Election Law

I was on a fast-moving segment on HuffPost Live this afternoon called “Legalese It,” where host Mike Sacks runs through a bunch of overlooked legal items from the past week. Since I was on vacation for half of the week, I learned a lot! For instance, did you know that Michigan had an anti-begging statute on the books from the 1920s that was just struck down so they can put a big “Spare Some Change” sign in Detroit?

Okay, that’s not why it was struck down, but still. Also it seems that North Carolina is trying to restrict voting to five white guys chosen at random by Reince Priebus and Obama is now in favor of legislative prayer, as if nobody told him he can’t run for a third term.

Looks like I missed a lot, but that didn’t stop me from talking about it on the web. Specifically, I got to talk about how Eric Holder and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott are now friends when it comes to stopping USAIR and American Airlines from combining to own all the railroads on the Monopoly board…

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Howard Dean

* Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the legal wrangling: Eric Holder’s use of the VRA’s “bail in” provision to circumvent the SCOTUS ruling in Shelby may prove to be trouble. [National Law Journal]

* The Fifth Circuit upheld warrantless cellphone tracking yesterday, noting that it was “not per se unconstitutional.” We suppose that a per se victory for law enforcement is better than nothing. [New York Times]

* The pretty people at Davis Polk are fighting a $1.4 million suit over a headhunter’s fee with some pretty ugly words, alleging that the filing “fails both as a matter of law and common sense.” [Am Law Daily]

* Howard Dean is rather annoyed that he’s had to go on the defensive about his work for McKenna Long & Aldridge after railing against Obamacare. Ideally, he’d just like to scream and shout about it. [TIME]

* The ABA is concerned about Florida A&M, and sent a second warning about the school’s imminent failure to meet accreditation standards. Well, I’ll be damned, the ABA actually cares. [Orlando Sentinel]

* Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is suing to prevent a clerk from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. A silly little lawsuit won’t stop this guy from doing what he thinks is right. [Legal Intelligencer]

* This afternoon, O.J. Simpson pleaded with the parole board in Nevada. For now, the Juice is still on ice. [USA Today]

* Four South Korean firms allegedly fixed the price of ramen noodles for over a decade. You mean that s**t can be cheaper? [Courthouse News Service]

* Do you want to make sure the NSA can’t read your email? Join the NSA! [Lowering the Bar]

* Eric Holder is going forward with efforts to halt the new Texas voting requirements pursuant to the bail-in procedure. But how will he ever prove a substantial history of constitutional violations in Texas? [The Volokh Conspiracy]

* The Ninth Circuit has affirmed Judge Dolly Gee’s earlier denial of Fox’s request for a preliminary injunction against Dish Network over its special, ad-skipping DVR. It’s a testament to how much power the networks have thrown around that this is treated like an amazing new technology — I bought an ad-skipping DVR from ReplayTV in 2001. [The Verge]

* Chicagoland preacher facing federal fraud charges announces: “Because of Judge Sharon Coleman’s continual mocking of God’s ecclesiastical order and the sanctity of family/marriage, the wrath of God almighty shall soon visit her home.” Federal authorities were not amused. [Chicago Tribune]

* A NJ state judge declares that Atlantic City casinos can control the weight of its waitresses. Because overweight waitresses are the reason no one goes to Atlantic City anymore. [My Fox NY]

* Noam Scheiber of The New Republic interviewed about his article The Last Days of Big Law, as discussed here. Video after the jump… [Bloomberg Law via YouTube]

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* Ed O’Bannon asks the NCAA to agree in writing not to retaliate against any current athlete that joins his lawsuit against the organization. How sad is it that a non-profit organization committed to helping students needs to be reminded not to retaliate against students? In other news, NCAA Football 14 (affiliate link) came out today. [USA Today]

* More SCOTUS Term analysis. Tom Goldstein, Adam Liptak, and Jess Bravin have been invited to explain to the Heritage Foundation what an awesome term it had. [Heritage]

* The Shelby County decision completely lacks any foundation for the argument that the Voting Rights Act violates the Constitution. Yeah, but besides that… [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

* What is wrong with soccer fans? Referee stabs player and then ends up like Ned Stark. [Legal Juice]

* Mayer Brown reports that Mexican leaders are lining up behind energy sector reform. [Breaking Energy]

* Ever wonder about the extent of Internet censorship around the world? Here’s a handy chart showing how Google is censored in various countries around the world. [io9]

* Obama caves to Republican requests to suspend law. Republicans label Obama tyrannical for suspending that law. Bravo. [Wall Street Journal]

* Who is the real John Roberts? Will he forever be known as health care reform’s savior, or the man who disregarded precedent to gut minority voting rights? Hell if we know, so we’ll let you be the judge. [Opinionator / New York Times]

* The man may be a mystery, but one thing’s for sure when it comes to Chief Justice Roberts: it’s fair to say that at this point, he’d sincerely appreciate it if his colleagues would kindly STFU during oral argument. [Big Story / Associated Press]

* Elena Kagan, a justice who was never a judge, is now being praised for her ability to put the law into terms that non-lawyers can understand. That’s a score for law professors everywhere. [New York Times]

* In terms of the Voting Rights Act, while the chances of the current Congress enacting a universal voting law are approximately nil, there are other effective avenues that could be taken. [New York Times]

* On Friday, the Ninth Circuit lifted the stay on gay marriages in California, and less than 24 hours later, Prop 8 supporters filed an emergency motion with SCOTUS to stop all of the weddings. Lovely. [NPR]

* Meanwhile, ex-judge Vaughn Walker thinks Justice Scalia’s having joined the high court’s majority on standing telegraphed the fact that he didn’t have votes to uphold Prop 8 as constitutional. [NPR]

* Rubber stamp this: Judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are so upset that they’re being made out as government patsies that they’re talking to the press about it. [Washington Post]

* Whether you think Chevron is “suing [Patton Boggs] lawyers for litigating” or for promoting fraud that “shocks the conscience,” here’s a summary of what’s going on in an epic case. [Washington Post]

* Got a high-profile criminal defense firm? Look out, because you may have captured Biglaw’s eye. Take, for example, Stillman & Friedman, which will be merging with Ballard Spahr. [New York Times]

* Apparently being in your mid-50s is a “good time to [retire]” for law deans who pull in six figures. Ken Randall, outgoing dean of Alabama Law, says he’s “really ready for the next challenge.” [AL.com]

‘So I says to Mabel, I says, ‘How do I avoid the Rule Against Perpetuities?”

* Half-Law office, Half-Barbershop. That makes sense, I’ve seen some haircuts that should be crimes. We hear they even have a $5 haircut special called “The Misdemeanor.” [New Britain Herald]

* The editors of Ramblings on Appeal give their takes on Shelby County. Rarely has truer legal analysis been offered than characterizing Roberts’s decision as, “Oh and I have five people on my side, you only have four, so take that.” [Ramblings on Appeal]

* UVA law professor Chris Sprigman has co-authored an op-ed calling out the NSA. Oh, that guy’s phone is getting tapped. [New York Times]

* The Expert Institute continues to draw from popular culture to coach expert testimony. This time it’s Game of Thrones. It’s a handy set of lessons, but “Never Trust a Frey” deserved mention. [The Expert Institute]

* The Justice Department is bringing on unpaid attorneys because slave labor is awesome and unpaid internships are never elitist and discriminatory. [Pro Publica]

* On that note, Bar President calls for an end to unpaid 3L internships. Video after the jump…

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Stand with Wendy.

* “Screw all these other cases, man, we’re ready for the real stuff — you know… the gay stuff.” Damn, a satirical article that perfectly captures our thoughts. Don’t worry, it’s coming today. [The Onion]

* On a more serious note, this is obviously a really big day for gay marriage at the Supreme Court. Will the justices settle the score, or leave this movement’s supporters high and dry? [Wall Street Journal]

* Big Tech has always been a proponent of gay rights, and some of the most respected brands in America are hoping same-sex marriage doesn’t get the blue screen of death from SCOTUS. [Politico]

* Everyone else loses, but Scalia always wins. He couldn’t have asked for more after Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was struck down. So long, “racial entitlements.” [L.A. Now / Los Angeles Times]

* “No, we’re not going to do layoffs. We’d never do layoffs. Everything is just fine. Seriously, we won’t do stealth layoffs either. Promise! Believe us, pretty please,” said the managing partner of every peer Biglaw firm after the Weil winnowing. [Am Law Daily]

* Law schools are freaking out about a new American Bar Association proposal to tighten their bar passage requirements, and they’re blaming all of their alarm on diversity issues. [National Law Journal]

* This state senator wins the award for most unique filibuster attempt ever. To block new abortion regulations in Texas, Sen. Wendy Davis spoke endlessly for 11 hours straight. You go girl! [CNN]

* Pop star Chris Brown was charged in a hit-and-run, and surprisingly, Rihanna had nothing to do with it. The new charges may affect his probation, and he might even go to jail. [Arts Beat / New York Times]

* Breaking news: Aaron Hernandez was just taken into custody at his home. Discuss. [USA Today]

If I’m ever euthanized, it hope it’s as gentle as the way Chief Justice John Roberts put down the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance requirement.

Not the whole act, mind you. The prohibition on any “standard, practice, or procedure” that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color” is still constitutionally permissible. And folks can sue to enforce that.

But the preclearance requbirement is now effectively gone. That’s the rule that the federal government has to approve changes to voting laws in certain jurisdictions that haven’t been so great about race – in that folks registering black people to vote had been murdered in there, or, they’d had really bad records of African-American voter turnout in the past.

Strictly speaking, the preclearance requirement is not gone — it just no longer applies to any jurisdiction in the country any longer. The Court invalidated the method by which it is determined which jurisdictions are subject to preclearance, rather than preclearance itself. So, now no jurisdiction is subject to preclearance — the preclearance formula is gone.

Many people who are concerned about whether black people are allowed to vote think that the preclearance requirement has been an important tool to make sure black people enjoy the right to vote.

Including, it seems, the Chief Justice himself….

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The liberator… of the South.

Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, the South is free at last.

After, man, like decades of having to deal with suspicion and preclearance, man, just because of its 400 year history of slavery and segregation, Chief Justice Roberts held Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional. Section 4 is the section that outlines which states should be covered for “preclearance” by the federal government before they can change their voting laws. Overruling it overturns one of the biggest and most effective weapons against the Jim Crow South.

Section 5, which gives the government the authority to preclear certain states, still survives. The question is kicked back to Congress to update their “decades old” formula.

Let’s look at the opinions…

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

– Charles Dickens

In addition to opening A Tale of Two Cities (affiliate link), this extended quotation kicked off Professor Pam Karlan’s comments when asked to provide some measure of sense to the Supreme Court’s rights jurisprudence this Term. And by that I mean she read the entire quote to an audience of people whose body language screamed out, “yeah, we got it” after the word “foolishness.”

The passage (at least the gist of the passage), however, is apropos. This Term saw a voter registration law struck down in Arizona, even though Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is likely to follow it out the door. As Elie is quick to point out, the black community is likely to get hammered by the Court, yet Professor Karlan thinks that the gay community is going to win, either this year or next.

Karlan, and her fellow panelists at Netroots Nation, outlined a theory that ties these competing decisions together — at least until Monday, when the Court might shoot the whole logic down…

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