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Trump’s presidency set the stage for recent Supreme Court rulings

“At this point in time, the court is ideologically divided the same way our society is divided,” dean says

a crowd holding a large mix of abortion-related protest signs stands in front of the supreme court building
Protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court's landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Monday’s online discussion was held in honor of Constitution Day. (UC Berkeley video)

For UC Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, the ability for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn abortion rights, expand gun rights and limit the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse emissions, all within the span of a week, is proof that conservative justices’ originalist view of the Constitution has politicized the court for decades to come.

“All of these rulings were enormously important for our society,” Chemerinsky said Monday during Berkeley’s first Campus Conversation event of the semester. “They will go down as the most momentous (Supreme Court term) in American history.”

Chemerinsky, who has argued cases before the Supreme Court, discussed these court decisions and the impact of the court’s ideological balance as part of the campus’s observation of Constitution Day.

As one of the nation’s leading constitutional experts, Chemerinsky said the rulings, which were made this year between June 23 and 30, are very much influenced by former President Trump’s court picks, who are all Constitutional originalists.

While originalists had been dismissed by the public starting in the 1970s, Chemerinsky said, conservatives have succeeded in regaining them mainstream appeal. This constitutional interpretation, which believes all constitutional provisions are fixed and can be changed only by an amendment, Chemerinsky said, has taken over the court and limits the meaning of the constitution.

And, referring to the court putting the onus of abortion rights on the states, Chemerinsky added: “We don’t leave fundamental rights to the political process. Not here or in any area.”

Chemerinsky also raised that the Supreme Court reflects the wider divides in the country.

“At this point in time, the court is ideologically divided the same way our society is divided,” said Chemerinsky. “There’s no neutral perspective on this… Conservatives are jubilant, and liberals are petrified and angry.”

Looking forward, Chemerinsky said the battle to reverse these decisions must be made by congress, and in state courts. The public must also address these rulings through the political process and who they vote into state offices, “because it’s easy to imagine these justices being together for another decade or two.”