This article appeared in the January 16, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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How the Supreme Court put principle over partisanship this week

In the battle against toxic partisanship in the United States, the Supreme Court hasn’t always been a shining light. That’s what made Tuesday so interesting.

Yesterday, a justice known for pro-business leanings struck a blow for worker rights. In fact, the whole court did, ruling unanimously that workers designated “contractors” had the right to bring a class-action suit – essentially giving them a key right of full employees. What was most surprising, perhaps, was how Justice Neil Gorsuch ruled.

His judicial principles are built on understanding the original intent of laws when they were passed and upholding that original intent. In this case, using six dictionaries from 1925, he concluded that the law’s original wording ran counter to his traditional partisan framework. Then he ruled according to his principle. It wasn’t about making sure his side won.

By many measures, the United States Supreme Court has paralleled and even intensified partisan divisions, with justices increasingly ruling along predictable partisan lines in the most high-profile cases. This isn’t entirely their own doing, as presidents have looked for reliably partisan judges, and the Senate – and voters – have gone along.

The trend both inside and outside the court and by all sides in recent years has been to shape principles to fit partisan preconceptions. Tuesday’s ruling was a welcome reminder that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Our five stories today include a look at the world’s evolving moral compass in Africa, new thinking about what diversity is, and a unique attempt to change the outlook among Native American communities.

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This article appeared in the January 16, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 01/16 edition