Tag Archives: Supreme Court

Thanks to the North Carolina case, partisan gerrymandering’s day of reckoning may soon be upon us

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The word ‘gerrymandering’ comes from the name of Elbridge Gerry, Massachusetts governor in the 1800s. AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Christopher Beem, Pennsylvania State University

Gerrymandering was already shaping up to be an important issue this year, with huge implications for American democracy. But after the ruling this week on the North Carolina congressional map, the stakes have been raised still higher.

For the first time, a federal panel of judges ruled that a state’s map of its congressional districts was unconstitutional. The North Carolina map didn’t just give an advantage to Republicans – it manifested “invidious partisan intent.” The panel directed the state to draw the districts again by Jan. 24. Continue reading

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Future of Free Speech at Risk as Supreme Court Hears Critical Digital Privacy Case

“No constitutional doctrine should presume that consumers assume the risk of warrantless government surveillance simply by using technologies that are increasingly integrated into modern life.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-29-2017

In a Supreme Court case beginning Wednesday, the ACLU is arguing that Americans should not be expected to give up privacy rights every time they use a cell phone that pings phone towers nearby, as analog-era legal arguments would hold. (Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr/cc)

The Supreme Court will hear the first arguments in a landmark case regarding digital privacy rights on Wednesday as civil liberties advocates, joined by tech companies and journalists, argue the court must acknowledge that privacy rights and free speech protections should align with the reality of 21st century technology.

The case, known as Carpenter vs. United States centers around Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted in 2011 of several robberies after the police, without a probable cause warrant, gathered data from his cell phone company. Months of records were turned over, showing that he had been near cell towers close to the sites of the robberies when they took place. Continue reading

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas Anti-Choice Law That Critics Warned Endangered Women

“The court’s decision once again makes clear that politicians cannot force their way into private medical decisions that should stay between patients and physicians. Access to vital reproductive health services should not depend on a woman’s zip code.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-23-2017

In 2013, protesters gathered outside the Senate Gallery at the Texas State Capitol minutes before midnight to stall a bill that would put strict regulations on abortion facilities from going to a vote. (Photo: Lauren Gerson/Blackbird Film Co./Flickr/cc)

After temporarily halting a Texas abortion law that was slated to take effect earlier this year, and which critics warned would endanger women who seek to terminate a pregnancy in the second trimester, a federal judge issued a blow to the state’s notorious anti-choice Republicans on Wednesday and permanently blocked the legislation.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel issued a permanent injunction on Senate Bill 8, which sought to ban dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedures after 15 weeks, despite that it’s among the most common types of abortion procedures for women in their second trimester of pregnancy and amid warnings that it would force pregnant women and providers to turn to more costly and risky options. Texas, a hotbed for anti-choice measures, already bars women from having an abortion after 20 weeks. Continue reading

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#FairMaps: Pro-Democracy Rally as Supreme Court Hears ‘Most Significant’ Voting Rights Case in Decades

“Make no mistake about it: Extreme partisan gerrymandering is corruption. It’s a cancer on democracy. End it now!”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-3-2017

“Gerrymandering has no value in our democracy,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil and Human Rights. (Photo: Janai Nelson/Twitter)

Wielding signs that read “hands off our districts” and “you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your voters,” hundreds of civil rights advocates, lawyers, and lawmakers rallied in the nation’s capital Tuesday as the Supreme Court heard arguments in a landmark redistricting case that poses “the most serious challenge to gerrymandering in modern times.”

The case under consideration—Gill v. Whitford—is the result of a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin voters and the Campaign Legal Center in 2015 alleging that Republican-drawn state district lines violated the rights of Democratic voters. In 2016, a federal court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, arguing that the GOP’s district maps amounted to “an aggressive partisan gerrymander” and ordered the lines redrawn.  Continue reading

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Protests and Outrage as Gorsuch Headlines Event at Trump Hotel

Luncheon speech at president-owned luxury hotel decried as “inconsistent with judicial independence and integrity.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-28-2017

“Neil Gorsuch knows where his bread is buttered,” notes Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress. (Photo: Cleanup Carl/Twitter)

Protestors gathered outside Trump International Hotel in Washington Thursday as Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the keynote speech at an event hosted by a right-wing advocacy group—a move critics argued crosses fundamental ethical boundaries, given that the venue is currently the subject of numerous emoluments lawsuits that could soon reach the Trump-appointed judge’s desk.

“By headlining this event, Gorsuch will personally enrich the very man who appointed him to his lofty position,” notes Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress. “And he will enable the very mechanism that allows Trump to profit off the presidency.” Continue reading

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‘Downright Unconstitutional’: Gorsuch Slammed for Headlining Event at Trump Hotel

Especially as many Trump decisions are likely soon to reach the court’s docket, a healthy respect for public confidence in the court should have led Justice Gorsuch to demur.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-20-2017

Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, swears in Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch on Monday, April 10, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo: Public domain

In what critics are calling a blatant violation of “basic ethical principles about conflicts of interest,” Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has reportedly agreed to headline the “Defending Freedom Luncheon” next month at the Trump International Hotel, which is the subject of numerous lawsuits that could eventually reach the nation’s highest court.

Legal experts immediately sounded alarm upon learning that Gorsuch is set to be the featured speaker at the event, which is hosted by the conservative group The Fund for American Studies. Continue reading

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Protests in Poland as Right-Wing Ruling Party Dismantles Democracy

‘This is a blatant attack by Poland’s government on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law’

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-21-2017

Protesters across Poland have flooded the streets for the past week, condemning judicial reforms that will give the right-wing ruling party control over judge selections. (Grzegorz Żukowski/Flickr/cc)

Tens of thousands poured into the streets in Poland Thursday night, condemning proposed laws that would dramatically weaken the nation’s judicial system, just two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump visited the country and praised its commitment to freedom and democracy, speaking to “an audience of close to 15,000 enthusiastic, flag-waving Poles—many of them bused in by Poland’s ruling right-wing” party.

The pending judicial reform is just the latest in a series of anti-democratic measures adopted in Poland since the far-right Law and Justice Party (PiS) came to power in 2015. As the New York Times noted, the party has “increased government control over the news media, cracked down on public gatherings, and restricted the activities of nongovernmental organizations.” It has also limited female reproductive rights. Continue reading

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The Supreme Court, religion and the future of school choice

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The Supreme Court’s decision in the Trinity Lutheran case is blurring the lines between church and state. aradaphotography/Shutterstock.com

John E. Taylor, West Virginia University

The Supreme Court recently decided that Trinity Lutheran Church should be eligible for a Missouri state grant covering the cost of recycled playground surfaces. Though the state originally rejected the church’s application on grounds of separation of church and state, the Supreme Court ruled that this rejection was, in fact, religious discrimination.

The case’s impact will probably reach well beyond playgrounds.

As a scholar of education law, I’ve been following the Trinity Lutheran case and what it could mean for the hottest issue in education: school choice. Where in the past states have decided for themselves whether religious schools are eligible for school vouchers and scholarship tax credits, the Trinity Lutheran decision likely signals that the Supreme Court will soon require states to include religious private schools in their programs. Continue reading

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With Nation’s Attention Elsewhere, Trump Quietly Intensifies War on Workers

Trump has nominated two corporate lawyers to the NLRB as Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch gears up to rule on a key labor case

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-28-2017

If Trump’s nominees are confirmed by the Senate, Republicans will control the NLRB for the first time in nearly a decade. (Photo: AFSCME/Twitter)

In a little-discussed move that could spell disaster for unions and workers in the near future and over the long-term, President Donald Trump on Tuesday night announced the nomination of William Emanuel—a lawyer for a firm that represents large corporations—to fill a vacant seat on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Emanuel, as Reuters noted, is a member of the Federalist Society, an ultra-right-wing group of lawyers and donors that has been credited with producing the list of possible Supreme Court nominees the Trump administration flaunted during his presidential campaign.

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Rev. William Barber Says GOP Voter Suppression the ‘Real Hacking’ of US Democracy

“We would not be having this healthcare deconstruction if we had the Voting Rights Act!”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-23-2017

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber. Photo: YouTube

In an effort to bring national attention to “homegrown voter suppression” and to launch a campaign of “moral resistance” against Republican attempts to strip healthcare from millions, Rev. William J. Barber and other faith leaders marched in Washington on Friday just ahead of the anniversary of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Writing for NBC News prior to the march, Barber—a member of the NAACP national board of directors and a key figure in the successful effort to overturn North Carolina’s racially gerrymandered districts—argued that absent deliberate efforts by Republican lawmakers to prevent minorities from voting, a Donald Trump victory “would have never been possible.” Continue reading

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