The U.S. Supreme Court rarely makes a correction — even when they are clearly called for by mistakes in law or fact. To their credit, opinions tend to minimize such errors (beyond those of judgment). After all, with the failing number of cases, the justices write relatively few opinions and take a relatively long time to generate them. That is what made it so notable this week when the Court not only corrected an opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but did so in one of her most notable opinions of the year: her dissent in Veasey v. Berry, which was heralded by many in its rejection of voter ID changes in Texas. Ginsburg wrongly stated that “Nor will Texas accept photo ID cards issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.” In fact, such cards are one of seven different types of identification that can be used to prove identity.
The Supreme Court has refused to block a Texas voter identification law for the November election despite a lower federal court ruling it to be too restrictive and unconstitutional. The trial judge found that roughly 600,000 voters could be denied the ability to vote for lack of identification. The court of appeals however had blocked action.
The case was a major defeat (the latest such defeat) for the Obama Administration and Attorney General Eric Holder. The vote was 6-3 and the Administration could not even secure the votes of either Justice Kennedy or Justice Breyer.
However, Ginsburg reportedly did an all-nighter to finish her decision denouncing the law and by extension the majority opinion.
At least Ginsburg admitted to her error. Last Spring, an error was caught in an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia and fixed but never acknowledged. An similar error by Justice Elena Kagan was corrected but never admitted the error.