5 Times Congress Overruled the Supreme Court
A Democrat-led bill that would codify the right to abortion failed to pass through the Senate this week. The measure was an effort by lawmakers to override a Supreme Court decision, as the justices are poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The Supreme Court has confirmed the authenticity of the leaked draft opinion but cautioned that justices’ votes and the decision itself are subject to change before the final decision is published.
Here are five times when Congress successfully superseded a Supreme Court decision.
#1 Dred Scott and the Reconstruction Amendments
In the 1857 case Dred Scott v. Sanford, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that slaves were property and that African Americans could not be U.S. citizens.
After the Civil War, the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution overturned the Scott decision, abolishing slavery and establishing that all people born or naturalized in America are citizens.
#2 Free exercise of religion
In the 1990 case Employment Division v. Smith, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause “could not be used to invalidate laws that are considered neutral and generally applicable,” according to The Hill.
In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which “restored a higher level of scrutiny to laws that burden religious exercise,” the outlet reported.
However, “the Supreme Court in City of Boerne v. Flores ruled in 1997 that RFRA was unconstitutional as applied to states.”
#3 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled against Lilly Ledbetter in a dispute with her employer, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Ledbetter discovered she’d been paid significantly less than the males working the same job.
In 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which essentially overturned the Supreme Court’s decision by making it easier to file lawsuits over pay discrimination.
#4 Tobacco regulation
In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not have the authority to regulate tobacco. The justices maintained that the FDA erred when defining nicotine as a drug.
In 2009, Congress passed the bipartisan Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which allowed the federal government to regulate tobacco products, including cigarettes.
#5 Disability rights
In the 2002 case Toyota Manufacturing, Kentucky v. Williams, the Supreme Court unanimously overruled a lower court “for applying too relaxed a standard for reviewing a disability claim by an employee with carpal tunnel syndrome,” according to The Hill.
In 2008, Congress amended the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to “restore the intent and protections” of the measure, explicitly citing the Supreme Court’s ruling as erroneous.