Supreme Court ruling goes against party lines

March 3, 2023
Robert Ayers

According to Newsweek, the U.S. Supreme Court just issued a ruling that went completely against party lines. 

The justices, of course, do not have a political party. But, they have each been nominated by a president who does.

Currently, six members of the Supreme Court have been nominated by Republican presidents, while three justices have been nominated by Democratic presidents.

The Republican nominees are Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Amy Coney Barrett. And, the Democratic nominees are Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Destroying the Narrative

The common practice is to refer to those justices nominated by Republican presidents as "conservative justices" and those nominated by Democratic presidents as "liberal justices."

The narrative - the false narrative - is that the justices always vote according to the preference of the political party which nominated them. Even though this narrative is false, it is sometimes true - particularly in the case of the Liberal justices. They very frequently will be found on the same side of an opinion, whereas the conservative justices are more likely to part ways.

But, in the case that is the subject of this article, Bittner v. United States, the narrative that a Supreme Court justice always votes according to the political party that nominated him or her is completely destroyed.

The majority opinion is written by conservative Justice Gorsuch. And, he is joined by conservative Justices Alito, Kavanaugh, Roberts, and liberal Justice Jackson.

The dissent, on the other hand, is written by conservative Justice Barrett. And, she is joined by conservative Justice Clarence Thomas and liberal Justices Sotomayor and Kagan.

The case that destroyed the narrative

The case before the Supreme Court justices had to do with a dual citizen of Romania and the United States who failed to file his Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on time.

That individual, Alexandru Bittner, filed the reports late, after he learned that he had to do so. The government then claimed that Bittner failed to include certain accounts that he should have included in the reports.

Bittner, again, fixed the reports. But, the government ended up trying to fine him $2.72 million for the violations. And, Bittner challenged this, arguing that this is more than the statutory penalty allows for non-willful violations.

The big question before the Supreme Court was whether federal law, here, imposes the penalty on a per-account or a per-report basis. The government wanted the former whereas Bittner argued for the latter. The justices sided with Bittner 5-4.

It's certainly not the most riveting case ever before the Supreme Court. But, the outcome - going against party lines, so to speak - is not what many would have expected.

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