In a rare good ruling from the nation’s highest judicial body, the Supreme Court issued a June 29 ruling in the case of Torres v. Texas that protects veterans from discrimination by state governments and retains legal liability for those same administrations.
Military veteran Le Roy Torres, who had worked as state trooper for the Texas Department of Public Safety prior to his military service, was not rehired by the department due to injuries he had sustained during his service in the armed forces. After Torres opted to sue Texas for discrimination under the 1994 federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, a piece of legislation so bipartisan and uncontroversial it passed Congress by voice vote. Nonetheless, the Texas Republican state government, which often proclaims its supposed love for veterans, decided to disregard his claims and assert its immunity from suits by private individuals.
Thankfully for veterans at risk of government discrimination, the court did not rule in favor of Texas. The Stephen Breyer opinion, the last majority judgment of his long career, was joined both by fellow liberals Kagan and Sotomayor as well as John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh, the latter cementing himself as the definite swing-vote on an incredibly unbalanced court in favor of archconservatism.
The case, which amongst a more politically-centrist set of justices would have likely been a unanimous decision, demonstrates just how far SCOTUS has shifted to the far-right to the judicial spectrum. According to the war powers clauses in Article I of the Constitution, the federal government’s authority over issues concerning the armed forces is incontrovertibly clear. As per Breyer’s opinion, states that entered the Union “implicitly agreed that their sovereignty would yield to federal policy to build and keep a national military,” thus giving up their immunity from congressionally authorized suits.
By giving sovereign immunity to Texas in this instance, the right-wing of Barrett, Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas would have created a revolutionary, blatantly-unconstitutional precedent that absolves state governments even in the most clear-cut examples of federal violation. While they did not get their way, the case demonstrates just how far reactionary conservative justices are willing to go to undermine national authority, even if it means causing pain and injustice to Americans who put their lives on the line for the country and its citizens.
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