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Professor Perspective: SCOTUS Declines to Resolve Yet Another Lower Court Conflict

The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided to decline hearing Gee vs. Planned Parenthood, a lower court appeals case ostensibly about Medicaid and states’ rights—but fraught with potential political pitfalls, like arguments over a woman’s right to choose. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, talking about SCOTUS’s role in deciding such cases and putting him at odds with a pragmatic (and surprisingly united) majority.  

New England Law | Boston Professor Lawrence Friedman discusses Justice Thomas’s dissent and what it says about the current court in his most recent piece for the New England Law Review.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is unhappy again—not with a substantive ruling by the court, but with a decision by the majority to decline to hear a particular case.

Last year, Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, dissented from a decision by the majority—one in a long line—not to consider an appeals court decision involving the scope and breadth of the individual right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. And this week, Thomas, joined this time by both Alito and Justice Neil Gorsuch, dissented from the decision to decline consideration of Gee v. Planned Parenthood, a dispute over whether Medicaid recipients have a right to challenge determinations regulating the providers qualified to deliver services in a particular state. The case concerns allegations that Planned Parenthood affiliates had engaged in practices disqualifying them as state Medicaid providers.

As with the Second Amendment case, Thomas accused the majority of shirking its constitutional responsibility. It seems clear that Thomas and the majority, likely led by Chief Justice John Roberts, have different ideas about what that responsibility entails—and these differing views say a great deal about the internal struggles the Chief Justice is likely to face in the coming years.

Read the rest of Professor Friedman’s post on the New England Law Review website.