Category Archives: The Supremes

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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Civil Rights Groups Appeal Michigan’s Debtor Prisons

English: The inscription Equal Justice Under L...

English: The inscription Equal Justice Under Law as seen on the frieze of the United States Supreme Court building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Friday, the Brennan Center for Justice, the ACLU of Michigan, and the Michigan State Planning Body filed an amicus brief appealing the prison sentence of Joseph Bailey, who was jailed because of his inability to pay court-ordered restitution. The brief argues that jailing Bailey for being poor is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and the Michigan constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that indigent people may not be incarcerated based on their inability to pay criminal justice-related debt.

“Imprisoning defendants who are too poor to pay court-related fees is more than just a violation of their constitutional rights,” said Jessica Eaglin, counsel at the Brennan Center. “It perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty and punishment that worsens the growing costs of unnecessary incarceration. The court needs to create a system that imposes suitable penalties for criminal action while protecting defendants, their families and the economy.”

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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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Cheney’s New Heart Is an Argument For Obamacare

Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service)

Last weekend,Dick Cheney received a new heart. The right got a new talking point, and, as Gawker writer Mobutu Sese Seko points out, the left didn’t really get it at all.

Conservative bloggers saw Mr. Cheney’s transplant as an opportunity. The American Thinker brought back death panels to suggest that Obamacare would have killed Mr. Cheney, who is seventy-one, six years past the conventional age limit. Breitbart.com criticized The Daily Beast‘s questioning the means by which Mr. Cheney got his transplant. RedState ran an article announcing, “A Poorer Man Than Dick Cheney Might’ve Died if ObamaCare was in Full Effect.”

This is where the left missed an opportunity to explain why casting 50 million people to an unaccountable insurance establishment is a terrible idea. Some of the most helpful commentary came from Kelly Phillips Erb at Forbes, who made a great and unintentional case for the public option:

Fortunately for Cheney, the cost of his health care was covered by taxpayers. In addition to health insurance provided through the government for Cheney’s years of service, Cheney, like millions of other Americans was eligible for Medicare benefits when he turned 65….
It’s ironic, of course, that Cheney received his new heart just as the debate about Obamacare was being argued in front of the Supreme Court.

Despite having five heart attacks since the age of thirty-seven, Mr. Cheney’s preëxisting conditions haven’t kept him from having first-rate medical coverage. That’s a virtue of being wealthy, but it’s also a virtue of being able to get on a government plan that’s carried over into a private career.

Under Obamacare, men who lose their jobs (or jump back and forth from public- to private-sector employment) won’t face being priced out of coverage because of the preëxisting conditions they racked up at the previous job. Nor will they face employers’ unilaterally altering the conditions of their insurance.

All these are things Mr. Cheney got to enjoy via the government. These packages for elected federal officials don’t get into the cynical rescission business that the rest of us face.

Obamacare isn’t perfect, but at least the PPACA protects against manipulating lifetime coverage limits and denial for preëxisting conditions, ensuring people aren’t hostage to employer whims or elimination of coverage.

It’s easy to sympathize with internet wags and their moments of outrage. “Why is Cheney still alive?” is a satisfying question, but the answer to that question is that he has wonderful health insurance coverage. There’s no shame in having Dick Cheney to kick around some more. The shame is that we don’t have countless other people around because they lack a comparably generous safety net.

Getting angry at Cheney missed the point: with such a critical decision pending from the Supreme Court, it was time to get angry for everybody else.

Via Gawker.

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Scalia Fails to Name the Nine Supreme Court Justices

Antonin Scalia - Caricature

Antonin Scalia - Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia struggled to recall the names of all nine active Supreme Court justices while playing a trivia game Thursday, sources confirmed.

“Let’s see, there’s Breyer, um…Ginsburg. Pretty sure that’s one. And, uh, there’s that guy with the bow tie and the pinched face,” said Justice Scalia, noting that his difficulty in answering stemmed largely from the significant turnover on the nation’s highest court since he memorized the names of its members in high school. “I can picture him in the photo, but what’s his name? Oh, I remember Clarence Thomas, of course, because of the Anita Hill thing, and then there’s that Mexican woman with the name that’s impossible to pronounce. And…Kerrigan?”

After initially declining offers of a hint, Justice Scalia reportedly caved in and asked if someone could just give him the first couple letters of each justice’s last name.

Via The Onion. Happy April 1!

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BREAKING: SCOTUS Concludes Arguments about Health Care Law

Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nine: Inside the...

Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Supreme Court today concluded a debate on health care with Justices signaling a divide that could topple some or all of the law signed by President Barack Obama.

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said he found the questioning by Justices signaled they are ready to invalidate the individual mandate.

At issue on the third day of debate was whether all the law’s 450 provisions would have to be scrapped if the individual mandate were found unconstitutional.

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Toobin: Court Unlikely to Uphold ACA

Jeffrey Toobin at the 2007 Texas Book Festival...

Jeffrey Toobin at the 2007 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CNN’s legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin reports that the Supreme Court’s conservative wing appeared skeptical of the Affordable Care Act.

“This was a train wreck for the Obama administration. This law looks like it’s going to be struck down,” Mr. Toobin said on CNN. “All of the predictions including mine that the justices would not have a problem with this law were wrong.”

“The only conservative justice who looked like he might uphold the law was Chief Justice Roberts who asked hard questions of both sides. All four liberal justices tried as hard as they could to make the arguments in favor of the law, but they were — they did not meet with their success with their colleagues,” Mr. Toobin said.

Via Politico.

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