It’s been a strange Supreme Court term, like a meal that doesn’t satisfy. With only eight members on the bench after Justice Scalia’s death the odds were good that the last blockbuster opinion of the term would fall to a tie.
But, once again, Justice Kennedy was the fulcrum that allowed the Court to do some heavy lifting. In a 5-4 opinion authored by Justice Breyer in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt the lie was exposed that Texas’ restrictive abortion clinic regulations were enacted to protect women’s health.
That left the dissenters arguing only on procedural grounds that Whole Woman’s Health had lost an earlier round and should never have got another bite of the apple.
Oh, and there was also the unanimous opinion in McDonnell v. United States. It’s perfectly okay now, through gifts and cash, to purchase access to politicians, even if it stinks.
. . . and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, was before the Supreme Court today.
A very large crowd supporting the president’s immigration policy was gathered in front of the Court’s plaza. Some had been there since Friday hoping to get a seat inside the courtroom for the arguments in United States v. Texas. And the courtroom was in fact packed with spectators full of anticipation, hoping to get an inkling as to which way the Justices may rule.
But at the end of the hour and half of mostly technical argument there was little to glean. You an read about it here.
On the first day of what promises to be a steamy week in Washington, at least outside the Supreme Court building, the Court announced its opinion in a long awaited affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas. When the case was argued back in October it appeared that the University’s use of race as an admissions factor might be struck down.Instead, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, the Court said such programs must meet the test of “strict scrutiny” as well as being“narrowly tailored”.
Surprisingly, for a case argued at the beginning of the term, there was but one dissenter in the 7-1 decision (Justice Kagan took no part), Justice Ginsburg.
“The Court rightly declines to cast off the equal protection framework …”, writes Ginsburg. “Yet it stops short of reaching the conclusion that (it) warrants.”
Justice Alito took a sip from his coffee cup.
For a day without a real blockbuster it turned out to be an unusually busy one for me.
Among the Supreme Court decisions today was one that overturned an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. In an opinion announced by Justice Scalia the Court found that the federal Motor Voter law preempts Arizona’s law.
In another opinion, this one from Justice Alito, the Court said that if you want to preserve your right to remain silent you’ve got to speak up.
I also finished a couple sketches I had started earlier, the Great Hall . . . . . . . and General Suter, the Clerk of the Court, calling up admissions to the bar.
After the Justice Department refused to clear Texas’ new voter ID law, SB 14, the State went to court. These sketches are from yesterday, the final day of testimony.
The three judge panel will hear closing arguments today. Next stop, the Supreme Court.
Read about it here.
As a result of a large growth in population Texas has gained a number of Congressional and State Legislative seats.
When it came time to draw up new electoral maps the Texas Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, not surprisingly came up with a map favoring Republican candidates.
Also not surprisingly the Legislatures’ maps were challenged in a federal court in San Antonio under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Meanwhile, Texas is one of those States that fall under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and are required to get pre-clearance from either the Department of Justice or a special three-judge court in DC. The Texas Republicans chose to go to the three-judge court for approval, but the court has yet to act.
So, with primaries looming the San Antonio court drew up its own set of electoral maps that strengthen the Hispanic vote, and presumably help Democrats.
Texas appealed to the Supreme Court to block the court drawn map, and the Justices today heard arguments in the case.
Mike Sacks’ take on the arguments is here.