Voting Rights Act

Justice rests.

* No, silly, Ruth Bader Ginsburg isn’t “too old” to be a Supreme Court justice. So what if she uses the SOTU address as her personal naptime? She’s brilliant, and everyone loves her. [Los Angeles Times]

* “Justice delayed due to overworked judges can … mean justice denied,” and Obama’s got a lot of work ahead of him due to a “uniquely high” amount of judicial vacancies on his watch. [National Law Journal]

* After the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act, Southern states have rushed to push out voter ID laws. But isn’t that discriminatory? “Not true, not true,” as Justice Alito would say. [New York Times]

* It turns out the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s redefinition of the word “relevant” is what has allowed the NSA to collect anything and everything. Say au revoir to privacy! [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Layoffs: they aren’t just for Biglaw firms anymore! McGeorge Law School is downsizing its staff and student ranks due to an “unprecedented drop” in applications. Another one bites the dust; which law school will be next? [Sacramento Bee]

* Client 9, aka Eliot Spitzer, announced his candidacy for NYC comptroller. He’ll run against Kristen Davis, the woman who once set him up with escorts. That’ll be an awkward debate. [New York Times]

* As the prosecution rests its case and the defense’s acquittal motion is denied, a nation is left wondering whose voice it was on that 911 recording — Trayvon Martin’s or George Zimmerman’s? [CNN]

* 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]

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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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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Just take a compliance class, bro.

* This year, like every year before it, SCOTUS is saving the best cases (read: most controversial) for last. We’ll likely see opinions on voting rights, affirmative action, and gay marriage in June. [WSJ Law Blog]

* We know of at least one Biglaw firm that will be putting its increase in gross revenue to work. Boies Schiller is planning to open its first office outside of the United States in the “near-term.” [Am Law Daily]

* If you’d like to get paid under a terrorism insurance policy for your damages in the Boston bombings, you’ll have to wait; the bombings haven’t been certified as acts of terror yet. [National Law Journal]

* Mandatory pro bono work is now required for bar admission in New York, but it’s still not enough to close the justice gap. Now Chief Judge Lippman wants to give non-lawyers a chance to provide legal services. [New York Law Journal]

* Arizona Law recently made the announcement that interim dean Marc Miller has been instated as the school’s permanent dean. What’s not to like about a “new” dean and new tuition cuts? [UANews]

* As many of our readers know, the job market is rough, but apparently if you take some compliance classes in law school, you’ll magically become employable. Great success! [Corporate Counsel]

* Brooklyn Law, do you remember what your old dorm looked like? It’s different now that it’s been transformed into an apartment complex that’s no longer stained with the tears of law students. [Curbed]

This is the problem with allowing only one black person into your little club, be it your country club, your journalistic publication, or your Supreme Court. When you have only one black voice, the brilliant diversity of thought and opinion within the black community can be reduced to Samuel L. Jackson playing Steven, over-laughing and telling you exactly what you want to hear.

Or it can be reduced to one dude on a revenge jihad.

Regardless, if you are only going to let one black person in, it kind of matters who you let in. And that’s why so many people who believe in the advancement of civil rights have such a visceral, negative reaction to Clarence Thomas. It’s not because Thomas isn’t “black enough.” It’s not because he’s a “sell out.” Those are stupid terms that don’t really apply to Thomas anyway.

The problem with Thomas is that despite being the lone black voice in the institution of government that is best positioned to protect minority rights against the vagaries of majority rule, Thomas’s approach to racial justice can best be summed up as, “I got mine, screw the next generation.” The man is so unable to overcome the racism visited upon him that he holds the perverse view that laws that help minorities magically hobble them. Yet he’ll allow majority rule to hobble black people as they see fit. He thinks that the law singles out people as different, as opposed to the somewhat self-evident truth that people define others as different, and then use those distinctions to discriminate. He was hurt by white people thinking that he only got somewhere “because of affirmative action,” but instead of just dealing with it, he now seeks to block the path for others to follow in his footsteps.

Thomas might not want to be a “minority leader,” but he is by simple fact of his important position. Don’t take my word for it, take Justice Scalia’s. Personally, I think that Scalia is more than capable of coming up with his racist BS on his own, but the man just blamed praised Thomas for “leading” his thoughts down a more asinine path.

But it shows why it matters so much who you let in when you only let in one. And it shows why Thomas has been such a colossal failure as a successor to Thurgood Marshall….

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