Conservative members of the Supreme Court are seen during a photo session at the Supreme Court building in Washington, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Top row, from left are: Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Bottom row, from left are: Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, and Associate Justice Samuel Alito. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

As our legal affairs editor, Garrett Epps, writes in this issue’s cover story, the Supreme Court has undergone an utter transformation since 2016, from a tenuously balanced panel that at least strove toward the appearance of nonpartisanship to an institution as politically brazen as the Republican National Committee. 

Epps tracks how Donald Trump, enabled by the machinations of Mitch McConnell and the Federalist Society, bullied, cajoled, threatened, and enticed his way to control of the Court. Key moments sped the dissolution of judicial independence as we once knew it: the blockade of Merrick Garland, Brett Kavanaugh’s rageful Senate testimony, Trump’s repeated attacks on federal judges who ruled against him, and Amy Coney Barrett’s rushed confirmation, as well as the new justices’ political pilgrimages to Kentucky and their public disdain for criticism.

Twice before in history, the Supreme Court has allowed itself to become an arm of one political party, with catastrophic results. In the 1850s, the Taney Court sided with pro-slavery forces and issued the infamous Dred Scott decision, accelerating the tensions that led to the Civil War. In the 1930s, the Hughes Court blocked desperately needed economic relief as the Great Depression ravaged America. Today, a conservative supermajority takes away long-established rights like abortion, decides cases by the unaccountable shadow docket, and makes overtly partisan statements while sneering at public outcry. We are now in the Court’s third great constitutional crisis.

Check out the rest of the issue here.

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