Tag Archives: Supreme Court

Outside Spending Floods Judicial Elections at Record Levels

U.S. Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. ...

U.S. Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

Special-interest groups and political parties spent an unprecedented $24.1 million on television ads and election materials in state court races in 2011-2012, according to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Justice at Stake, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

The report, The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2011-12: How New Waves of Special Interest Spending Raised the Stakes for Fair Courts, provides a comprehensive look at 2011-2012 state Supreme Court elections. In the first election cycle since Citizens United, independent spending helped fuel the costliest election cycle for TV spending in judicial election history and posed new threats to fair and impartial justice.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Non-candidate groups (including political parties) pumped in 43% of all funds spent on state high court elections, compared to 22% in the last presidential election cycle. Super PACs and other outside groups funneled big spending into some state judicial elections for the first time.
  • 35% of all funds spent on state high court races came from ten deep-pocketed special interest groups and political parties, compared to 21%, coming from the top ten “super spenders” in 2007-08.
  • A record $33.7 million was spent on Supreme Court campaign TV ads, far exceeding the previous record of $26.6 million in 2007-08. Negative TV ads aired in at least ten states.
  • National politics invaded judicial races in 2011-12. In Iowa, TV ads referenced marriage equality; in Florida, the federal Affordable Care Act; and in Wisconsin, collective bargaining rights.

The report also found legislative attacks on merit-based systems for judge selection, including anti-retention campaigns in Florida and Iowa. Florida experienced record spending by all sides when three state Supreme Court justices stood for retention. On Election Day 2012, however, voters retained the three Florida justices and a challenged justice in Iowa. Voters also rejected ballot measures in three states to give politicians more power over the courts.

The report warns of future attacks on reforms designed to protect fair courts and harmful spending trends. According to the report, “Perhaps most disturbing of all, … is that while independent spending on state court races ballooned in 2011–12, it still has room to grow. …[F]uture years may see an even greater expansion in independent spending by interest groups and parties in judicial elections.”

The New Politics of Judicial Elections reports, produced biennially, have monitored election spending and other threats to the impartiality of state courts since 2000.

Read the New Politics report here.

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Ginsburg: Marriage Equality Shows the “Genius” of the Constitution

English: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justic...

English: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who recently officiated at a friend’s same-sex wedding, told a Philadelphia audience that growing acceptance of gay marriage reflects the “genius” of the U.S. Constitution.

Justice Ginsburg said equality has always been central to the Constitution, even if society has only applied it to minorities over time.

Justice Ginsburg, the second woman named to the high court, has now served for 20 years and leads the court’s liberal minority. Her increasingly candid and forceful writing, has attracted ardent fans.

Justice Ginsburg gave no hint she would wind down her judicial career anytime soon.

Via HuffPo.

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Justice Ginsburg to Officiate Over Gay Wedding

English: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justic...

English: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Saturday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will become the first Supreme Court member to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony when she officiates at the wedding of Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser.

The wedding of Kaiser and John Roberts (No relation, but the couple recognized the coincidence on their save-the-date cards.) at the performing arts center will mark a new milepost in the recognition of same-sex unions.

Justice Ginsburg seemed excited about being the first member of the court to conduct such a ceremony. “I think it will be one more statement that people who love each other and want to live together should be able to enjoy the blessings and the strife in the marriage relationship,” she said.

Justice Ginsburg and Kaiser are close friends. “I can’t imagine someone I’d rather be married by” than Justice Ginsburg, Kaiser said in an interview.

Earlier this summer, Ginsburg was in the majority in a pair of major gay rights victories at the Supreme Court. The court said the federal government may not refuse to recognize legally married gay couples and reinstated a lower-court ruling that found California’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s decisions in June had no effect on the marriage plans of Kaiser and Roberts because same-sex unions have been legal in the District of Columbia since 2010.

It is not uncommon for Supreme Court justices to officiate at weddings. Ginsburg tied the knot for her son. Justice Clarence Thomas performed one of the many marriage ceremonies for Rush Limbaugh.

Via The Washington Post.

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On This Day…

Via Wikipedia.

On March 6, 1857, in its Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court held that Scott, a slave, could not sue for his freedom in a federal court.

Via The New York Times.

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SCOTUS to Cut the Voting Rights Act?

Via Wikipedia.

Judging from Wednesday’s Supreme Court arguments, a central provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 appears to be in jeopardy.

If the Court overturns the provision, nine states (most of them in the South) could change voting rules without getting federal permission.

During the argument, the Court’s conservative bloc suggested that the burdens on the states were no longer justified, as they had outgrown their racist pasts.

Chief Justice John Roberts asked whether “the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North.”

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is often the swing vote when the justices break down along ideological lines, asked whether Alabama today is an “independent sovereign” or whether it must live “under the trusteeship of the United States government.”

Justice Antonin Scalia said the law amounted to a “perpetuation of racial entitlement,” drawing gasps from the otherwise staid audience.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor challenged this view. “Do you think that the right to vote is a racial entitlement?” she asked. “Do you think that racial discrimination in voting has ended, that there is none anywhere?”

The outcome of the case will likely not be announced until the end of the Court’s term in June.

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SCOTUS Rejects Surveillance Case

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit challenging a federal law that gave the government a broader ability to eavesdrop on international communications.

In a 5-to-4 ruling split along ideological lines, the Court shielded a government anti-terrorism program from facing a Constitutional challenge.

The law is called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or FISA.  Congress amended FISA in 2008, giving the National Security Agency broader authority to monitor emails and phone calls of any U.S. citizens, so long as they are suspected of communicating with anyone located outside the United States.  The amended provision was set to expire at the end of last year, but Congress reauthorized the bill for another five years.

In Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, journalists, lawyers, and human rights advocates challenged the constitutionality of the law on the grounds that they might be subject to wiretapping.  Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, held that such fear was too speculative, so they lacked standing to sue.

“They cannot manufacture standing by incurring costs in anticipation of nonimminent harms,” Justice Alito wrote.  The plaintiffs claimed that the reason they had not been harmed yet was because they had taken steps to avoid the surveillance (such as traveling to meet clients in person and not sending emails or talking on the phone).

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the Court’s dissenting opinion.  He agreed with the plaintiffs that, if they had not shown harm already, it was only a matter of time. “Indeed, it is as likely to take place as are most future events that common-sense inference and ordinary knowledge of human nature tell us will happen,” Justice Breyer wrote.

To the dissent, the fact the plaintiffs had to alter their work practices to avoid having confidential calls overheard indicated some harm already. “In my view, this harm is not ‘speculative,’” Breyer added.

Via Impunity Watch.

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On This Day…

Standard Oil Company truck at the Oklahoma His...

Standard Oil Company truck at the Oklahoma History Center. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1911, the Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of Standard Oil Company, ruling it was in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

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