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House Majority Whip Says Amy Coney Barrett Will Bring Supreme Court Back to Segregation Era, Dred Scott Decision

House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said during a Wednesday interview on CNN that Amy Coney Barrett, when confirmed, will bring the Supreme Court back to the Plessy v. Ferguson era, and even to the Dred Scott decision.

Plessy v. Ferguson was a Supreme Court decision that issued the “separate but equal” doctrine (or segregation); that ruling was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education, a SCOTUS case that Barrett said during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings is a “super-precedent”—namely, a precedent that “no justice would overrule, even if she disagrees with the interpretive premises from which the precedent proceeds.”

Dred Scott was an ignominious case where the Supreme Court of the United States decided, 7-2, that a Black man descended from slaves was not a citizen had no standing to sue for his freedom. That case was decided before the Civil War. The Thirteenth Amendment, ratified in 1865, abolished slavery; the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, established that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

CNN’s Poppy Harlow began by asking Rep. Clyburn if he agreed that Democrats should pursue court-packing legislation if Joe Biden is elected president. Clyburn answered by saying that Republicans—by ignoring Merrick Garland and confirming Neil Gorsuch, by confirming Brett Kavanaugh, and by installing Barrett before the 2020 election—have been and currently are engaging in court packing.

Therefore, Clyburn argued, whatever Democrats do to add justices to the Supreme Court would not actually be packing the court, but “unpacking” it.

“To the question of more justices, adding them, is that a good idea?” Harlow asked.

“Well, adding justices… I think we need to unpack the Supreme Court. There needs to be balance in the Supreme Court. You know, I know what the Supreme Court was like during the Dred Scott decision. I know what the Supreme Court was like during Plessy v. Ferguson, and I think that this court that we see developing now is a throwback to Plessy v. Ferguson and even Dred Scott,” Clyburn said.

“You do?” a stunned Harlow asked.

“Absolutely I do believe that. I have said before and I believe very strongly that the Shelby v. Holder decision that got rid of the Voting Rights Act was the worst decision of the Supreme Court since Dred Scott. I said that, I believe that very strongly because I know what the vote does for people of color and I know what happened here in South Carolina and other states immediately after that decision when all of these onerous things were done to people’s voting rights,” Clyburn continued. “That’s what’s going on right now: a massive suppress the vote effort made possible — made possible by Holder — or Shelby v. Holder would not happen but for that Supreme Court decision.”

[Image via CNN screengrab]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.