Its ruling on Indiana's voter ID law signals that the justices want evidence of actual violations of constitutional rights.
By David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 30, 2008
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court's recent rulings upholding Indiana's voter ID law and Kentucky's use of lethal injections reflect a subtle but profoundly important shift in how the justices decide constitutional questions.
In the past, the court was willing to strike down laws before they went into effect out of concern that the rights of some people might be violated. For example, the justices used that approach to void laws that regulated abortion or restricted pornography on the Internet.
But since Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the court three years ago, that approach has been cast aside. Broad and sweeping attacks on state laws have met with defeat.
Instead, Roberts and his colleagues have been sending a new, sterner message to legal advocates: Produce evidence that a law has actually violated someone's rights, and name names if you can. Only then might the court rule that a law is unconstitutional for those in the same situation.
The high court's newfound skepticism toward broad legal challenges was on display Monday when the justices, in a 6-3 decision, upheld Indiana's law requiring voters to show photo identification at their polling places.