Gavel Grab

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

Ginsburg Warns of Corruption From Money in Judicial Races

ap_ruth_ginsburg_090205_mnSupreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has issued a stern warning about the impact of campaign spending on impartial courts.

In an interview with the National Law Journal, she criticized the court’s “biggest mistake” in the area of its campaign finance jurisprudence, and added, “It should be increasingly clear how [money] is corrupting our system, and it is spreading in states that elect their judges.”

In replies to other questions, she discussed some of the court’s rulings, “a real racial problem” in the United States and other matters. The article began, “The turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., and the controversial stop-and-frisk policy in New York City illustrate a ‘real racial problem’ in America, one that recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have done little to help, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg” told the publication.

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Greenhouse: Efforts to Influence Courts ‘By Any Means Necessary’

US Supreme CourtMillions of Americans stand to be affected by any final decision in the federal courts about the legality of the government subsidizing health insurance premiums for individuals.

In the wake of dueling federal court opinions on this issue (see Gavel Grab), Linda Greenhouse offers an intriguing analysis in the New York Times about the protracted efforts of federal Affordable Care Act foes to derail the law in the courts. She calls it “turning to the courts to achieve what politics won’t deliver” and suggests the latest efforts rely on an extremely fine point of law. Read more

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Ginsburg: Court’s Clinic Buffer Zone Ruling Correct

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg defends the court’s unanimous decision striking down the buffer zones outside Massachusetts’ abortion clinics, Akron Legal News reported.

“It was not a compromise decision but a good decision to say yes, you can regulate, but it is speech so you have to be careful not to go too far,” Ginsburg said in an interview on Thursday.

On the other hand, the article points out that women’s groups dislike the ruling. “This decision emboldens more extreme violence, harassment, and intimidation of women and health care providers in the name of free speech,” Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal said.

“If you looked at what they had in evidence, it was pitiful compared to some in-your-face demonstrations,” Ginsburg argued in response.

In addition, according the piece, the justice is optimistic about future court decisions on same-sex marriages and her ability to continue her service on the bench. “Right now, I don’t see any sign that I’m less able to do the job,” she said.

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Study: SCOTUS Unanimity May Not Influence Public Opinion

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. expressed his goal of achieving consensus during his confirmation hearings, as he viewed that closely divided opinions hindered the Court’s public image as nonpartisan, reports the ABA Journal.

According to the article, Washington State University political scientist Michael Salamone used two experiments to show that the court vote did not affect people’s attitudes toward specific cases, unless the issues mattered little to them.

“The idea that 5-4 decisions pose a serious problem of credibility or legitimacy remains an unproven hypothesis,”  Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein said of Salamone’s study.

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Roberts to ABA: Rise Above Partisanship.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts remarked about the nation’s political polarization and addressed the significance of the Magna Carta at the annual conference of the American Bar Association, reports WBUR and Associated Press.

“We live in an era in which sharp partisan divides within our political branches have shaken public faith across the board,” he said.

“Lawyers fulfill their professional calling to its fullest extent when they rise above particular partisan debates and participate as problem solvers,” Chief Justice urged lawyers to mend partisan divide.  “We in the judiciary must also look to the bar for broader assistance in maintaining the public’s confidence in the integrity of our legal system,” he stressed.

According to both papers, Roberts centered his speech on the Magna Carta, which is turning 800-year-old next year. “It kindled America’s own Declaration of Independence,” he said. “It laid the foundation for the ascent of liberty.”

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Analysis: SCOTUS Asked by Both Parties to Review Utah Marriage Case

In an unusual move, a team of lawyers arguing for marriage rights for three same-sex Utah couples is joining a brief authored by Utah officials asking for the Supreme Court to accept the case for review, Adam Liptak reports for The New York Times.

“It is quite uncommon for the winning side to urge the justices to hear an appeal, but there have been a handful of notable exceptions recently,” he writes. “One of them was the Hobby Lobby case, in which a chain of craft stores that had won in the appeals court nonetheless urged the justices to hear the government’s appeal and ultimately won in the Supreme Court, too.”

He goes on to describe the various criteria that the justices evaluate when deciding to grant certiorari, including whether a lower court decision strikes down a state law or constitutional provision, whether they have intervened in a case in this legal area in the past, and whether there are conflicting decisions among various lower courts. Liptak explains that the Utah case currently meets all except the last of these standards.

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Commentary: Legal Scholar Suggests 5 Supreme Court Reforms

federal-court-buildingLegal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky proposes a merit selection process and 18-year, non-renewable terms for Supreme Court justices among reforms that he believes could help make the high court better perform its job of enforcing the Constitution.

Chemerinsky is dean of the University of California at Irvine School of Law. At the Moyers & Co. website, he is critical of some decisions by the high court in its latest term, as well as the work of the court during its entire existence. He will argue in his upcoming book, he says, that “the Supreme Court has largely failed at its most important tasks of enforcing the Constitution and protecting the rights of minorities.”

The other reforms he proposes include clarifying that the court’s most important role is “to enforce the Constitution against the will of the majority”; changing the confirmation process with the Senate insisting “as a condition of confirmation, that the nominee answer detailed questions about his or her views on important constitutional questions”; and mandating strong ethics rules and recusals of high court justices.

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Utah Heads to Supreme Court to Appeal a Marriage Ruling

131226040854_gay-marriage-utah-640The office of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced that Utah will go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court to appeal a ruling by a panel of the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying the state cannot ban the marriage of same-sex couples.

When the appeals court issued its ruling last month (see Gavel Grab) it became the first federal appeals court to decide that voter-approved bans on marriage of same-sex couples violate the 14th Amendment rights of such couples to equal protection and due process, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Regarding Utah’s plans to appeal to the Supreme Court, Lyle Denniston wrote at SCOTUSblog, “This will be the first case reaching the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of such state bans since the Justices in United States v. Windsor a year ago struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act — a ruling that set off a series of decisions by federal and state trial courts, all of which so far have nullified state bans on same-sex marriages.”

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Essay: Of the Branches, Courts Faring Better in Public Opinion

A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court in WashingtonPublic confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court recently was reported to be at a record low, according to a Gallup poll that was mentioned in Gavel Grab. The poll grabbed numerous headlines to that effect.

But there’s a more favorable way of looking at the polling data, Matt K. Lewis writes at The Week. The headline of his commentary declares, “The Supreme Court: The last bastion of American leadership? No branch of government is popular these days. But the courts are faring better than the rest.”

Thirty percent of those surveyed said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the high court, compared to 29 percent of respondents voicing the same level of confidence in the presidency and seven percent in the Congress. The rate of confidence in the presidency declined more precipitously in the past two decades than the rate of confidence in the court, and the rate of confidence in Congress scored a record low. Read more

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Three Female Justices in Stinging Dissent on Birth Control Order

The Supreme Court finished a term rare for its number of unanimous opinions (see Gavel Grab) with a decision about contraception coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act that drew a stinging dissent from the court’s three female justices.

According to the New York Times, the decision provides the religiously affiliated Wheaton College in Illinois a temporary exemption from some of the Affordable Care Act regulations on birth control coverage. The court’s three female justices dissented, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor writing that the decision conflicted with the court’s earlier ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which dealt with for-profit companies (see Gavel Grab). Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined the dissent.

“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “Not so today.” She added that the court’s ruling even “undermines confidence in this institution.” Links to other coverage of the Wheaton College order are available from SCOTUSblog. Read more

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