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Supreme Court Faces Weighty Cases and a New Dynamic


Society & Culture  (tags: americans, activists, children, culture, education, family, freedoms, government, gayrights, law, politics, religion, rights, society, Supreme Court )

Kit
- 688 days ago - nytimes.com
The coming term will probably include major decisions on affirmative action in higher education admissions, same-sex marriage and a challenge to the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.



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Tamara Noforwardsplz (185)
Sunday September 30, 2012, 11:19 am
Noted with interest Kit. Thanks
 

JL A. (275)
Sunday September 30, 2012, 12:40 pm

The New York Times

September 29, 2012
Supreme Court Faces Weighty Cases and a New Dynamic
By ADAM LIPTAK

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court returns to the bench on Monday to confront not only a docket studded with momentous issues but also a new dynamic among the justices.

The coming term will probably include major decisions on affirmative action in higher education admissions, same-sex marriage and a challenge to the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Those rulings could easily rival the last term’s as the most consequential in recent memory.

The theme this term is the nature of equality, and it will play out over issues that have bedeviled the nation for decades. “Last term will be remembered for one case,” said Kannon K. Shanmugam, a lawyer with Williams & Connolly. “This term will be remembered for several.”

The term will also provide signals about the repercussions of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s surprise decision in June to join the court’s four more liberal members and supply the decisive fifth vote in the landmark decision to uphold President Obama’s health care law. Every decision of the new term will be scrutinized for signs of whether Chief Justice Roberts, who had been a reliable member of the court’s conservative wing, has moved toward the ideological center of the court.

“The salient question is: Is it a little bit, or is it a lot?” said Paul D. Clement, a lawyer for the 26 states on the losing side of the core of the health care decision.

The term could clarify whether the health care ruling will come to be seen as the case that helped Chief Justice Roberts protect the authority of his court against charges of partisanship while accruing a mountain of political capital in the process. He and his fellow conservative justices might then run the table on the causes that engage him more than the limits of federal power ever have: cutting back on racial preferences, on campaign finance restrictions and on procedural protections for people accused of crimes.

It is also possible that the chief justice will become yet another disappointment to conservatives, who are used to them from the Supreme Court, and that he will join Justice Anthony M. Kennedy as a swing vote at the court’s center. There is already some early evidence of this trend: in each of the last three terms, only Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy were in the majority more than 90 percent of the time.

“We all start with the conventional wisdom that Justice Kennedy is going to decide the close cases,” said Mr. Clement, who served as United States solicitor general under President George W. Bush. “We’ve all been reminded that that’s not always the case.”

The texture of the new term will be different, as the court’s attention shifts from federalism and the economy to questions involving race and sexual orientation. The new issues before the court are concrete and consequential: Who gets to go to college? To get married? To vote?

On Oct. 10, the court will hear Fisher v. University of Texas, No. 11-345, a major challenge to affirmative action in higher education. The case was brought by Abigail Fisher, a white woman who says she was denied admission to the University of Texas based on her race. The university selects part of its class by taking race into account, as one factor among many, in an effort to ensure educational diversity.

Just nine years ago, the Supreme Court endorsed that approach in a 5-to-4 vote. The majority opinion in the case, Grutter v. Bollinger, was written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who said she expected it to last for a quarter of a century.

But Justice O’Connor retired in 2006. She was succeeded by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who was appointed by Mr. Bush and who has consistently voted to limit race-conscious decision making by the government. Chief Justice Roberts, another Bush appointee, has made no secret of his distaste for what he has called “a sordid business, this divvying us up by race.”

Justices Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas all dissented in the Grutter case, and simple math suggests that there may now be five votes to limit or overturn it.

The reach of such a decision could be limited by the idiosyncrasies of the admissions system in Texas. The university provides automatic admission to students in Texas who graduate in roughly the top 10 percent of their high school classes. That approach generates substantial diversity, partly because many Texas high schools remain racially homogeneous.

Ms. Fisher narrowly missed the cutoff at a high school whose students have above-average test scores for the state. She was rejected for one of the remaining spots under the part of the admissions program that considers applicants’ race.

The court may uphold the Texas system under Grutter, or it may rule against it on narrow grounds by saying, for instance, that race-conscious admissions are forbidden where a race-neutral method — like the 10 percent program — can be said to be working.

But the court may also follow the health care ruling with a second landmark decision, this one barring racial preferences in admissions decisions altogether. Given persistent achievement gaps, even after controlling for family income, such a ruling would make the student bodies of many colleges less black and Hispanic and more white and Asian.

The court will probably also take on same-sex marriage. “I think it’s most likely that we will have that issue before the court toward the end of the current term,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said at the University of Colorado on Sept. 19.

She was referring to challenges to an aspect of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from providing benefits to same-sex couples married in states that allow such unions. The federal appeals court in Boston struck down that part of the law, and both sides have urged the court to hear the case. More than 1,000 federal laws deny tax breaks, medical coverage and burial services, among other benefits, to spouses in same-sex marriages.

The justices will also soon decide whether to hear a more ambitious marriage case filed in California by Theodore B. Olson and David Boies. It seeks to establish a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Chief Justice Roberts has not yet voted in a major gay rights case. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinions in both Lawrence v. Texas, a 2003 decision that struck down a Texas law making gay sex a crime, and Romer v. Evans, a 1996 decision that struck down a Colorado constitutional amendment that banned the passage of laws protecting gay men and lesbians. Most observers see him as the decisive vote in same-sex marriage cases.

The justices are also quite likely to take another look at the constitutionality of a signature legacy of the civil rights era, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 2009, the court signaled that it had reservations about the part of the law that requires the federal review of changes in election procedures in parts of the country with a history of discrimination, mostly the South.

“We are now a very different nation” than the one that first enacted the Voting Rights Act, Chief Justice Roberts wrote for himself and seven other justices. “Whether conditions continue to justify such legislation is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today.”

The chief justice seemed to invite Congress to revise the law, but lawmakers have taken no action.

Challenges to the law have arisen in several lawsuits in the current election season, including ones concerning redistricting and voter identification requirements.

“It will be interesting to see if the justices worry half as much about the emerging restrictions on voting as they worried about restrictions on political spending,” said Pamela S. Karlan, a law professor at Stanford.

On Monday, the new term will start with a case of great interest to business groups, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, No. 10-1491. The case was brought by 12 Nigerian plaintiffs who said the defendants, foreign oil companies, had been complicit in human rights violations committed against them by the Abacha dictatorship in Nigeria. The question in the case is whether American courts have jurisdiction over such suits, and business groups are hoping the answer is no.

In the last term, business groups achieved a series of victories, often by lopsided majorities. In cases with an individual on one side and business interests on the other, the court ruled for the business side 12 out of 14 times, according to calculations by Lauren R. Goldman, a lawyer with the firm Mayer Brown. In the two previous terms, the number of business cases was comparable, but individuals won at least half of the time.

Introducing himself to the nation at his confirmation hearings in 2005, Chief Justice Roberts said that “judges are like umpires” in that they do not make the rules but merely apply them.

“Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire,” he said.

But the calls Chief Justice Roberts made in the health care case were surprising enough that it will be hard to look away. He voted with the court’s conservatives to say that the law was not authorized by Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce and then joined the court’s liberals to say it was authorized by Congress’s power to levy taxes. No other justice joined every part of his controlling opinion.

Charles Fried, who served as solicitor general in the Reagan administration and filed a brief in support of the law, said the reasoning in the health care decision was mystifying enough to foreclose predictions about the future of the Roberts court.

“This is a court that under Chief Justice Roberts called a ball a strike, a strike a ball, but got the batter to base where he belonged,” said Professor Fried, who teaches at Harvard Law School. “So who knows what to expect.”



 

Kit B. (277)
Sunday September 30, 2012, 12:55 pm

The Supreme Court returns to the bench on Monday to confront not only a docket studded with momentous issues but also a new dynamic among the justices.

The coming term will probably include major decisions on affirmative action in higher education admissions, same-sex marriage and a challenge to the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Those rulings could easily rival the last term’s as the most consequential in recent memory.

The theme this term is the nature of equality, and it will play out over issues that have bedeviled the nation for decades. “Last term will be remembered for one case,” said Kannon K. Shanmugam, a lawyer with Williams & Connolly. “This term will be remembered for several.”

The term will also provide signals about the repercussions of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s surprise decision in June to join the court’s four more liberal members and supply the decisive fifth vote in the landmark decision to uphold President Obama’s health care law. Every decision of the new term will be scrutinized for signs of whether Chief Justice Roberts, who had been a reliable member of the court’s conservative wing, has moved toward the ideological center of the court.

“The salient question is: Is it a little bit, or is it a lot?” said Paul D. Clement, a lawyer for the 26 states on the losing side of the core of the health care decision.

The term could clarify whether the health care ruling will come to be seen as the case that helped Chief Justice Roberts protect the authority of his court against charges of partisanship while accruing a mountain of political capital in the process. He and his fellow conservative justices might then run the table on the causes that engage him more than the limits of federal power ever have: cutting back on racial preferences, on campaign finance restrictions and on procedural protections for people accused of crimes.

It is also possible that the chief justice will become yet another disappointment to conservatives, who are used to them from the Supreme Court, and that he will join Justice Anthony M. Kennedy as a swing vote at the court’s center. There is already some early evidence of this trend: in each of the last three terms, only Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy were in the majority more than 90 percent of the time.

“We all start with the conventional wisdom that Justice Kennedy is going to decide the close cases,” said Mr. Clement, who served as United States solicitor general under President George W. Bush. “We’ve all been reminded that that’s not always the case.”

The texture of the new term will be different, as the court’s attention shifts from federalism and the economy to questions involving race and sexual orientation. The new issues before the court are concrete and consequential: Who gets to go to college? To get married? To vote?

On Oct. 10, the court will hear Fisher v. University of Texas, No. 11-345, a major challenge to affirmative action in higher education. The case was brought by Abigail Fisher, a white woman who says she was denied admission to the University of Texas based on her race. The university selects part of its class by taking race into account, as one factor among many, in an effort to ensure educational diversity.

Just nine years ago, the Supreme Court endorsed that approach in a 5-to-4 vote. The majority opinion in the case, Grutter v. Bollinger, was written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who said she expected it to last for a quarter of a century.

But Justice O’Connor retired in 2006. She was succeeded by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who was appointed by Mr. Bush and who has consistently voted to limit race-conscious decision making by the government. Chief Justice Roberts, another Bush appointee, has made no secret of his distaste for what he has called “a sordid business, this divvying us up by race.”

Justices Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas all dissented in the Grutter case, and simple math suggests that there may now be five votes to limit or overturn it.

The reach of such a decision could be limited by the idiosyncrasies of the admissions system in Texas. The university provides automatic admission to students in Texas who graduate in roughly the top 10 percent of their high school classes. That approach generates substantial diversity, partly because many Texas high schools remain racially homogeneous.

Ms. Fisher narrowly missed the cutoff at a high school whose students have above-average test scores for the state. She was rejected for one of the remaining spots under the part of the admissions program that considers applicants’ race.

The court may uphold the Texas system under Grutter, or it may rule against it on narrow grounds by saying, for instance, that race-conscious admissions are forbidden where a race-neutral method — like the 10 percent program — can be said to be working.

But the court may also follow the health care ruling with a second landmark decision, this one barring racial preferences in admissions decisions altogether. Given persistent achievement gaps, even after controlling for family income, such a ruling would make the student bodies of many colleges less black and Hispanic and more white and Asian.

The court will probably also take on same-sex marriage. “I think it’s most likely that we will have that issue before the court toward the end of the current term,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said at the University of Colorado on Sept. 19.
****Article continues on Page 2 - ****

By ADAM LIPTAK - | The New York Times |
 

Kit B. (277)
Sunday September 30, 2012, 12:58 pm

One way or another this story is getting out there. (Thanks J L)

Many have said in the past year that the biggest issue not addressed in campaigns is that of the Supreme Court, I do agree. We forget that who is on the Court, how they think, and most important what they decide will affect all of us for years to come.
 

Jason S. (57)
Sunday September 30, 2012, 1:53 pm
thanks, good posting
 

pam w. (191)
Sunday September 30, 2012, 7:32 pm
I agree, Kit. The legacy of these Presidents goes on for YEARS!..
 

marie tc (166)
Monday October 1, 2012, 6:29 am
Noted
 

Craig Pittman (45)
Monday October 1, 2012, 9:19 am
Some momentous decisions coming down the pipe. Thanks Kit for helping to focus public attention on this.
 

Kit B. (277)
Monday October 1, 2012, 10:25 am


Sending a Green Star is a simple way to say "Thank you"

You cannot currently send a star to Craig, Pam, Marie, Jason or J L, because you have done so within the last week.
 

BMutiny TCorporationsEvil (467)
Monday October 1, 2012, 10:36 am
Remember that who you vote for NOW, determines our lives for the next 50 years!
Are we going to have a Theocracy where Women have no rights over our own bodies -- one whose consequences were brilliantly foreseen in Margaret Atwood's prophetic book, "The Handmaid's Tale"???

I have just re-read that book; and suggest to everyone, this is a good time to do so! {I haven't seen the movie made of it -- I don't see how it could be as good as the book!}

DON'T stay home from Voting, thru Apathy, or thru thinking from mis-leading polls, that the Election is a "Sure Thing"!
The Election could still be STOLEN, if enough people stay home not voting!
{And, be sure to vote for all Dems for House and Senate, so that something can be ACCOMPLISHED without Rethug obstructionism, next term. And, watch for votes on Judges, too -- that's important!}
 

Past Member (0)
Monday October 1, 2012, 1:27 pm
Roberts is a corporatist. Whether it is a "liberal" or a "conservative" question, Roberts will side with the corporations. His vote on Obama's healthcare was purely in the interests of the insurance companies, (those who will benefit most by Obamacare).
 

Jennifer C. (172)
Monday October 1, 2012, 5:12 pm
Thanks for the post.
 

Mary Donnelly (47)
Monday October 1, 2012, 8:19 pm
Thanks Kit.
 

Kamila A. (141)
Monday October 1, 2012, 8:51 pm
Roberts may be a corporatist conservative, but he did something pretty heroic by upsetting the expectations of the GOP who were gloating before they got the rug pulled out from under them.
We must vote Obama if we want some sanity in these coming years.
 

Past Member (0)
Tuesday October 2, 2012, 1:29 am
I am unclear as to how many of these issues really should remain in the jurisdiction of state legislatures. Aren't there some muddy waters here?
 
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