On This Day, Oct 15, 1991 – Thomas Confirmed to the Supreme Court

After a bitter confirmation hearing, the U.S. Senate votes 52 to 48 to confirm Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. In July 1991, Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to sit on the Supreme Court, announced his retirement after 34 years. President George Bush quickly nominated Clarence Thomas, a 43-year-old African-American judge known for his conservative beliefs, to fill the seat. Thomas had been chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) during the Reagan administration, and in 1990 Bush had appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals. As the confirmation hearings for Thomas’ Supreme Court nomination got underway, he evaded controversy over his conservative views on issues such as abortion by refusing to state a clear political position. He seemed headed for an easy confirmation until Anita Hill, a former aide, stepped forward and accused him of sexual harassment. Hill, who had served as an aide to...

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Sotomayor Made the Pro-Gerrymander Lawyers Gibber

by ksmoore777 – Slate’s Mark Stern provided enjoyable commentary about Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s contribution to last Tuesday’s oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, the case examining the constitutional limits to political redistricting.  While her fellow Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, went after preening idiot Gorsuch, Sotomayor honed in on Wisconsin’s lawyers. Stern describes as the “highlight of the hour” Sotomayor’s simple, practical and direct question:  “Could you tell me what the value is to democracy from political gerrymandering?  How does that help our system of government?” Helluva good question.  How does gerrymandering help? Stern reports that Erin E. Murphy, the attorney representing Wisconsin’s (very gerrymandered) State Senate, could only offer “word salad” in response. I don’t think that … districting for partisan advantage has no positive values.  I would point you to, for instance, Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion in which has an extensive discussion of how it can actually do good things for our system to have districts drawn...

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Trump Returns to Supreme Court to Block Muslim Ban Exemptions for Refugees

by Kerry Eleveld – Donald Trump’s Justice Department is headed back to the Supreme Court in an effort to piece back together more of Trump’s tattered Muslim ban. Specifically, government lawyers asked the high court Monday to block a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling set to take effect Tuesday that exempted certain refugees with resettlement assurances from the ban. Politico writes: The Trump administration is returning to the Supreme Court in an effort to overturn lower court rulings crimping the application of President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order. Justice Department lawyers asked the high court Monday to allow authorities to keep up a block on many refugees covered by Trump’s ban. While the administration continues its effort to curtail refugee resettlements, government lawyers did not re-up requests that the ban cover what the court has defined as “close familial relationships” such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins of U.S. citizens. The two issues—refugees with resettlement assurances from U.S. organizations and who...

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Five Pro-Democracy Activists Sentenced for Disrupting the U.S. Supreme Court

by David Schwenk – In April of 2015, five pro-democracy activists stood up in the U.S. Supreme Court to denounce the justices for allowing unlimited sums of money to corrupt our politics. This action occurred on the one-year anniversary of the McCutcheon v. FEC ruling, in which the court ruled that the overall federal limit on individual campaign contributions violated the First Amendment. Coupled with the disastrous Citizens United decision, which gave corporations permission to spend unlimited amounts on ads and other political tools, these court rulings have silenced the majority of people while giving immense power to the moneyed elite to influence our government. Now more than two years since they rose one by one to admonish the court for tilting our elections in the favor of the wealthy, on Monday these activists appeared for sentencing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Originally facing sentences of 10–16 months in prison...

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The Dire Consequences if Justice Kennedy Retires

by Ian Millhiser – Say goodbye to Roe, racial justice, voting rights, and any new progress on LGBT rights. This past weekend, as most Americans were preparing for cookouts and fireworks, NPR’s Nina Totenberg dropped a bombshell. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the closest thing the Supreme Court has to a swing vote, has told young lawyers seeking clerkships in his chambers that “he is considering retirement.” If Kennedy does retire, that decision presents an existential threat to many civil rights that seemed safely entrenched before Donald Trump’s second-place victory in last November’s election. Four years from now, Trump may be remembered as both a political accident and the man who inspired a broad coalition of voters to cast his unique brand of racist incompetence out of office. He owes his job to a constitutional relicthat allows the loser of a presidential election to nonetheless take office, and Trump has thus far struggled to advance...

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Can Businesses Turn LGBT People Away Because of Who They Are? That’s up to the Supreme Court Now

by James Esseks – The United States Supreme Court agreed to decide a case about whether a business can refuse to sell commercial goods to a gay couple because of the business owner’s religious beliefs.  A win for the business could gut the nation’s civil rights laws, licensing discrimination not just against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, but against anyone protected by our non-discrimination rules. In July 2012, Debbie Munn accompanied her son, Charlie Craig, and his fiancé, Dave Mullins, to the Masterpiece Cakeshop just outside of Denver  to pick out a cake for their wedding reception.  When the bakery’s owner heard that the cake was for two men, he said he wouldn’t sell them a cake because of his religious beliefs. Debbie was stunned and humiliated for Charlie and Dave.  As she has  said, “It was never about the cake.”  She couldn’t believe that a business would be allowed...

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Supreme Court Partially Lifts Block on Trump’s ‘Bigoted’ Travel Ban

by Jake Johnson – “We’ll be ready,” said the ACLU in response to the announcement. The Supreme Court on Monday announced it would hear arguments on President Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban—also known as the Muslim Ban 2.0—which had previously been blocked by two federal appellate courts, one of which ruled the ban is “rooted in religious animus” and therefore unconstitutional. Arguments in the case are set to be heard in October. Commentators were quick to point out that the Supreme Court’s announcement contained a victory for the Trump administration, as the court decided to reinstate portions of the Muslim ban, exempting only those with “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” The Washington Post reports: The action means that the administration may impose a 90-day ban on travelers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day ban on all refugees entering the...

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Gender Equality Justice for Unwed American Mothers and Fathers Abroad

by Diana Fletcher – The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a backward, gender discriminating federal law based on shocking stereotypes — one being that most men hardly care about their children born out-of-wedlock. Under this law, a child born abroad to an unwed American mother automatically becomes a U.S. citizen if the mother previously lived in the U.S. for a minimum of one year. Under the very same law, a child of an unwed father can’t become a U.S. citizen unless the father has lived in the U.S. for a continuous period of five years, two of them when he was over the age of 14. How could this law have such requirements? Who would think this? How did that even pass originally? It’s sad and disgusting. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court agrees. They have ruled that these horrid gender lines drawn by Congress violate the Constitution’s guarantee to equal...

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Get Ready for a Supreme Court Decision on the Muslim Ban this Week

by Ian Millhiser – We’re about to find out it the courts actually will provide a check on Trump. After months of drama, airport chaos, emergency court orders, shifting policies, and the confirmation of Donald Trump’s choice to join the Supreme Court, the highest Court in the land will finally weigh in on Trump’s Muslim ban. A decision, at least on a very significant preliminary matter, is likely to come this week. Last month, a federal appeals court handed down International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, holding that Trump’s longstanding practice of bragging that he intends to implement a Muslim ban demonstrates that an executive order he signed — which prevents many people from six majority Muslim nations from entering the country — was in fact a Muslim ban. The Trump administration argued, unsuccessfully, that the appeals court must defer to Trump’s stated reason for issuing the order — national security — under the Supreme Court’s 1972 decision in Kleindienst v. Mandel. In a more recent...

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America’s Worst Voter Suppression Law Dies in the Supreme Court

by Ian Millhiser – Sometimes, democracy wins. The most aggressive voter suppression law in the nation — possibly the most aggressive such law since Jim Crow — is dead. The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would not hear North Carolina v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, a challenge to North Carolina’s omnibus voter suppression law. As the law was struck down by the lower court, that means this law is finally staked, dead, and buried. So that’s the good news for supporters of voting rights. The bad news is that Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a brief opinion strongly implying that laws like this one could survive review before the Republican-controlled Supreme Court. Indeed, it is likely that the only reason why North Carolina’s law lies in the ground today is because the states’ voters elected a Democratic governor and a Democratic attorney general who maneuvered to kill this appeal to...

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SCOTUS Says States Have No Right to Money Taken Based on Overturned Convictions

by Jacob Sullum – If making people prove their innocence to get their property back violates due process, what about civil forfeiture? This week the Supreme Court ruled that Colorado has no right to keep fines, fees, court costs, and restitution it extracts from criminal defendants whose convictions are later reversed. By forcing people to prove their innocence before they can get back property that is rightly theirs, the Court said, Colorado has been violating the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of due process. The Institute for Justice, which filed a brief in the case emphasizing that the presumption of innocence is an essential aspect of due process, makes a compelling argument that civil asset forfeiture routinely violates that principle. The Court’s decision in Nelson v. Colorado, which was joined by seven justices (Clarence Thomas dissented, and Neil Gorsuch joined the Court too recently to participate), came in response to challenges by Shannon...

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With Gorsuch Sworn In as Supreme Court Justice, a New Conservative Era Begins

by Deirdre Fulton – Neil Gorsuch could immediately make an impact on cases dealing with religious freedom, gun rights, and immigration. After a bruising Senate confirmation battle, former federal judge Neil Gorsuch was sworn in Monday as the 113th Supreme Court justice, restoring a 5-4 conservative balance to the nation’s high court. Chief Justice John Roberts administered the constitutional oath at 9:00am in a private ceremony; later Monday, Justice Anthony Kennedy—for whom Gorsuch formerly clerked—will ask his new colleague to take a second oath in a public ceremony at the White House. Watch below: Gorsuch “is widely expected to shift the ideological balance of the court to the right,” wrote Lydia Wheeler for The Hill, “with his views seen as mostly in line with the man he is replacing: the late Justice Antonin Scalia.” However, she continued, “some court watchers say Gorsuch may be even more conservative than Scalia, his mentor...

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The Supreme Court Decision to Protect People with Intellectually Disabilities from Execution Was Long Overdue

by Brian Stull – \In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that the government could no longer execute people with an intellectual disability, then called “mental retardation,” because the practice violated the Eighth Amendment. Texas skirted the ruling by creating wholly unscientific criteria to determine intellectual disability, based on, of all things, the fictional character Lennie from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. A new ruling last week by the court in Moore v. Texas should put an end to that and other unscientific measures states have used to execute people with intellectual disabilities. This is a victory. But as with many victories in modern Supreme Court jurisprudence, they come after many defeats that saw a great human toll. I think of my executed client, Robert Ladd. He had an IQ of 67, and had been identified by the Texas Youth Commission as “fairly obviously” intellectually disabled. As...

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Growing a Spine? Schumer Sets Stage for Gorsuch Filibuster (VIDEO)

by Nika Knight – Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced opposition to right-wing Supreme Court nominee, setting stage for filibuster showdown. After weeks of outcry and public calls for Senate Democrats to “grow a spine” and filibuster President Donald Trump’s right-wing Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, Democrats finally appear to be listening. On Thursday, after three days of Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that he could not support Gorsuch’s nomination and indicated that he would join a filibuster against the nominee. “He will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation,” Schumer said. “My vote will be no.” “His career and judicial record suggest not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology,” Schumer said: Democrats have complained throughout Gorsuch’s testimony that the conservative judge has been eliding questions and refusing to explain his judicial philosophy in concrete terms. When pressed...

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Five Reasons Moderate Democrats Should Oppose Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court

by Richard Eskow – After a contentious start to Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination hearings, Senate Democrats are struggling with what the New York Times calls “two options: Get out of the way or get run over.” But Democrats have a third option, one that should attract moderate “centrists” as well as more liberal senators: Fight. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, received some criticism for introducing Gorsuch to the Senate at the start of today’s hearing. Bennet’s action was defensible: in normal times, it’s Senate protocol for senators to introduce nominees from their home state. Colorado’s other senator, Republican Cory Gardner, also introduced Gorsuch. But these are not normal times, and Democrats need to recognize that. Donald Trump, and the Republican Party in general, have succeeded by ignoring “normal” behavior and the protocols of the past. Nobody’s suggesting that Democrats should behave like Republicans, but it’s no longer...

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Senate Must Demand Answers About Gorsuch’s Work for Scandal-Plagued DoJ

by Billy Corriher and Michele L. Jawando – After Judge James Robart halted Donald Trump’s first travel ban, the president “lashe out” at him and suggested that his ruling was somehow illegitimate. Stephen Miller, a White House adviser, said on television that the president’s executive orders “will not be questioned.” The courts are charged with interpreting the Constitution, including the limits on executive power, but the president does not seem to accept this fundamental principle. With these constitutional questions looming, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the empty seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Some have asked for more information about Gorsuch’s work for the U.S. Department of Justice, or DOJ, in 2005 and 2006, at a time when the agency faced alarming scandals involving abuse of power. At his confirmation hearing on March 20, Gorsuch should be asked about his work at the DOJ. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)...

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When the Supreme Court Stopped a Government-Led Attack on Freedom of the Press

by Damon Root – Revisiting a landmark First Amendment case.   In 1934 the Louisiana legislature passed a law requiring all newspapers, magazines, and periodicals with a circulation of 20,000 or more to pay an annual licensing tax of 2 percent on all gross receipts “for the privilege of engaging in such business in this State.” Ostensibly justified as just another run-of-the-mill tax, the measure’s true purpose was plain for all to see. The governor at that time was the notorious populist demagogue Huey P. Long, also known as the “Kingfish.” The Long administration was famously rife with corruption and criminality and the state’s biggest newspapers just happened to be some of the governor’s most outspoken critics. So the Kingfish told his allies in the legislature to use the state’s vast taxing powers to harass and punish his enemies in the press. The American Press Company, along with eight other newspaper...

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The Worst Case Scenario if Supreme Court Nominee, Neil Gorsuch, is Confirmed

by Ian Millhiser – A child-exploiting, racist, security state hellscape. So how bad could Neil Gorsuch be? As is turns out, when trying to assess President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, this isn’t an especially easy question to answer. We know that Gorsuch placed the rights of religious conservatives ahead of the rights of women seeking birth control coverage. We know that he took highly unusual steps in an attempt to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. We know that he wants to consolidate power in the federal judiciary at the very moment that Republicans are seizing control over that branch of government, and that such a newly empowered judiciary would have the power to slash and burn labor and environmental regulations. We also know that Gorsuch was a great admirer of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon. Indeed, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee says that he...

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Trump: “SEE YOU IN COURT” Us: “That Was Court, You Doofus.” Trump’s Choices in a Nutshell

by Frank DiPrima – In the wake of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, leaving in place the temporary restraining order staying his Muslim travel ban, Mr. Trump has three main procedural choices.  First, he can go to the United States Supreme Court and seek to have the stay lifted there.  Second, he can skip the SCOTUS appeal from the stay and simply instruct the Department of Justice to prepare and seek to expedite the underlying action on the merits in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.  Third, he can moot both proceedings by issuing an executive order revoking the first executive order and announcing that is will be rewritten. There is opportunity and danger for Mr. Trump in the SCOTUS appeal of the stay.  If he goes through with that, there are three possible outcomes, but only two are in the realm of likelihood.  First, he...

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Neil Gorsuch Would Be a Dream Justice for Corporations Suing the Government

by Billy Corriher – President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch, now on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, did not appear on President Trump’s first list of potential Supreme Court nominees in May 2016, but he appeared on Trump’s second list just weeks after writing a judicial manifesto arguing that judges should have more power to strike down federal regulations. The approach outlined in Judge Gorsuch’s August 2016 opinion would benefit wealthy corporations challenging laws that protect workers, consumers, and the environment. This approach would tie the government’s hands in keeping Americans safe and healthy and let judges strike down common-sense regulations that ensure the nation’s air and water are clean. If he becomes a justice, the Supreme Court would very likely continue its trend of ruling in favor of big business. No deference to the EPA Judge...

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Large Majority Opposed to Extreme Positions Trump’s Pick for Supreme Court Espouses

by Joan McCarter – New polling from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner shows that a very large majority of voters are opposed to Republicans strong-arming an ultraconservative nominee like popular vote loser Donald Trump’s pick, Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court. The poll on behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Every Voice, and End Citizens United find that 69 percent of voters oppose ending the Senate filibuster on Supreme Court nominees, and 72 percent think the next justice “will have a big difference on the direction of the country.” Americans see this as a fight that matters to them. When presented with potential consequences and rulings that could result from Gorsuch’s confirmation, including overturning Roe v. Wade and leaving the flow of special interest money in politics unchecked, large majorities of voters say they are more likely to oppose the nominee. Americans strongly object to any GOP attempts to use political tactics to...

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Neil Gorsuch’s Crusade Against Planned Parenthood

by Ian Millhiser – Rules be damned! In the grand scheme of the law, Planned Parenthood Association of Utah v. Herbert was not an important case. It turned primarily on a factual dispute over whether Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) had an unconstitutional motive when he cut off funding to Utah’s Planned Parenthood affiliate, as well as another dispute over whether a three-judge panel that temporarily restored that funding misread a trial judge’s opinion. It was a case that turned upon, in the language that lawyers use, a “question of fact,” rather than on a question of law that could have major implications for future cases. In other words, if the judges hearing this case were wrong about the facts (or about what a specific trial opinion said), while that would obviously have very serious implications for Planned Parenthood, it wouldn’t have any implications for future cases. And yet Judge Neil Gorsuch,...

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Who is Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Pick Neil Gorsuch?

by Ian Millhiser – What you need to know about Trump’s extraordinarily conservative nominee for the Supreme Court. Judge Neil Gorsuch is Republican nobility — the son of Anne Gorsuch Burford, who spent her brief tenure as President Reagan’s EPA administrator cutting staff and gutting anti-pollution regulations before resigning amidst scandal. More than three decades after his mother’s resignation, Gorsuch now has the opportunity to wage an even more wide-ranging crusade against federal regulation. Gorsuch is President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court seat Senate Republicans held open until Trump could fill it. And his record suggests that he will become big business’ dream justice. In a 2016 lecture at Case Western Reserve law school, Gorsuch spoke of his profound admiration for the conservative jurist Trump tapped him to replace, Justice Antonin Scalia. When Gorsuch learned of Scalia’s death, “I was taking a breather in the middle of a ski run with little on...

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Opposition Gathers Steam as Trump Readies Conservative Pick for Supreme Court

by Andrea Germanos – Vacancy left by Scalia could have been filled by Obama’s pick had Republicans not blockaded the effort. With Republicans having blocked the nomination of former President Barack Obama’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, President Donald Trump is now ready to offer up his choice for the seat left vacant for nearly a year since the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. Trump said on Twitter Wednesday morning that he’d make his choice on Thursday of next week, Feb. 2. The contenders are three federal appeals court judges: Neil Gorsuch of the Denver-based 10th Circuit; Thomas Hardiman of the Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit (where the president’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, serves); and William Pryor of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit. Pryor, the New York Times writes, “is a protégé of Senator Jeff Sessions,” Trump’s contentious pick for attorney general. CNN describes Pryor as “a dream candidate for...

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On This Day, Jan 22, 1973 – Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court decriminalizes abortion by handing down their decision in the case of Roe v. Wade. Despite opponents’ characterization of the decision, it was not the first time that abortion became a legal procedure in the United States. In fact, for most of the country’s first 100 years, abortion as we know it today was not only not a criminal offense, it was also not considered immoral. In the 1700s and early 1800s, the word “abortion” referred only to the termination of a pregnancy after “quickening,” the time when the fetus first began to make noticeable movements. The induced ending of a pregnancy before this point did not even have a name–but not because it was uncommon. Women in the 1700s often took drugs to end their unwanted pregnancies. In 1827, though, Illinois passed a law that made the use of abortion drugs punishable by up to three years’...

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Businesses Take Fight Over Credit Card Fees to Supreme Court

by Rebecca Beitsch – The stylists at Expressions Hair Design, a salon in upstate New York, used to display a sign near the register telling customers who wished to pay with a credit card that they would be charged an additional fee to cover the cost. Then a client told them they ought to take it down. “That’s illegal,” the client, who was also a lawyer, told salon co-owner Linda Fiacco. And in New York, it is. The state is one of 10 that allow businesses to charge more for credit card purchases only if they describe the difference as a cash discount and not a credit card surcharge. The owners of Expressions Hair Design in Vestal, along with other New York businesses that have sued the state over the law, say their freedom of speech is being impinged on because they can’t explain to customers how credit card fees affect...

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The Future of Civil Rights is Up To the Supreme Court

by Mary Frances Berry – When 95-year-old Rosanell Eaton first registered to vote in the Jim Crow South, she was forced to pass a written literacy test and recite the preamble of the Constitution from memory. Seven decades after becoming one of the first African American voters in her county, Eaton once again found herself facing obstacles undermining her access to the franchise. Because of North Carolina’s harsh new voting restrictions, Eaton had to make 11 trips to various state agencies — traveling a total of over 200 miles — to get the identification she needed to vote. So Eaton challenged the state’s voter ID laws in a case that made its way to the nation’s highest court. After an appeals court struck down the restrictions, the Supreme Court — in a 4-4 tie vote this August — declined for now to reinstate them, pending an eventual appeal. Eaton’s harrowing story...

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Supreme Court Will Rule on Long-Delayed Transgender Rights Case

by Nadia Prupis – Judges will review lower court decision that found 17-year-old Gavin Grimm is legally allowed to use male facilities at his high school. The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday it would hear a transgender rights case that has captured national attention regarding whether students can use school facilities that correspond with their gender identity, rather than their biological sex. The judges will review an April decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that found Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old Virginia transgender boy, is legally allowed to use male facilities at his high school in Gloucester County. The school board appealed the ruling. In August, the Supreme Court blocked the order until the case could be reviewed, meaning Gloucester High School is still able to ban Grimm from using the boy’s restroom. Josh Block, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) LGBTQ project, which represents Grimm,...

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The Supreme Court REQUIRES Nine Justices; Don’t Let Republicans Convince You Otherwise

by RETIII – Republican pundits and Senators (like John McCain and Ted Cruz) recently have shown their hand and stated that they may not consider confirming any justice nominated by a Democratic President — and their principal argument in defense is that “there is no requirement that the Supreme Court have nine justices.”  For example, Ted Cruz recently asserted: Speaking to reporters after a campaign rally for a Republican U.S. Senate candidate here, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said that there was “precedent” for a Supreme Court with fewer than nine justices — appearing to suggest that the blockade on nominee Merrick Garland could last past the election. “You know, I think there will be plenty of time for debate on that issue,” said Cruz, when he was asked whether a Republican-controlled Senate should hold votes on a President Hillary Clinton’s nominees. “There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with...

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Republicans Plan To Strangle The Supreme Court To Death In Retaliation For A Hillary Victory

by Stephen D Foster Jr – Making sure that Democrats take control of the Senate just became even more important. Ever since Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, Republicans have refused to let President Obama fill the vacant seat he left behind on the Supreme Court bench. President Obama even nominated Merrick Garland, whom many consider to be a moderate who has even been praised in the past by the very Republicans who are blocking him now. There had been rumors that Republicans may approve his nomination if Hillary Clinton wins the election in order to prevent her from nominating someone more liberal to the post. But now it appears Republicans have something even more sinister in mind if they end up keeping control of the Senate in November. Arizona Senator John McCain, despite joining with his fellow Republicans to declare that the next president should get to pick the next...

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GOP Senators Aren’t Happy that John McCain was Probably Caught Telling the Truth

by Ian Millhiser – Dude, you weren’t supposed to say that out loud! On Monday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) confirmed one of Democrats’ worst fears. If Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wins the White House, but Republicans keep the Senate, the GOP “will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.” If America wants to have a Supreme Court in five years, in other words, it better elect the same party to the White House and the Senate. Not long after McCain’s comment, however, a new talking point was born. McCain’s own spokesperson said McCain did not actually mean what he said. The senator will “thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications,” according to his communications director Rachael Dean. Though Dean also added that “McCain believes...

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Hillary Can Have One of the Most Productive and Consequential First Terms Ever- If We Win the Senate

by TobyRocksSoHard – This is not snark or wishful thinking. Sure, taking the House is still a major reach that will require a perfect storm to accomplish. Sure, Senate Republicans are already plotting the same kind of unprecedented obstruction we saw with President Obama. Sure, Trump and his minions are already trying to delegitimize and diminish her Presidency before she’s even won the election and been sworn in. All of that is true, and we will be continuing the same old fights from the Obama administration going forward. Despite all that, Hillary has a very real chance to have a major impact on the country that will last for decades within the first years of her Presidency. A couple of people are very important to making this a reality. Antonin Scalia already did his part. President Obama and (probably) Senator Schumer are the two others who matter the most going forward....

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The Most Important Gay Rights Case Since Marriage Equality was Won

by Ian Millhiser – No one should be fired because of who they love. Americans enjoy a fundamental right to marry, regardless of whether they are straight, bisexual, or gay. Yet, in more than half of the states, “a person can be married on Saturday and then fired on Monday for just that act,” as one federal court explained in a recent opinion. There is no federal law that explicitly protects workers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Moreover, while there are very strong arguments that existing protections against gender discrimination are broad enough to protect sexual minorities in the workplace, the courts have largely rejected these arguments. As a result, if you live in one of the 28 states that does not forbid discrimination against gay and bisexual workers, you can be fired because of the person you love. A federal appeals court appears poised to change that, however, at...

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John McCain: Republicans Will Block Anyone Clinton Names to the Supreme Court

by Ian Millhiser – The cat is out of the bag. Almost immediately after news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death broke, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proclaimed that “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.” And, with rare exception, this has been the Senate GOP’s message since Scalia’s seat became vacant — let the election happen first, and whoever wins that election gets to pick the next justice. Nevertheless, in a Monday interview with a Philadelphia radio host, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) admitted that Republicans will continue to block anyone the next president nominates to the Supreme Court — at least if that president is Hillary Clinton. “I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.” “The strongest argument I can make” for why Pennsylvania voters should reelect Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, is that a Republican Senate can...

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Supreme Court to Weigh ‘Malicious Prosecution’ and the 4th Amendment

by Damon Root – SCOTUS will hear oral arguments this week in Manuel v. City of Joliet. On March 18, 2011, an Illinois man named Elijah Manuel was asleep in the passenger seat of his car while his brother was driving when their vehicle was stopped by Joliet police for allegedly failing to signal. Here is how the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit summarized Manuel’s allegations about what happened next: A police officer detected an odor of burnt cannabis from inside the car. Without warning, the officer flung open the passenger’s door and dragged Manuel out. The officer pushed Manuel to the ground, handcuffed him, and then punched and kicked him. The officer then patted down Manuel, and in one pocket found a bottle of pills. The pills were then tested by officers who had arrived at the scene, and these officers falsified the results to show that...

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SCOTUS Considers if Man may be Executed after ‘Expert’ Testified that Black People are Dangerous

by Ian Millhiser – Count the failures of justice in Duane Buck’s case. 52-year-old Duane Buck is a model prisoner. As a devout Christian, he spends much of his time praying and atoning for his past sins. For two decades, he’s encouraged young people around him to self-reflect and better themselves. All the while, Buck has maintained a clean disciplinary record — always doing what is asked of him and never stepping out of line. And he’s done it all on while awaiting his execution. “On Death Row, inmates are routinely written up for trivial things like refusing to shave, having too many postage stamps, putting up art or photos on the wall or windows, refusing to shower on a given day,” Kate Black, a staff attorney for the Texas Defender Service who works closely with Buck, told reporters last week. “So for Mr. Buck to have existed for over 20 years in these...

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Why Isn’t Clinton Campaigning Loudly and Proudly on the Supreme Court?

by Miles Mogulescu – For this unenthusiastic Hillary Clinton voter—and I’m sure I’m not alone—there are two main reasons for voting for Hillary and urging others to do the same. The first is to keep Donald Trump’s tiny fingers away from the nuclear codes and to prevent a racist, misogynist, xenophobic, hateful, lying and unhinged narcissist from becoming the leader of the ”free world.” The second is the Supreme Court, and, in particular, appointing justices who will help restore democracy and reduce political corruption by overturning the Citizens United ruling. Presidents serve for four or eight years. Supreme Court justices often serve for 30 years or more. This election will determine the direction of the Supreme Court for a generation. The Clinton campaign needs to make clear that the future of American democracy is at stake in deciding whether she or Trump will appoint the next Supreme Court justices. As...

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A Conservative Bastion No More: How Obama Transformed the 4th Circuit, and 2016’s Huge Importance

by deadpan – What if we could take perhaps the second- or third-most powerful court in the country, a favorite court of conservatives, and install a liberal/progressive majority instead? What if this is not a hypothetical or fantasy? Because it’s not.  The 4th Circuit, which hears federal appeals from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, was long regarded as perhaps the nation’s most conservative federal court—even more than the Supreme Court.  Yet now, it is not even a conservative court of any kind.  What changed? President Obama.  That’s what changed.  And he did it with remarkable speed. (Note—the 4th Circuit’s power stems from its jurisdiction over Maryland and Virginia, homes to many federal agencies.  So when conservatives try to decrease federal power vis a vis wealthy business interests, the cases often go to the 4th Circuit.) A Brief History of the 4th Circuit Race Unsurprisingly, race plays a...

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This Is What An Actual Functioning Democracy Looks Like

by Ian Millhiser – America’s darling cousin to the north faces an absolutely precious governance problem. On Thursday, Canadian Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin complained in a speech to the Canadian Bar Association that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hasn’t filled a vacancy on the nation’s supreme court that does not open up until next month. “I understand that process is important,” Chief Justice McLachlin told the gathered lawyers, “but it is also essential that the current vacancy be filled so that the Supreme Court of Canada can discharge its responsibilities in the session to come in the best possible fashion.” Bear in mind that Trudeau’s choice to fill this seat will not face an American-style confirmation process, so the chief justice’s complaint boils down to a concern that Canada’s next justice may not have as much time to prepare before they step into a seat immediately after it becomes vacant. #CanadaProblems are...

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Conservative Legal Scholars Would Prefer Liberal Supreme Court Than a President Trump

by Joan McCarter – Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is contemplating forcing a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, when Congress reconvenes in September. The vote would put a lot of vulnerable Republicans in the tough position of going with a highly qualified candidate in Garland, or emphasizing the fact that they are implicitly endorsing the idea of Donald Trump picking the next SCOTUS justices. Reid just got some help for his strategy courtesy of conservative legal scholars who think a more liberal court is preferable to a Trump presidency. “The court is important, to be sure ― but not nearly that important,” said retired Temple University Law School Professor David Post, who now writes for the conservative website the Volokh Conspiracy. “With all due respect to my colleagues who might feel differently, this one strikes me as a no-brainer.” The next president might end up only filling...

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Election 2016 and the Importance of the Supreme Court

by David Morris – One could write a book about the impact of the current Court on the possibilities of a political revolution. Here’s just a sample. Many of us disagree with Hillary Clinton on a number of issues, in some cases intensely.  But there is one overarching reason we should be vigorously supporting her election:  The future of the Supreme Court is at stake. An ardent Bernie supporter to whom I expressed this sentiment responded that the wounds are still fresh.  Bernie’s legions “are not ready to be told (as they are every four years) that the election ‘is’ of ‘should be’ or ‘must be’ all about the Supreme Court,” he asserts. Repetition doesn’t make it untrue.  At the risk of opening old wounds, not voting for Al Gore contributed, in part, to the current right wing Court.  I don’t recall people needing persuading to vote for Barack Obama in...

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is The Latest In A Long Line Of Justices To Weigh In On Politics

by IAN MILLHISER – On a fall day in 1955, Thurgood Marshall needed a signature to save a man’s life. Marshall’s client, as recounted in Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, was an African-American man convicted of raping a white woman under dubious circumstances. The Florida Supreme Court had just rejected Marshall’s request for a last-minute stay of execution, and Marshall needed the Chief Justice of the United States, Fred Vinson, to stop the execution before it was too late. Marshall found the chief in a hotel, two blocks from the White House, playing poker with President Harry Truman. Truman sat silently as his good friend Vinson read Marshall’s brief and eventually decided to side with Marshall’s client. It was a common scene in the Truman administration. Often, Vinson and Justice Tom Clark joined Truman on the presidential...

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How Justice Scalia’s Absence Has Affected the Supreme Court’s Decisions

by Marjorie Cohn, Truthout | News Analysis – If Justice Antonin Scalia had survived to participate in the remainder of the 2015-2016 Supreme Court term, his vote would have made a significant difference in the resolution of several cases. Moreover, if the Senate had confirmed Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s seat, some of those cases might well have turned out differently. From unions’ rights to tribal jurisdiction, immigration and birth control, Scalia’s absence has already impacted a number of important decisions, foreshadowing how the country might be shaped by substantial changes to the court’s makeup over the next president’s term. The Union Dues Case Without Scalia as the ninth justice on the court, labor unions scored a victory in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Unable to agree on a resolution of the case, the justices split 4-4 (likely along ideological lines) with the following words: “The judgment is affirmed by an...

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Yet More Good Abortion News from the Supreme Court

by Meteor Blades – On the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-3 ruling Monday that overturned provisions of a Texas law that would otherwise have closed half of the state’s remaining 19 abortion clinics, there was more good news in the fallout Tuesday. The Court announced that it would not hear appeals from Mississippi and Wisconsin regarding similar provisions in their own laws. The provision in both states mandated that physicians at abortion clinics be required to have “admitting privileges” at nearby hospitals. In the Texas ruling—Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt—the Court rejected the admitting privileges provision as well as another mandating that abortion clinics be built and equipped like mini-hospitals. The majority’s reasoning held that the law “places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion” and “constitutes an undue burden on abortion access.” By declining to hear the cases, the Supremes upheld the Wisconsin ruling last November by the 7th...

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The Supreme Court’s ‘Wise Latina’ Notches Her First Key Victory

by IAN MILLHISER – Twenty-five years ago on Wednesday, the greatest lawyer of the twentieth century confronted his own mortality. “I’m old,” Justice Thurgood Marshall told a room full of reporters. “I’m getting old and falling apart.” The man who time and time again had forced Jim Crow to retreat using only the power of his own arguments was leaving the Supreme Court. Justice Marshall’s retirement left a void on the nation’s highest Court for nearly two decades. Marshall was, as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the year after his retirement, “a man who knew the anguish of the silenced and gave them a voice.” This was a man who’d personally faced lynch mobs while struggling to save innocent black men from a death sentence, a lawyer of unmatched skill and poise who was chased out of Southern towns with warnings that “n*ggers ain’t welcome in these parts after dark.”...

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Justice Thomas Argues That Convicted Domestic Abusers Need Easier Access To Guns

by LAUREL RAYMOND – Today the Supreme Court handed down two decisions: The first is a monumental, headline-grabbing defeat for anti-abortion groups. The second is a highly technical case about gun rights that’s being mostly overlooked. In the dissenting opinion for the latter case, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas argues that convicted domestic abusers have been defrauded of their right to deadly weapons. At-issue in Voisine v. United States is a technical question of whether two men with convictions for “reckless” domestic assault fall under a federal law prohibiting people convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” from possessing a firearm. The law prohibiting domestic abusers from possessing firearms wasn’t the question under discussion — instead, the question was how far that law reached over certain states’ differing domestic assault laws. Justice Thomas, however, was very concerned in arguments about the broader law that domestic abusers at large can’t...

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‘Victory for Children of Every Color’: SCOTUS Upholds Affirmative Action

by Deirdre Fulton – Surprise ruling ‘reaffirms the value of diversity in higher education,’ says ACLU In a narrow but significant 4-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative action program. The court’s decision (pdf) in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin “is a victory for children of every color in America,” the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on Twitter. The case was brought by Abigail Fisher of Sugar Land, Texas, a white woman who said the university had denied her admission based on her race. Fisher, who has since graduated from Louisiana State University, had the backing of anti-affirmative action groups. As Vox explains: The case, Fisher v. Texas, challenged the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions procedures. Most of its students are chosen by admitting the students at the top of every high school class in the state. Because Texas’s...

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Justice Sotomayor Issues Dire Warning About What The Police Can Do To Black And Brown Americans

by AVIVA SHEN – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that police can still arrest someone for an outstanding warrant even if they had no right to stop the person in the first place. The opinion, authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, reverses a Utah Supreme Court order to suppress evidence discovered by a police officer during an illegal stop. After getting an anonymous tip about unspecified drug activity at a house, Officer Douglas Fackrell monitored the house for several days and ultimately decided to stop a random visitor to the house. That unlucky visitor turned out to be Edward Strieff. Fackrell had no reason to stop Strieff, yet he asked for identification and discovered a minor traffic violation on his record. Fackrell arrested him for the outstanding warrant and searched him, finding a bag of methamphetamine. Thomas reasoned that even though the initial stop was unlawful, the discovery of the...

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The Justices Are About To Hand Down The Most Important Abortion Case In A Quarter Century

by IAN MILLHISER – Barring extraordinary events, the eight justices of the Supreme Court will begin a three month summer vacation next week. Before they go, however, they need to resolve a little over a dozen cases, including an attack on the Obama administration’s immigration policies, a major challenge to affirmative action, and the most significant abortion case to reach the Supreme Court since the right to choose’s near death experience in 1992. The Supreme Court has been a dangerous battlefield for pro-choice advocates since 2006, when the appointment of Justice Samuel Alito gave conservatives a solid grip on the nation’s highest Court. Indeed, not long after Alito joined the Court, he provided the key fifth vote in Gonzales v. Carhart, which effectively overruled a 5-4 pro-choice decision and appeared to provide groups opposed to abortion with a blueprint they could use to undermine reproductive freedom. Carhart upheld a ban...

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Trump Says He Will Delegate Judicial Selection To The Conservative Federalist Society

by IAN MILLHISER – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has a message for members of his party who fear that he will appoint someone to the bench who is insufficiently conservative: chill! Trump’s not even planning on picking judges himself. Rather, he told a radio show hosted by the pro-Trump media site Breitbart earlier this week, he will delegate this function to a leading conservative legal group. It’s Trump’s latest, and most explicit, effort to allay fears among conservatives who fear that his judges could depart from the Republican Party’s preferred reading of the Constitution. Trump previously indicated that he was working with the Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative policy shop, to identify potential Supreme Court nominees. Last month, he released a list of 11 white people that he would consider appointing to the nation’s highest Court, a list that was praised even by Trump skeptics on the right. Trump’s remarks...

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