SCOTUS: You Cannot Have Your Cake and Eat It Too and The Power To Pardon

In the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop LTD v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission the Supreme Court of the United States issued a 7-2 ruling in favor of the baker, Jack Phillips. The Majority opinion was narrowly confined to the facts of Phillips case in particular and was not a broad precedent  ruling on religious and free-speech issues that many thought it would be.  Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cake in Denver, claims that his cakes are works of art and that requiring him to bake them for same-sex weddings would force him to express a view that violated his religious beliefs. Feeling as though they were being discriminated against due to their sexuality, David Mullins and Charlie Craig filed a complaint with the Colorado State Court under the state’s public accommodation law. The Majority reasoned that “While it is unexceptional that Colorado law can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.” The majority went on to state that in this particular case the Commission's consideration was not neutral and “showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating [Phillip’s] his objection.” Based on these two narrow factors, the Majority reasoned that in order to be consistent with the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise a state “cannot impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs of affected citizens and cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices.” After deciding the merits, the Majority went on to stress the importance of gay rights, “Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth. The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”

The ACLU said in a statement; "The Supreme Court today reaffirmed the core principle that businesses open to the public must be open to all. ... The court did not accept arguments that would have turned back the clock on equality by making our basic civil rights protections unenforceable, but reversed this case based on concerns specific to the facts here."

Chief Justice, Kennedy wrote the Majority Opinion which was joined by Justices Roberts, Breyer, Alito, Kagan, and Gorsuch. Justice Thomas wrote an opinion in part concurring with the opinion and in part concurring the judgement. Justice Ginsburg issued a dissenting opinion which Justice Sotomayor joined.

At 9:30 this morning Trump tweeted; “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!” Trump’s tweet was a follow up to an interview given by legal counsel Rudy Giuliani on Sunday’s Meet the Press where Giuliani stated Trump did in fact have the power to pardon himself, and that power was granted by the Constitution. Giuliani added that although Trump retained this power it was “unthinkable” that he would act on it as it would “probably lead to an immediate impeachment.”  The only president Trump has to work with is Nixon and the 1974 memo written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. This memo stated that the President did not have the power to pardon himself due to the notion that “no one may be a judge in his own case.”The talk of a potential need to pardons was sparked by a letter written to the Robert Mueller by attorney Jay Sekulow and John Dowd (former Trump attorney). The letter which was a part of a larger argument being made that Trump should not need to sit down with special counsel, explained that Trump could not have committed obstruction due to the fact that the Constitution gives the President power to “terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired.” It was clearly within Trump’s power to fire former FBI Director James Comey, the question at the center of Mueller’s investigation is whether or not Trump had a corrupt intent when doing so.