Thursday, June 27, 2024

We Refuse To Declare

We have granted certiorari and heard argument.  We have had ample opportunity to consider the issues.  The parties were well represented on both sides, and dozens of amici have weighed in.  What is more, the necessary legal reasoning is straightforward, and the answer to the question presented is -- or at least should be -- quite clear: Idaho law prohibits what federal law requires, so to that extent, under the Supremacy Clause, Idaho's law is pre-empted.  There is simply no good reason not to resolve this conflict now.

Despite the clarity of the legal issue and the dire need for an answer from this Court, today six Justices refuse to recognize the rights that EMTALA protects.  The majority opts, instead, to dismiss these cases.  But storm clouds loom ahead.  Three Justices suggest, at least in this context, that States have free rein to nullify federal law.  And three more decline to disagree with those dissenters on the merits.  The latter group offers only murmurs that "petitioners have raised a difficult and consequential argument" about Congress's authority under the Spending Clause.  So, as of today, the Court has not adopted Idaho's farfetched theories -- but it has not rejected them either.

So, to be clear: Today's decision is not a victory for pregnant patients in Idaho.  It is delay.  While this Court dawdles and the country waits, pregnant people experiencing emergency medical conditions remain in a precarious position, as their doctors are kept in the dark about what the law requires.  This Court had a chance to bring clarity and certainty to this tragic situation, and we have squandered it.  And for as long as we refuse to declare what the law requires, pregnant patients in Idaho, Texas, and elsewhere will be paying the price.  Because we owe them -- and the Nation -- an answer to the straightforward pre-emption question presented in these cases, I respectfully dissent.

-- Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, concurring in part and dissenting in part, in Moyle v United States, in which the Supreme Court made extra effort to claim this case, then sent it back to lower courts without deciding on the merits (27 June 2024)

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