Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'U.S. Supreme Court' Category

McCutcheon’s Ramifications are Debated

The U.S. Supreme Court’s milestone recent ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission is continuing to draw a deluge of analysis and commentary. The ruling struck down a $123,000 limit on aggregate individual donations to federal candidates and political parties in an election cycle.

The 5-4 court majority effectively jettisoned “the post-Watergate system of campaign finance regulation,” Linda Greenhouse wrote in a New York Times commentary, entitled “An Indecent Burial.” Norman Ornstein, focusing on the majority’s limited view of what constitutes political corruption, wrote a National Journal piece headlined, “Could America Become a Banana Republic?The Supreme Court’s recent McCutcheon ruling paves the way for a new era of political corruption in the U.S.”

“Can’t We Just Say the Roberts Court is Corrupt?” asked a Moyers & Company commentary. Tom Levenson had an opinion piece in The Atlantic, and Zephyr Teachout authored a commentary in Politico.

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Op-Ed: “McCutcheon” and the Nature of Corruption

gavel-and-cash.125192919_stdThe U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission is especially striking in light of the recent “Adelson primary” in Las Vegas, according to an op-ed in The New York Times.  The ruling, striking down the $123,000 limit on individual donations to federal candidates or political parties, is based on an overly limited view of political corruption, argues the op-ed.  It cites this passage from the decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts:  ”Government regulation may not target the general gratitude a candidate may feel toward those who support him or his allies, or the political access such support may afford.”

But the op-ed maintains that the “Adelson primary,” in which casino magnate and political megadonor Sheldon Adelson held private interviews with a series of potential presidential hopefuls, tells a different story.  Such megadonors, the piece suggests, wield enormous influence that goes beyond ”general gratitude.” Continuing erosion of campaign finance regulations can be expected to increase this influence.

The McCutcheon decision has been criticized in a statement by Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg, who called it a ”big win for special interests and big spenders.” The case has been a flashpoint for concern about money in politics in general, and increases fears that state judicial elections will ultimately come under increased financial and political pressure.

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Controversy and Headlines Continue After McCutcheon Ruling

Since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC this past Wednesday, the decision has continued to make headlines.  On Fox News’s website, a blog discussed efforts by Democrats to tie the billionaire conservative Koch brothers to the result of the decision.  The blog mentioned that after the court’s 5-4 ruling had been announced, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York mused “I don’t think the Koch brothers lack for free speech.”

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate noted that the Citizens United ruling from five years ago had an 80 percent disapproval rate from the general public, and wondered if Chief Justice Roberts “doesn’t believe, or doesn’t care, that money corrupts politics.”  Meanwhile, the Anchorage Daily News asks if the decision will energize voters or do the opposite.  Describing American voters as “already angry at a distant, dysfunctional political system,” the piece calls into question how political leanings might affect reactions to the ruling.

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Supreme Court to Consider Another Political Donor Case?


US Supreme CourtIs the Supreme Court’s ruling on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission any indication on how it might handle a case on campaign contributions to candidates by corporations?

ScotusBlog reports the Court has been sitting on a case – Iowa Right to Life Committee v. Tooker – that would test a state’s flat ban on corporate donations. According to the electronic docket, the court is scheduled to consider it at its private Conference on Friday.

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Affordable Care Act Appeals Heard in Two D.C. Courtrooms

Outside the U.S. Supreme Court

Outside the U.S. Supreme Court

In two separate courtrooms in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, federal appellate judges heard challenges to different parts of the federal Affordable Care Act. Numerous news media outlets reported that at least in the oral arguments, the challengers found a majority open to their arguments.

At the U.S. Supreme Court, with protestors rallying outside, attorneys for for-profit companies contended the owners’ religious principles would be violated by the statute’s requirement that companies provide insurance coverage for contraception for employees (see Gavel Grab for background). “Justices, Divided, Appear to Favor Religious Claims in Contraception Case,” Legal Times reported.

A different case was argued at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. There, plaintiffs maintained that tax credits to help consumers pay Read more

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Controversial Contraception Rule Before U.S. Supreme Court

A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court in WashingtonA challenge to part of the federal Affordable Care Act, to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, asks whether a for-profit company must provide insurance coverage for contraception when the company insists that to do so would violate its religious principles.

A ruling could have more sweeping implications, according to analysts and advocates, that might get in the way of enforcing civil rights, healthy, and safety laws. The case drew extensive coverage and commentary in advance of Tuesday.

A Washington Post article was headlined, “High court with vocally devout justices set to hear religious objections to health-care law.” The New York Times reported, “Contraception Ruling Could Have Reach Far Beyond Women’s Rights.”  A Los Angeles Times headline declared, “Religious case at Supreme Court could affect Obamacare and much more.” You can find more coverage at the How Appealing law blog.

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Editorial: Don’t Make Judicial Retirement Timing Political

A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court in WashingtonSupreme Court justices ought not “try to manipulate the appointment process in the name of politics or even legacy,” a Baltimore Sun editorial says in joining the latest round of debate over calls for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire.

Some have urged that the liberal justice announce her retirement so that President Obama can name a successor while the U.S. Senate remains in Democratic control (see Gavel Grab).

“What is a call to resign now but another form of political interference?” the editorial asks.

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New Round of Debate Over Ginsburg and Retirement Timing

RuthBaderGinsburg43With control of the U.S. Senate increasingly seen as up for grabs in the midterm elections this year, court-watchers are renewing a debate over whether Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who recently turned 81, ought to retire so that President Obama could pick her successor while Democrats still control the chamber.

It’s hardly a new debate (see Gavel Grab) but it’s taken on a new life in the current political climate, and it’s even gotten attention overseas. The Economist reported, “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Should she stay or should she go?”

The latest round was kicked off by Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine school of law. Here are some of the others who have replied or looked into their own crystal ball to speculate about what might happen: Dahlia Lithwick in Slate, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is Irreplaceable: All you liberals trying to push her out, think about that”; Garrett Epps in The Atlantic, “Don’t Tell Ruth Ginsburg to Retire: This Supreme Court justice will leave the bench when she’s Read more

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Commentary: When One Justice Has ‘Emperor-Like’ Power

Anthony_Kennedy_official_SCOTUS_portrait_cropLegal affairs journalist Stuart Taylor Jr. often agrees with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s votes, but vigorously questions whether one individual ought to be deciding by virtue of his “swing vote” on the high court some of the most important controversial issues in the land.

Taylor’s commentary in the Daily Beast is entitled, “Will This Man Make Gay Marriage Legal Everywhere? Justice Anthony Kennedy has more power than any president or justice in history to decree the law of the land. Agree with him or not, there is something wrong with this picture.”

What is wrong, Taylor asserts, is that “the exercise of such emperor-like power by a single man—one who (like his colleagues) has never been elected to any public office would have lost his seat long ago if justices had to be reconfirmed based on their records—has very little to do either with democracy or with the written Constitution.”

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Justice Thomas’s Silence on the Bench is Debated

Justice ThomasIs a Supreme Court justice doing his job if for eight years, he abstains from asking a single question during oral arguments before the bench?

A mini-debate among analysts erupted over this question after Jeffrey Toobin wrote a sharp-edged New Yorker commentary entitled “Clarence Thomas’s Disgraceful Silence.” While Justice Thomas has made important contributions to the court’s jurisprudence, he said, the job of a justice is bigger than that. He said Justice Thomas by having “checked out” from oral arguments is failing to do his job and is “demeaning the Court.”

In the Los Angeles Times, editorial board member Michael McGough fired back that Toobin “doesn’t make much of a case for outrage over this admittedly odd behavior” and is notably weak in contending that the public deserves a window on a justice’s thought processes through oral argument. A superior window is available in the justice’s published opinions, he said. The justice “seems to be doing the most important part of his job,” McGough wrote. Read more

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