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This Supreme Court is a disgrace

Later this morning, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decisions in the key marriage equality cases. After yesterday’s performance by the Court, we can no longer be surprised by historically bad jurisprudence.

The voting rights ruling it issued yesterday, Shelby County v. Holder, is one of the very worst Supreme Court decisions of all time. Leaving aside the practical effects of the Court’s holding, which are likely to be awful (Texas has already won the race for “first state to enact a change to its voting laws that wouldn’t have been approved by the federal government if the Voting Rights Act could still be enforced”), the opinion is a travesty as a matter of basic legal reasoning.

The easiest way to explain Justice Roberts’ opinion to non-lawyers is by analogy. Suppose, hypothetically speaking, that in 1965 the drinking age in 41 states had been 21, while in nine states it was 18. Suppose further that alcohol-related traffic deaths involving teenage drivers were three times higher in the states with the lower drinking age.

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