Gay Marriage

The Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor got the attention of the day yesterday, if not the attention of the Term, even if it doesn’t instantaneously make same-sex marriage the law of the land. Shelby County’s Voting Rights Act ruling was historic, but not as historic as it might have been. Section 4’s formula was struck down, but with Section 5 still in place, Congress has an opportunity to redraft an alternative. Fisher’s remand was no mighty victory for either side of the affirmative action debate. It emphasized that strict scrutiny review demands that UT get less deference than the Fifth Circuit panel gave the school. But we really know that this week’s opinion just kicks the can down the road, teeing up next Term’s Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.

In important ways, Shelby County and Fisher, and in slightly different ways Windsor, keep us talking. Talking about hard issues, but talking. That’s part of the tough stuff of democracy. But SCOTUS’s decision in the California Proposition 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, shuts down democratic dialogue in a way that should make all of us wince. I would rather listen to a thousand screaming Mystals argue about affirmative action through the end of OT 2013 than live with the consequences of this week’s decision in Hollingsworth . . . .

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* Edith Windsor’s lawyer said she thought her client’s case was “simple,” but it proved to take a little longer than she thought to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. [New York Law Journal]

* Conservative pols are up in arms about the SCOTUS decisions, promising to file constitutional amendments, but like Rand Paul said, “As a country, we can agree to disagree.” [Washington Post]

* Nate Silver breaks down gay marriage by the numbers. By August, 30% of Americans will live in states where same-sex marriage has been legalized. [FiveThirtyEight / New York Times]

* Wherein the ancient artifacts of a once storied and prestigious Biglaw firm are touted by a furniture liquidation company as “like new, for less!” Dewey know how embarrassing this is? [Am Law Daily]

* Sorry, Joel Tenenbaum, but the First Circuit affirmed your $675K debt to the RIAA. That’s what happens when you blame illegal downloads on burglars and foster kids. [Law & Disorder / Ars Technica]

* It looks like David Boies claimed two victories yesterday. The Court of Federal Claims gave Maurice Greenberg the green light to sue the U.S. over the terms of AIG’s bailout. [DealBook / New York Times]

Behold The Nine.

Elie here. In sports, we assess the legacy of athletes after every game. In politics, we assess the legacy of elected officials after every vote or scandal. So why can’t we do the same for Supreme Court justices?

In case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s been a pretty big week over at One First Street. The Court has decided a number of high-profile, controversial cases. Those decisions have come down with strong holdings, blistering dissents, and stinging concurrences. Each justice is aware that the words they’ve published this week could be around for a long time, long after they’re dead, and will be judged by history.

But who has time to wait for history? David Lat and I engage in some instant legacy analysis on what this week has meant for each of the nine justices on the Supreme Court. Let’s break it down in order of seniority, starting with the Chief….

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* Former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez arrested. In other news, that Patriots offense was killing people last year. [NBC News]

* Elie appeared on HuffPo Live to explain how today’s rulings changed his marriage. [Huffington Post Live]

* For all the role-playing game nerds out there, a guide to the SCOTUS alignments. I’m not sold that Scalia isn’t “Lawful Good” and Alito “Chaotic Good,” but the point remains. [It's a Great Life If You Don't Weaken]

* Aaron Zelinsky has a solution for the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the VRA formula — force every jurisdiction to adhere to Section 5 preclearance. That would make way too much sense. [Concurring Opinions]

* Iowa’s Supreme Sausage Fest to reconsider “irresistible attraction” ruling, which you may remember from stories like this or this. [On Brief: Iowa's Appellate Blog]

* Ilya Somin on the strange bedfellows emerging on questions of standing. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Congratulations to Saccharomyces cerevisia, the newly minted Official State Microbe of Oregon. The bacteria is also known as “brewer’s yeast,” so it makes a lot of sense when Portland has the most breweries per capita in the country. [Lowering the Bar]

* This judge makes important observations about rodent control. Or at least some clerk slipped footnote 5 in because Caddyshack deserves more legal citation. Unfortunately it does not conclude with, “By Order of this Court, We’re All Gonna Get Laid.” Opinion below…

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Driving to court this morning for a pro bono appearance, my Blackberry buzzed with the headline that DOMA had been struck down. Concurrently, the song “Fight the Good Fight” was playing on the radio. Indeed.

In France, there were violent protests in the streets when the issue was up for a vote. Here, some folks give a shrug and a “meh” to today’s news. Later, when the Court effectively struck down Prop 8, people in California began pilgrimages to their local courthouses or civic centers to look into getting married. It is indeed a great day to be an American….

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The front of the Supreme Court building: ‘Equal Justice Under Law.’ (Click to enlarge.)

The Supreme Court was called to order at 10:00 a.m. sharp. The Chief Justice announced, “Justice Kennedy has our first opinion of the day in case number 12-307, United States v. Windsor. Everyone, in the bar members section at least, knew that this was the Defense of Marriage Act case.

That Justice Kennedy was announcing the opinion was significant; he wrote Lawrence v. Texas. Still, no one knew if the Court would reach the merits, since the Solicitor General had announced that the Executive Branch would not defend the constitutionality of DOMA.

Justice Kennedy is an orderly man. He set out the procedural background – Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer were married legally in Canada, then came home to New York. Their same-sex marriage is lawful where it was performed and where they lived. Spyer died and left her estate to Windsor. Windsor sought to claim an estate tax exemption for the death of a spouse. DOMA prevented the IRS from recognizing Spyer as Windsor’s spouse. Windsor paid the tax, then challenged DOMA. She won in the district court and the Second Circuit. Justice Kennedy explained how a bipartisan committee found counsel to defend DOMA, and how DOMA was defended ably in the Supreme Court.

(As an aside, Paul Clement took heat for defending DOMA for Congress. When you think about it, if he hadn’t defended it well, the Supreme Court may not have thought it could reach the issue. Paul Clement may be the unsung hero of the DOMA decision.)

So, Kennedy concluded, the Court could reach the merits of whether DOMA is constitutional.

Though a hopeful sign for those who would cheer the demise of DOMA, the decision wasn’t entirely clear….

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The headline in The Onion, which we noted earlier today, pretty much says it all: “Impatient Nation Demands Supreme Court Just Get To The Gay Stuff.” Today, the last day of the Term, SCOTUS granted our wish, issuing its long-awaited rulings on gay marriage in California and on the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Last night, I attended the New York City Bar Association’s annual reception and cocktail party celebrating LGBT Pride Month. M. Dru Levasseur of Lambda Legal and Lisa Linsky were honored for their work advancing LGBT rights. In her eloquent remarks, Linsky noted that despite all the progress of our community, and regardless of what the Supreme Court rules today, many battles remain to be fought.

How many more battles, and of what intensity? Let’s find out what the Court just decided, on the tenth anniversary of the landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas….

Please note the multiple UPDATES added below.

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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]

* As we wait for the biggest cases of this term, the question that seems to be on everyone’s minds is: “What would Justice Kennedy do?” We might find out the answer today if we’re lucky. [New Yorker]

* At least we know what Justice Kennedy wouldn’t do. He’d never disrespect his elders like Justice Alito did yesterday after rolling his eyes at Justice Ginsburg while on the bench. [Washington Post]

* Meanwhile, although the Supreme Court punted an important affirmative action ruling yesterday, Jen Gratz’s life has been defined by a more meaningful one made about a decade ago. [Washington Post]

* It’s not what you know, it’s who you know: Covington, the firm where ex-DOJ lawyers go to make money, is representing some very big tech companies in their dealings with the NSA. [Am Law Daily]

* Fox Rothschild picked up a small Denver firm to reach a “critical mass” of attorneys in its new office and offer full service. FYI, “full service” in Colorado means weed law now, you know. [Legal Intelligencer]

* “[G]iven the significant decline in law school applications,” Cincinnati Law is pushing for a 30 percent tuition and fees reduction for out-of-state students. That’s a step in the right direction. [WCPO ABC 9]

* This guy had the chance to go to law school, and I bet he’s really kicking himself now after choosing to be a member of the Boston Red Sox bullpen instead. Poor kid, he could’ve had it all. [MassLive.com]

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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