Gavel Grab

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

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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Special Interests Set Sights on U.S. Supreme Court

Special-interest US Supreme Courtgroups are openly sizing up their chances to influence the next nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to NPR.   With the Democrats’ slim majority in  the Senate potentially up for grabs in midterm elections, groups ranging from the National Rifle Association to People for the American Way are emphasizing Senate confirmation of high court nominees as they plot their next political moves.   The conservative Committee for Justice “asserted that ‘filibustering a bad nominee will not be an option’ without a Senate takeover,” the piece notes.

The current jockeying is in marked contrast to what happened in 2010, NPR reports, when Republicans mounted very little opposition to the last nominee to the Supreme Court, Justice Elena Kagan.  Meanwhile, Kagan recently credited her ascent to the Court to trailblazing civil rights advocacy by the Court’s eldest justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.   In a piece headlined “Kagan Says Her Path to Supreme Court Was Made Smoother by Ginsburg’s,”  The New York Times  describes overt discrimination battled by Ginsburg throughout her career.

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U.S. Supreme Court: Perception vs. Reality

What’s it really like to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court? According to the Sun Sentinel, Justice Samuel Alito told a West Palm Beach, Florida, crowd, it’s not what people might imagine.

“A lot of people, I think, have the impression that sitting on the bench and listening to oral arguments is the main thing we do,” Alito said.

“If people were to see me really at work, it would not be a particularly edifying spectacle. They would see me at my computer at eight in the morning in my pajamas.”

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Analysis: Greater Reach for High Court’s Marriage Ruling

Another timely reminder of how courts matter comes in a New Yorker blog post by attorney Richard Socarides entitled “The Growing Impact of the Supreme Court’s Gay-Marriage Ruling.”

In United States v. Windsor last year, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a key section the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), denying federal benefits to gay or lesbian couples who are married. The court did not go so far as to find a constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples.

Nonetheless, Socarides writes, “The sweeping significance of the Supreme Court’s landmark gay-rights decision in United States v. Windsor, last June, has become even more evident in the past month, thanks to a series of important lower-court decisions that have interpreted it broadly.” He chronicles these rulings and suggests that “the language of the Windsor decision may have been so powerful that the Court in fact accelerated a movement it sought to temporarily restrain.”

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Obama Delivers Milder Message to Supreme Court Justices

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama dialed back from the confrontational tone he used toward Supreme Court justices in 2010, and instead delivered a muted criticism of a court ruling, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire.

“Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened,” Obama said on Tuesday without pointing a finger specifically at the court over a 5-4 decision that struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. “But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working to strengthen it.”

Jess Bravin blogged for the Washington Wire that TV camera operators apparently did not grasp immediately what the president was referring to and did not turn the cameras to catch the reaction of justices in the audience. Read more

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Will Supreme Court Consider Overruling ‘Korematsu’?

What happens when a Supreme Court ruling turns out to be a real “disaster,” an unmitigated “blunder,” and everyone knows it? Adam Liptak addresses the intriguing question in a New York Times article about a new effort to overrule the court’s 1944 ruling in Korematsu v. United States.

The ruling has been widely discredited. It upheld an executive order that led to the removal from their homes and the internment of 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry.

Now plaintiffs seeking Supreme Court review of a 2012 federal law are also asking the court to examine whether it should overrule Korematsu.  The law is the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2012. It permits  imprisonment of American citizens without trial if they’re suspected of terrorism crimes.

More than three decades ago, a congressional commission labeled the nation’s internment of Japanese-Americans “a grave injustice” driven by “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.” It said that “the decision in Korematsu lies overruled in the court of history.”

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