Prof. Anita Hill shares concerns about the future of the Supreme Court

October 30, 2020

Prof. Anita Hill (AAAS/LGLS/HS/WGS) said that the goal of the Grand Old Party (GOP) is to implant a conservative body of reasoning that will change the judicial understanding and precedent of equality in America in a Q&A facilitated by Prof. Jill Greenlee (POL) on Zoom on Monday, prior to Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Hill discussed the future of the United States Supreme Court and how changes over the years shape the status of equality among minority and LGBTQ groups. 

“None of the news I have to share is good news,” said Hill. 

Hill said that after Barrett’s confirmation, there are now six conservative justices on the court, who are all known for narrowing constitutional protections. She said that the GOP has been “chipping away” at different equality precedents such as the Voter Rights Act, the decision under Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“We should be aware that there are several strategies [conservative] Justices employ; these are joined by enablers that include people … who are working to put conservative justices on the court, advocacy groups that are attempting to chip away at protections,” said Hill.

Hill also stated that another strategy set by the Republican party is “teaming up with the Trump administration,” which she stated is a big issue because this collaboration is progressing on the elimination of “disparate impact” throughout the federal government. She said that the impact of this elimination will especially be felt on housing. Disparate impact theory enables the judiciary challenging of discriminatory practices related to housing, education, etc. inflicted on vulnerable groups within the U.S. that on a surface level, do not hold intentional discrimination. 

“Disparate impact theory looks not at intent alone, but looks at the impact on a group of people that a policy may have,” said Hill. “We didn’t get here by accident, we got here in part through the Trump administration sort of fast-forwarding on one strategy, through a federalist society … to position themselves so that one third of the entire judiciary is appointed by Donald Trump.”

Hill said the Democrats have not tried to combat these strategies in any way and it is their fault that over the years the Republican party has been strategically embedding a new precedent regarding equal opportunity rulings in the Supreme Court.

When asked about Barrett and her approach to individual versus employer protections, Hill responded by saying the most recent progressive decisions will be subject to “second class stay.” 

“She had been very vocal … about when she disagreed about cases being decided … she has been very vocal about her feelings about protections to LGBTQ people, she has been very vocal about her position on abortion.” Hill then stated that Barrett expressed that she can separate her publicly stated opinions from her interpretation of the law, “but I don’t think we can really suspend credulity.”

According to Hill, Barrett was involved in the overturning of a ruling in a case involving a pregnant incarcerated woman who was raped by a prison guard while in jail and gave birth prematurely due to the consistent cases of rape that were inflicted on her. During the delivery, the woman was handcuffed. Four days after the delivery, the woman was raped again on multiple occasions. The woman sued and received a jury verdict. 

Barrett “signed off on the reversal of the jury decision and basically said it was because the city couldn’t be liable because the guard was not acting in his official capacity when he raped her.” Hill stated this is a frequent excuse of sexual harassment cases in order to protect institutions reflects Barrett’s preference for siding with the institution over the rights of individuals. 

Hill also stated that Barrett said “the use of the ‘n’ word directed by a supervisor at an employee … did not amount to a hostile work environment.” 

Hill also said she lacks hope in the future of transgender rights protected by the ACA, as well as other anti-discrimination laws due to the predicted comfirmation of the new Supreme Court Judge. 

Not only does Hill state that the eradication of the ACA will happen, but that the coronavirus will likely become a listed pre-existing condition, which under the eradication of the ACA will result in a denial of affordable health care. 

Hispanic and Black individuals are 2.6 and 2.8 times more likely to contract the coronavirus, as well as 4.6 and 4.7 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19. The only way COVID-19 can be listed as a pre-existing condition is if it was documented through hospitalization, according to the CDC. According to Hill, this will result in the loss of healthcare for over 20 percent of the Black population and 5.4 million Hispanic people in the U.S. 

Hill also described the “chipping away” of the Voting Rights Act, and there is a strong effort from the Republican party to “impede voting rights in this country.” 

“I don’t think we are going to get rid of the Voting Rights Act … oddly enough they are going to use the idea that if something has an impact on a certain community, the ‘impact’ is not enough … they want to go back to that ‘intent,’ there has to be a clear ‘intent’ to infringe on the rights of black people,” said Hill. 

Hill stated that she believes we have to “understand how important voting is, and how essential it is to our democracy.” She explained that we must “honor” the voices of Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the oppression and pushback they received while advocating for civil protection. 

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