Usually the Supreme Court Justices wait until the cherry blossoms have finished blooming in D.C. before releasing their annual decisions. But over the past month, the Court has handed out several major decisions from cases they heard last fall and winter. For civil rights activists, these decisions indicate a legal course for America's minorities more harrowing than anyone had even predicted. Moreover, say legal experts, the quick turnaround time between hearing oral arguments and providing their opinions shows a confidence in the Justices' ideological convictions.

Last week, the Justices handed out two particularly disturbing decisions. The first, a unanimous 8-0 ruling, stated that tenants may be evicted from public housing if any member of the household uses drugs--even if the tenant didn't know about the drug use, and even if the drug use happens outside the house. The case arose after a grandfather in Oakland, CA was kicked out of his apartment after a family member was caught using drugs. Civil rights organizations fear the decision will cause widespread evictions, mostly of the elderly and minorities.

A second decision indicated the tenor of the legal system towards immigrants in the months following September 11. Led by the conservative Chief Justice Rehnquist, the Court narrowly decided against a Mexican laborer who had been awarded back-pay after being wrongly dismissed for helping to organize a labor union.

The case pitted the nation's immigration laws against the rules of fair play for labor disputes; under the Fair Labor Act, an employee may not be fired for organizing a union. At the same time, Jose Castro, the plaintiff, was working illegally in America.

After being discharged, Castro sued his former employer for lost wages and won. In the appeal to the Supreme Court, the attorney representing Castro tried to convince the Justices that employees deserve to be protected by U.S. labor laws. The Justices did not agree, overturning the ruling.

Ramon Ramirez, who works with PCUN, a local labor organizer for minority workers, called the decision a "racist piece of policy." He went on, "this is sending a strong message to immigrants--that is, 'Don't come, you don't have any rights here.'"

The Court took a particularly hostile view towards undocumented workers, saying they should not be rewarded any sort of remedy, even if their employers had acted illegally.