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.

Same-Sex Marriages Set to Begin in VA Next Week

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va. rejected Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg’s request to postpone its ruling dropping Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, reports USA Today.

According to the piece, the three-judge panel ruled the right of gays and lesbians to marry constitutional last month. That means that same-sex couples could get married in Virginia starting August 20th and the state would start recognizing gay marriages from other states too, unless the Supreme Court intervenes.

“There is no doubt that Virginia is ready for the freedom to marry. …We are thrilled that the 4th Circuit denied the request for a stay and hope that we will see wedding celebrations in Virginia as early as next week. Marriage validates the commitment couples make to one another and, if the Supreme Court doesn’t intervene, achieving marriage equality in Virginia will be a tremendous step forward,” stated James Parrish, the executive director of Equality Virginia.

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.

Tuesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • Debate over whether elections are the best way to choose justices accelerates in Arkansas, Times Record reported.
  • Unfilled judicial vacancies reduce the efficiency of court services and strain prison capacity, reports The Daily Progress.  “It has definitely slowed the criminal justice process down,” Col. Martin Kumer, the superintendent of Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, said of Edward Hogshire’s retirement from Charlottesville Circuit Court.

President Obama Prepares for Possible Supreme Court Vacancy

President Barack Obama spoke to a group of donors to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and expressed his goal of holding a democratic majority in the Senate in order to fill potential vacancies in the Supreme Court, Time reported.

“…I need a Democratic Senate. Not to mention the fact that we’re going to have Supreme Court appointments, and there are going to be a whole host of issues that many people here care about that are going to be determined by whether or not Democrats retain the Senate,” he said.

According to the piece, it was the first time President Obama suggested a Supreme Court vacancy in his final years of office.

“The President’s comments were meant to convey the important role the Senate would play in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy,” a White House spokesperson said. “They were not in reference to a specific vacancy.”

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.”

Opinion: Cohesion of Michigan Supreme Court

Justices Robert P. Young Jr. and Bridget McCormack published an op-ed on The Detroit News summarizing the Michigan Supreme Court’s achievements of the past year.

The piece emphasizes the court’s unity rule, which consists of nearly 40 percent of their opinions. They note that dissents were not divided along the party lines and therefore, the court is governed by the law instead of politics.

The two justices also provide statistics that show high satisfaction of the public who used the court service. Furthermore, they point out its success in reducing costs and improving efficiency for both the courts and related government agencies.

AK Judicial Council Can Inform on Judges before Retention

As a result of almost four years’ court contention, an opinion issued by Alaska State Supreme Court last Friday authorized the Alaska Judicial Council to release new information about judges within the three months prior to an election, reports Alaska Dispatch News.

According to the article, in 2010, the council advertised against former Alaska District Court Judge Richard Postma, who failed to be retained in the end. In response to voters’ complaints regarding the council’s authority before an election, the Supreme Court allowed it to make retention recommendations while forbidding it from issuing new information against the judge in the three months before an election.

Alaska Judicial Council Executive Director Susanne DiPietro described the new opinion, which freed the council to advertise and inform previous to an election, a “very good outcome for the council and the public.” “I think that the court is recognizing the importance of the council’s public information purpose,” she stated.

The Alaska Department of Law also praised the Supreme Court’s decision in a statement, which says “The Judicial Council plays a vital role in educating the public and ensuring that voters have the information needed to decide whether or not to retain a judge.”

Groups Criticize the Lack of Judicial Diversity

During this judicial election season, groups from various parts of the nation are striving to improve the reality of diversity in courts.

A coalition of eight Asian American bars denounced the lack of Asians among Gov. Jerry Brown’s 10 new judicial appointments to the California Superior Court in mid-July “as lagging behind Northern California’s demographics,” reported.

The Coalition of Asian Pacific Islander Bar Associations of Northern California stated that Gov. Brown “lags far behind the record of his Republican predecessor, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who appointed 13 Asian American judges in Northern California during his two terms.” (more…)

Appointed Judge Challenges NM Democratic Party’s Judicial Nomination

District Judge Gina Manfredi sued the state Democratic Party Tuesday morning over New Mexico’s judicial nomination practice, reports the Albuquerque Journal.

“The conflict created between these two selection procedures further politicizes the judicial selection process, dilutes the New Mexico Constitution, and shifts the focus of the judicial nomination from merit to political support garnered at the state central committee meeting,” the lawsuit says.

Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Manfredi to the 13th Judicial District last month after the deadline to run in the June primary election. Under the constitutional amendment creating the judicial nominating commission process in 1988, judges appointed by the governor are subject to both partisan and nonpartisan elections later in order to remain on the bench. (more…)