Photo above: A statue of Roger B. Taney, the U.S. Supreme Court Justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision, was removed from the Maryland State House on Aug. 18, 2017. Another Taney statue was removed from a Baltimore public park about the same time.

Until Friday, when the Supremes’ decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was officially made public, everyone from legal scholars to bartenders considered the Dred Scott decision of 1857 to be the worst in the court’s history. And they undoubtedly still do. (As a commenter on this blog notes: The Korematsu case upholding Japanese-American internment during World War II could easily contend for worst.)

In Dred Scott, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (next to Spiro Agnew, Maryland’s most notorious native son) ruled that Blacks could not be citizens because, at the nation’s founding, they were considered inferior to whites and, therefore, “they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.” Taney’s racist opinion was a key factor leading to the outbreak of the Civil War four years later.

Now we have Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Thomas-Alito Court’s (you can’t really justify calling it the Roberts Court anymore) ruling that the Constitution guarantees no right to abortion, thus overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

The ruling reduces women to second class status and accords to the states power over women’s bodies. It also dismisses the concept of precedent and makes liars of at least three justices who said they considered Roe to be settled law. It also gives the finger to the majority of Americans who believe that women should have the right to choose, within limits, to have an abortion — and it further diminishes the court’s credibility with the public. (According to recent polling, Americans’ opinion of the Supreme Court is at an all-time low.)

So, while Dred Scott remains the worst decision ever, Dobbs is right there with it.

By the way, Clarence Thomas, the extremist conservative justice who authored the court’s earlier decision striking down New York’s (and, by inference, Maryland’s) long-standing gun law against concealed carry, cited the Dred Scott decision in his opinion. Imagine that: The court’s only Black member — the regressionist who replaced Thurgood Marshall, a giant of civil rights — draws support for his ruling from the historically horrible opinion by Roger B. Taney. A friend in New York noted that and said: “Thomas should gag at the mention of Taney’s name.” Instead, he probably thinks Taney got a bum rap.

Final note: The only way to save our country from the march of fascism is at the polls. We have to vote out of office every last supporter of Trumpism, increase Democratic representation in the Senate and House, and I now believe the Supreme Court needs to be expanded from nine to 13 justices — one representing each federal appellate court in the country.

My Sunday column is about the Jan. 6 insurrection investigation, leading with a call for Americans to help out at the polls in the coming elections. Election judges are needed everywhere, and in Maryland at least, you can be but 16 years old and work for the local elections board during July’s primary and November’s general election.

5 thoughts on “Among the worst decisions in Supreme Court history.

  1. Good columnCGB’s hits ( or misses)1 Japanese internment case still the worst.  They should have known better…And internment led by the great Earl Warren and FDR did not stop it.  J Edgar Hoover opposed. Talk about casting against type 2 Thomas’ logic to overturn Griswold, Lawrence, and O. would  also apply to Loving v Va.Does he want a divorce that badly? 3 SC plan should allow each President to appoint 2 Justices per each Presidental term.  Going forward J would serve 15 year terms and after 15 be barred from private practice for 5 years.  Could serve on App Courts, teach, marry fat white women, etc

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  2. Another great article, DaN. However you neglected to mention the Clarence Ginni Thomas’ concurring footnotes about looking at other precedents: contraception, same sex marriage, privacy. Funny that he didn’t mention the Loving case that ruled on inter-racial marriage. Guess it doesn’t apply to him, considering he is Black and his wife is White. He is the dumbest jurist ever appointed to SCOTUS.


    1. I could go on endlessly reiterating many facts that have been reported by others. This is a blog with brief concise comment on aspects of the news I choose to bring to your attention.


  3. Citizens United was a pretty bad decision. It’s always hard to rank things like this when there are many candidates.


  4. In the pre-Reagan era, when Goldwater was the nominal leader of the GOP, “conservative” meant limited government, robust defense, and civil libertarian. That is not what “conservative” denotes today. The term has been preempted by nothing America has seen since the years leading up to the Civil war: a white-supremacist, violence-tolerant, authoritarian cult of power-hungry thugs. The Republican Party of 2022 would run Goldwater out of the party, as much for his views as for his calling out the liars and fraudsters in the “religious” right.

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