Election Law

Every law talkin’ guy is weighing in on the Supreme Court’s decision to restrict early voting in Ohio. The decision broke down 5-4, along predictable party lines. The same five justices who gave corporations a blank check to buy elections, the same five justices who decided to declare racism over in the South, decided to stay the restriction on Ohio preventing the state from scaling back early voting from five weeks to four weeks. No opinion was given, but it’s likely that the conservative justices applied a narrow reading to voting rights protections under the Equal Protection clause and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, according to Professor Rick Hasen. Shocker.

I get it, politically. It’s obvious that Democrats feel like their electoral chances are enhanced by allowing everybody to vote as easily as possible. It’s also obvious that Republicans feel like their chances at the polls are better if fewer people vote and richer people have more influence. That’s politics. Census 2020, bring your pitchforks.

But Supreme Court justices are supposed to be above petty politics. And even though we know that they are not, what is the ideological advantage of being against voters? Their jobs are unassailable. They are unaccountable to the people. Why then make it harder for “the people” to elect who they want?

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

If there was one decision I would overrule, it would be Citizens United. I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.

– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, explaining the reasons why she thinks Citizens United was one of the worst Supreme Court decisions of recent times, after being asked her opinion in a wide-ranging interview with Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic.

(What do you think is the worst SCOTUS ruling in recent memory? Tell us.)

She’s not a porn star, she’s a law student. We could see where you might be confused by that one.

* Now that we know Eric Holder is resigning, there’s been speculation as to where he’ll go next. The obvious choice is a return to Covington & Burling, but he could still surprise everyone. [National Law Journal]

* “Judicial campaign cash is burning a hole in the Constitution.” State court judges are pumping money into their election campaigns, and some have been left to wonder about its true price. [New York Times]

* Details have emerged as to conditions that must be met for Bingham McCutchen’s proposed merger with Morgan Lewis: partner promises, de-equitizations, and forgivable loans, oh my! [Reuters (sub. req.)]

* In the wake of Dean Makau Mutua’s decision to step down at Buffalo Law, a “deep rift” among faculty has been brought to light. The school’s future doesn’t seem as “bright” as we were once told. [Buffalo News]

* A former law student who was falsely identified as a porn star on the radio had her day in court and pulled out a win. Here’s the money shot: she’s walking away with $1 million in damages. [Kansas City Star]

Dinesh D’Souza

* The United States is launching air strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, but some have been compelled to wonder whether it’s legal under international law. Of course it’s legal, under the Rule of ‘MERICA, F*CK YEAH! [BBC]

* Dewey know whether this failed firm’s former COO can get out of paying $9.3M to its bankruptcy trustee? Dewey know whether we’ll ever be able to stop using this pun? Sadly, the answer to both questions is no. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Marc Dreier of the defunct Dreier LLP has been ordered to testify in person in his firm’s bankruptcy case in Manhattan, but he’d rather stay in the comforts of his prison home in Minnesota. Aww. [Bloomberg]

* Dinesh D’Souza won’t have to do hard prison time for his campaign-finance violations. Instead, he’ll be spending eight months in a “community confinement center,” which sounds just peachy. [New York Times]

* Northwestern Law is launching a campaign to fundraise $150M to be spent on an endless supply of Chick-fil-A sandwiches financial aid for students and curriculum improvements. [National Law Journal]

Today is Constitution Day. Today we celebrate a group of racist, white, male landowners finalizing a brilliant document that could be changed to overcome their parochial limitations.

I’m not the kind of guy to chestily proclaim that America is the greatest country on Earth, but I’ll put our organizing legal document up there with anyone’s. I’ve read a lot of constitutions (3L Comparative Constitutional Law finally paying off), and I’m always impressed by our document’s ability to allow for so many different and fractious opinions on how the country should operate. Whether or not you believe in a “living” constitution in the Brandies sense of the word, that our constitution is still alive is damn impressive. As written, our president and our presidential front-runner couldn’t even vote. Half the country went to WAR to get out of the constitution, and when they lost, we didn’t even say, “Okay, let’s start over so this never happens again.” We fixed the constitution after the Civil War, but we didn’t bother to fix the South. Amazingballs.

One of the main strengths of our constitution lies in its amendment process. The thing can be changed, quite easily actually, so long as everybody agrees. And it turns out that we don’t agree very much.

To honor this document, some of us at Above the Law wanted to look at the surprising instances since 1787 when we all agreed. The Bill of Rights doesn’t count. And the Civil War amendments don’t count because, well, we didn’t really all “agree” so much as half of us got their asses kicked and had to eat it. So let’s go with any amendment after the first 15. You could make a compelling case that American political thought can be explained by which of those first 15 Amendments are the most important to you or to your life (and if you read that and thought “the 8th,” I feel so goddamn sorry for you).

But while the latter amendments aren’t likely to show up on a 1L’s list of “amendments I know by number,” they define our modern polity almost as much as the first ten. Let’s talk about them. Let’s talk about our moddable constitution…

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* Law student sends naked selfie to her father. Hilarity ensues. [Inside Edition]

* “Is insider trading bad?” Asking for a friend. [The Atlantic]

* Judge catches law firm cheating on the page limit. Apparently, Judge Carl Barbier was well-versed in the “slightly less than double-spaced” trick. [NPR]

* What’s the matter with (statutory interpretation in) Kansas? [KSN]

* You may have heard that technology is going to gut the market for low-level lawyering. If not, here’s a wakeup call. [Forbes]

* This year’s MacArthur genius grant recipients. Is your name on the list? SPOILER: No. But a William Mitchell Law professor is. [New York Times]

* Steve Klepper’s fair-minded and favorable review of Lat’s forthcoming book, Supreme Ambitions (affiliate link). [Maryland Appellate Blog]

Oscar Pistorius

* Following the divisive decision in Shelby County v. Holder, voting rights cases may be heading back to the SCOTUS sooner than we thought. Thanks, Texas and Wisconsin. [USA Today]

* Bienvenidos a Miami? Cities compete to be designated as sites where global arbitration matters are heard. Miami is an up-and-comer, but New York is king. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Thanks to anonymous donors, the reward for info related to FSU Law Professor Dan Markel’s murder has been raised to $25,000. Not a single suspect has been named since his death. [Tallahassee Democrat]

* After losing the Democratic primary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Professor Zephyr Teachout drank some gin and tonics like a boss before returning to her class at Fordham Law to teach property. [New York Times]

* Try as he might, the Blade Runner just can’t outrun the law: Oscar Pistorius might have been cleared on the murder charge he was facing, but now he’s been found guilty on a culpable homicide charge. [CNN]

* This probably goes without saying, but don’t smuggle drugs into prison. This grandpa apparently failed that lesson. [Legal Juice]

* Town gets fed up and just sues every single citizen. [Lowering the Bar]

* A city lawyer heads out to the country to woo a pretty maid. At least this song gets it right and the lawyer fails. [Legal Cheek]

* Some thoughts on trademark law and post-parody fashion, from Professor Charles Colman. [U. Penn Law Review]

* Attorneys took different approaches to litigating slavery. Nothing really funny here, it’s just interesting. [The Faculty Lounge]

* James Sherwin of SOR Solicitors made this infographic about patents in Europe (and where Ireland fits in). In case you ever wanted to know if Europe’s intellectual property set up is as crazy as America’s. [SOR-Solicitors]

* Maybe you weren’t excited about Hofstra Law School, but did you hear they now have bean bag chairs in the library? Well, that changes everything! [Virtual Library Cat's Eye View]

* An interview with Peter Kalis on the future of Biglaw, in which he states, “I cross bridges and burn them behind me.” Flame on! [Forbes]

* This essay sums up so much about the state of America through the lens of the killing of Michael Brown. [The Concourse]

* While we focused on the tale of Judge Mark Fuller, who spent some time in jail on a domestic violence accusation, he may be part of a trend — Judge Lance Mason was charged with felonious assault after allegedly punching and biting his wife while they were driving. Biting? [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

* Have you ever wondered how every law school can give its students “excellent” educations? [The Legal Watchdog]

* Failed Mississippi candidate Chris McDaniel is challenging a bunch of votes. Including his own lawyer’s. [Wonkette]

* Tim Corcoran, President of the Legal Marketing Association, chides state bar associations for meddling with the evolution of the legal profession. Video after the jump…. [Mimesis Law]

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently issued two rulings upholding 2011 Wisconsin Act 23, a state law requiring voters to present photo identification at polling places. The court ruled that mandating ID does not place a substantial burden on voters, nor does it create an unreasonable regulation on elections. The Seventh Circuit is still considering a challenge to the same law, however. In April, Judge Lynn Adelman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin ruled that the law unduly burdens some voters, particularly low-income ones, and violates the Voting Rights Act. This week, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen filed motion to lift the injunction created by Judge Adelman’s earlier ruling.
Wisconsin’s court battles reflect the nationwide debate about voter ID laws. Proponents of the laws argue that abuse is rampant, ID laws make a clear statement that corruption is intolerable, and requiring photo identification is a minimal burden.

Opponents of voter ID laws contend that voter fraud is rare, but voter suppression is likely. At the Washington Post, Justin Levitt argues that his extensive, nationwide research of election fraud reveals only 31 incidents since 2000. Levitt points out that more than 1 billion ballots have been cast in that time. Allegations of voter intimidation or suppression are common, though what counts as a criminal offense or civil rights violation may be hard to define. Physical threats obviously count. Jim Crow’s shameful legacy of literacy tests and poll taxes obviously do. Willful disinformation campaigns do. Whether insisting on photo identification, which may be more difficult for people in some communities to provide, counts as voter suppression is a much closer call.

Both sides offer up horror stories. True the Vote trumpets allegations of misconduct on one side, while the NAACP insists that election officials continue to suppress minority votes on the other. Mostly the discourse drops to the level of anecdote. Too often, the deciding factor reduces to which seems more plausible to you personally — that people who shouldn’t vote do, or that people who should don’t?

Where does the conversation go from there?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Battling Anecdotes With Symbols: Why The Voter ID Debate Goes Nowhere”

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