenting opinions that weigh in on the court’s holding.

Given those internal processes, it’s possible that there are more recent versions of the decision that look different than the draft Politico published. And on occasions, justices can change their positions during deliberations.

The court’s decision has been expected by the end of June or early July.

Research contact: @WSJ

Sandy Hook families agree to $73 million settlement with Remington Arms

February 17, 2022

The families of nine victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, have settled their lawsuit against Remington Arms—the manufacturer of the rifle that was used in the 2012 mass shooting—in an historic moment they said should put the gun industry and the banks and insurance companies that work with it on notice, reports Business Insider.

“Today is a day of accountability for an industry that has thus far enjoyed operating with immunity and impunity,” Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed in the shooting, told reporters. “And for this I am grateful.”

The settlement was for $73 million, Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the families, said at a news conference on Tuesday, February 15. Four insurers for the gunmaker will cover the costs, Koskoff said.

It marks the first time a gunmaker has been held responsible for a mass shooting in the United States.

“The gun industry’s protection is not bulletproof,” Koskoff said at the news conference.

Koskoff said the biggest feature of the settlement is not even the cash amount, but rather the “hundreds of thousands of documents” the families received through the discovery process that presumably details Remington’s internal decisions about how to market and manufacture what became one of its best-selling products.

The families of victims of the shooting first filed suit against Remington Arms in 2014 over its marketing of the Bushmaster rifle that was used by Adam Lanza to kill 26 young children and educators at the school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Many of the families pointed out that legal experts said their case faced long odds. At issue is a 2005 federal law that offered gun makers and dealers sweeping immunity protections with narrow exceptions. Hockley called the settlement a “crack” in “the gun industry’s impenetrable armor.”

Remington took its legal fight over the situation all the way to the Supreme Court. In 2019, the high court declined to intervene after the Connecticut Supreme Court allowed the suit to proceed. Remington argued that it was protected by the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

The Connecticut court found that the federal law did “not permit advertisements that promote or encourage violent, criminal behavior,” NPR reported at the time.

Koskoff took reporters at the press conference through a lengthy review of Bushmaster’s marketing for the firearm Lanza later used in the massacre.

“They will tell you it’s made for hunting, but where’s the animal in all of this?” Koskoff said pointing to one ad. Another ad in the presentation depicted the firearm with a message to prospective buyers about their “man card.”

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Clyburn pushes his pick for Supreme Court, testing his sway with Biden

Febraury 7, 2022

The highest-ranking Black member of Congress is credited with helping resurrect the president’s 2020 campaign at a critical point. Now he is calling in a favor, reports The New York Times.

Democratic Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina already was picturing Judge J. Michelle Childs sitting on the Supreme Court bench in early 2020 when he suggested Joseph R. Biden Jr. could revive his faltering presidential campaign by pledging to nominate the first Black woman to serve there.

Biden did so—paving the way for an endorsement from Clyburn ahead of the South Carolina primary, which was a critical turning point in the race. In the months since the election, Clyburn, the number-three House Democrat, has not been shy about taking his share of credit for Biden’s victory and trying to exert influence on the president’s policy and personnel choices.

Now, Clyburn is mounting an aggressive campaign to persuade the president to nominate Judge Childs, a district court judge in his home state of South Carolina, to succeed Justice Stephen Breyer, who is retiring.

According to the Times, Clyburn is mounting a blatant effort to call in a political favor in the form of a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court and, perhaps, the most consequential test yet of the Biden-Clyburn relationship.

“I make my case, I share my views, sometimes my feelings, and then I go on,”. Clyburn, 81, said in a recent interview, describing how he uses his sway with Mr. Biden. This time, he is going all out, and irking some of the president’s allies in the process.

Within hours of Breyer’s retirement announcement, Clyburn held a conference call with South Carolina reporters, stating that Judge Childs’s humble backgroun —she attended large public universities on scholarships, earning her undergraduate degree at the University of South Florida, and law and business degrees at the University of South Carolina—would better represent the country than another justice with an Ivy League pedigree. (Ketanji Brown Jackson, another top contender, has two degrees from Harvard, while a third, Leondra R. Kruger, has one from Harvard and one from Yale.)

Allies in South Carolina immediately began emailing talking points to potentially helpful surrogates, noting that Judge Childs was “rooted in the African American community,” a member of Delta Sigma Theta, the prestigious Black sorority, and a member of the oldest Black Catholic church in Columbia.

Over the past week, Clyburn has plugged Childs’s case on television and noted that she has the backing of Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. On Wednesday, February 2, he and Graham had breakfast in the Senate dining room with Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, to discuss, among other issues, Judge Childs and how to make a bipartisan case for her nomination. Graham posted a picture on Twitter of the three men smiling.

“It’s good for the country to have the court look more like America,” Graham said afterward. He said he had told the White House that Judge Childs, who is regarded as more moderate than other candidates whom Biden is thought to be considering, “would draw some Republican support.”

At the White House, Clyburn has been talking her up to the president since a few days after Inauguration Day, although he said he had not spoken to Biden about Judge Childs since Breyer’s retirement announcement. It was Clyburn who urged the president to nominate her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is considered a feeder to the Supreme Court. Biden announced in December that he would do so, but that appointment is now on hold.

Research contact: @nytimes

Justice Stephen Breyer to retire from Supreme Court, paving way for Biden appointment

January 27, 2022

Justice Stephen Breyer will step down from the Supreme Court at the end of the current term, according to people familiar with his thinking. The liberal justice’s decision to retire after more than 27 years on the court allows President Joe Biden to appoint a successor who could serve for several decades, reports NBC News.

Breyer is one of the three remaining liberal justices, and, in the short term, his retirement would maintain the current 6-3 split between conservative and liberal justices.

At 83, Breyer is the court’s oldest member. Liberal activists have urged him for months to retire while Democrats hold both the White House and the Senate. They contended that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stayed too long despite her history of health problems and should have stepped down during the Obama Administration.

Ginsburg’s death from cancer at 87 allowed former President Donald Trump to appoint her successor, Amy Coney Barrett—moving the court further to the right.

Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in May urging Breyer to retire that there are times “when the stewards of our system must put the good of an institution they love, and of the country they love, above their own interests. They have to recognize that no one, not even a brilliant justice, is irreplaceable, and that the risks presented by remaining are more than hypothetical.”

The progressive group Demand Justice, meanwhile, hired a truck last year to drive around the Supreme Court’s neighborhood bearing this sign: “Breyer Retire. It’s time for a Black woman Supreme Court justice.”

Biden has pledged to make just such an appointment. Among likely contenders are federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former Breyer law clerk; and Leondra Kruger, a justice on California’s Supreme Court.

Despite calls from some Biden supporters to add more seats to the Supreme Court to counter its current conservative lean, Breyer said in March that such a move would risk undermining confidence in the court. Advocates of court packing, he said, should “think long and hard before embodying those changes in law.”

Biden is expected to act quickly to nominate a successor who can be ready to serve when the court’s new term begins on October 3. A former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he knows firsthand how the confirmation process works.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Biden to endorse changing Senate filibuster to support voting rights

January 12, 2022

President Joe Biden, in a speech delivered on Tuesday, January 11, in Atlanta, planned to directly challenge the “institution of the United States Senate” to support voting rights by backing two major pieces of legislation and the carving out of an exception to the Senate’s 60-vote requirement, reports the HuffPost.

Coming a week before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Biden’s speech at the Atlanta University Center Consortium represents a follow-up to a speech he delivered last week on the first anniversary of the U.S. Capitol riot—characterizing both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act as critical to ensure that the turmoil of January 6, 2021, is followed by a revival of American democracy.

“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation,” Biden planned to say, according to prepared remarks distributed by the White House. “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is: Where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?”

Biden, who served as a senator from 1973 to 2009, argues that abuse of the filibuster―the arcane rule that requires 60 senators’ votes for most legislation to pass—has harmed the Senate as an institution and that carving out an exception for voting rights is the best way to protect the reputation and functionality of Congress’s upper chamber.

The Senate is set to vote on both pieces of voting rights legislation this week. While all 50 Democrats are expected to support the legislation, Republicans are expected to remain unified in opposition and block consideration―as they have the previous three times Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has attempted to call up the Freedom to Vote Act.

That unified GOP opposition will almost certainly lead to a vote on whether to significantly weaken the filibuster. But it appears unlikely Democrats will be able to corral the 50 votes necessary for a rule change. Sens. Joe Manchin (West Virginia.), Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) and other moderates are reluctant to change the body’s rules.

White House aides indicated that Biden’s speech points to Georgia as a reason why voting rights legislation is necessary—highlighting how the GOP-controlled state legislature passed laws making it harder to vote after Democrats won the presidential race and two Senate seats there in 2020.

The Freedom to Vote Act is a compromise version of the Democratic Party’s sweeping voting rights legislation, and it would override many of the restrictive voting laws passed by Republicans since the 2020 election and mandate early voting and same-day voter registration. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would restore sections of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 that conservatives on the Supreme Court voted to gut in 2013.

Republicans, up to and including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, had long supported extensions to the Voting Rights Act but ceased doing so after the Supreme Court ruling.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Supreme Court spurns bid to overturn Biden’s win in Pennsylvania

December 10, 2020

The Supreme Court has declined a bid by a Republican member of Congress and other GOP activists to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, Politico reports.

In a one-sentence order on Tuesday afternoon, December 8, the justices rebuffed the emergency request from Representative Mike Kelly (R-Pennyslvania) and two other House candidates to decertify the results of last month’s election in the Keystone State.

According to the New York Post, the suit argued that a 2019 Pennsylvania state law authorizing mail-in ballots was unconstitutional—meaning that Pennsylvania’s 2.5 million postal votes should be tossed.

In a one-sentence order, the High Court responded: “The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

Critics said the request for the Supreme Court to take up the case was ill-founded because the justices do not typically step in to enforce state law provisions. They also faulted Kelly for waiting more than a year—and until after the hard-fought election was complete—to raise the legal challenge.

“Granting an injunction would sow chaos and confusion across the Nation while inflaming baseless concerns about electoral impropriety and ensnaring the Judiciary in partisan strife,” lawyers representing Pennsylvania wrote in a brief early Tuesday opposing Kelly’s request. “This case reaches the Court against the backdrop of unfounded claims—which have been repeatedly rejected by state and federal courts—that wrongly impugn the integrity of the democratic process and aim to cast doubt on the legitimacy of its outcome.”

Kelly’s last-ditch maneuver at the high court drew little attention until Sunday, when Justice Samuel Alito unexpectedly accelerated the state’s deadline to respond to the emergency application from Wednesday to 9 a.m. (ET) on Tuesday. That prompted speculation among some conservatives that Alito or other Republican-appointed justices were planning to grant Kelly relief before Tuesday’s milestone Safe Harbor day to name presidential electors.

Not so. However, media attention to the Safe-Harbor milestone prompted the Trump campaign to issue a public statement earlier Tuesday arguing that the date is of little consequence.

“The ‘Safe Harbor Deadline’ is a statutory timeline that generally denotes the last day for states to certify election results,” Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said. “However, it is not unprecedented for election contests to last well beyond December 8.”

Research contact: @politico

Biden set to deliver Obamacare speech as Supreme Court weighs law’s future

November 11, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden—who campaigned on a promise to keep and enhance Obamacare—was set to deliver a health care-focused speech on Tuesday. November 10, even as the Supreme Court heard a case that could overturn the law.

Earlier in the day, Supreme Court justices listened to oral arguments in a case that seeks to invalidate the landmark health reform law. They will likely take initial votes at their private Friday, November 13, conference and begin the process of writing opinions, though a decision isn’t expected until the first half of 2021.

According to a report by CNN, President Donald Trump’s administration is looking to undo former President Barack Obama’s signature health law. And even with Biden set to take office on January 20, there is little he can do: Even if his administration switches sides and argues in favor of Obamacare, the case will continue because the original lawsuit was brought by a coalition of Republican attorneys general.

Protecting Obamacare was a central theme of Biden’s campaign. During the Democratic primary, he argued for expanding the law by adding a “public option” that would allow Americans to buy into a government-run health insurance plan— and, by beefing up federal premium subsidies, that would make Affordable Care Act coverage more affordable. He opposed more progressive rivals’ push to scrap private insurance entirely in favor of a single-payer, “Medicare- for-all”-type system.

Trump’s administration and the Republican-led House and Senate failed to repeal Obamacare during Trump’s first two years in Congress, CNN noted. Trump and the GOP in late 2017 did enact a tax law that gutted Obamacare’s individual mandate by setting the penalty for not having insurance at $0.

Trump’s administration later joined the Republican-led states, which argued in court that Congress’ action rendered the individual mandate unconstitutional, and since it’s a linchpin of the Affordable Care Act, the entire law should be invalidated.

Tuesday’s speech comes as Biden’s transition becomes more contentious, with Trump refusing to concede and making a series of baseless claims that seek to undermine the legitimacy of the election. His administration has not yet taken the legal step necessary to allow the transition process to begin by giving Biden’s team access to $6.3 million set aside for the process, as well as access to federal agencies.

Research contact: @CNN

Supreme Court declines to diminish extended ballot deadlines in North Carolina, Pennsylvania

October30, 2020

New Justice Amy Coney Barrett, still getting up to speed, didn’t participate in either case—but, on October 28, the Supreme Court “declined to disturb” extended ballot deadlines in the battleground states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania—leaving the states more time to receive mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day, The Wall Street Journal reports.

In the North Carolina litigation, the justices denied Republican requests to block a decision by state elections officials to extend the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots until November 12, a six-day extension of the date set by the legislature.

North Carolina elections officials said they extended their deadline “to keep voters from having their votes thrown out because of mail delays that the Postal Service had explicitly warned the state about.”

The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, the GOP state lawmakers, and others challenged the deadline extension and other changes—saying those officials improperly rewrote unambiguous rules set COVID -19 pandemic.

The high court didn’t explain its reasons for rejecting the requests, the Journal notes. Three of the court’s conservatives, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, registered objections and said they would have granted the challengers’ request to roll back the deadline. Justice Gorsuch wrote that the pandemic wasn’t the kind of natural disaster that gave the state board of elections a license to change voting rules.

The Supreme Court in the Pennsylvania matter refused to expedite a Republican challenge to a state court order providing three extra days for the state to accept absentee ballots mailed by Election Day.

The court’s order in that case included no noted dissents, although the same three conservative justices issued a statement indicating they were open to considering the case after Election Day.

On Friday, October 23, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, backed by the Trump campaign, asked the Supreme Court to hear and decide its challenge before Election Day, November 3. The motion was unusual in that, only days earlier, the Supreme Court, by a 4-4 vote, had refused to block the three-day extension.

In September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended to 5 p.m., November 6, the deadline to accept absentee ballots, from 8 p.m., November 3. The court credited guidance from the Pennsylvania secretary of state that the three-day extension would adequately account for processing backlogs in elections offices and postal delivery delays related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats, who sued for public-health accommodations in accepting ballots, had asked for a weeklong extension, equivalent to the deadline federal law sets for accepting ballots mailed by military families and Americans overseas.

Although it leaves intact, for now, the Pennsylvania court order, Wednesday’s decision indicated that at least four justices are skeptical that state courts can alter election regulations adopted by state legislatures for presidential and congressional elections.

In its 4-3 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had likened the coronavirus pandemic to a natural disaster, which allows state courts to alter voting procedures should it occur on Election Day. The state justices invoked their power under the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Free and Equal Elections Clause, which the state high court has found more protective of voting rights than corresponding provisions in the federal Constitution.

In last week’s decision, Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh voted to block the Pennsylvania court’s three-day extension. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s three liberal members, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, to leave the Pennsylvania order in

Justice Alito issued a statement saying “there is a strong likelihood that the State Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution,” but the proximity of Election Day made it impractical to decide the issue now. Justices Thomas and Gorsuch joined the statement; in a separate case from Wisconsin on Monday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued an opinion expressing similar views.

The court indicated that the justices may issue additional opinions in the case. The Supreme Court could still decide to hear the case after the election, particularly if the outcome depends on Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.i

Research contact: @WSJ