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The End of the Civil Rights Era?

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Notables of the civil rights movement sat in the audience as the Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments in a major challenge to the Voting Rights Act, Shelby County v. Holder6a00d8341cd0df53ef017d415a1141970c-800wi
From 1965 when President Johnson signed it into law to the election of the first African-American president, the Voting Rights Act has been the most important and successful civil rights law ever passed. So successful that a slim majority of the Court seem to think that its most important part, Section 5, is so outdated it’s no longer constitutional.
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Justice Scalia,below, to Solicitor General Verrilli on why the were no votes against the 2006 reauthorization in the Senate, “I think that’s attributable to a phenomenon that has been called the perpetuation of racial entitlements.”
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Bob Barnes has WaPo story here.

 

One More Cut at Campaign Finance Reform?

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Under Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Act candidates who accept public funding receive grants matching dollar for dollar ( up to twice their initial grant and with adjustments ) the amounts spent on the campaign of a privately funded candidate.

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The lawyer arguing against the Arizona law, William Maurer said, “…this case is about whether the government can turn my act of speaking into the vehicle by which my political opponents benefit….”

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When the lawyer for Arizona’s Secretary of State, Bradley Phillips, referred to testimony that never was money withheld from a race for fear of triggering matching funds Chief Justice Roberts cut him off saying, “Oh that, there’s a back and forth about the record and common sense.  As a matter of common sense . . . if you knew that a $10,000 expenditure that you would make . . . would result in $30,000, 40,000, 50,000, depending on how many opposition candidates there were . . ., wouldn’t you think twice about it?

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As the arguments were wrapping up Justice Breyer, a supporter of campaign finance reforms, said to the Justice Department lawyer, “Answer this if you wish, don’t if you don’t want to . . . as I hear this argument, what’s going through my mind is we are deeply into the details of a very complex bill.  McCain-Feingold is hundreds of pages, and we cannot possibly test each provision which is related to the others on such a test of whether it equalizes or incentivizes or some other thing, because the answer is normally we don’t know. And,” he continued, “it is better to say that it’s all illegal than to subject these things to death by a thousand cuts, because we don’t know what will happen when we start tinkering with one provision rather than another.  That thought went through my mind as I’ve heard this discussion.”

AP story here.

 

Supreme Court Jolt

“It is a
jolt to the legal system when you overrule a precedent.”
Chief Justice Roberts at his 2005 confirmation hearings

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Overturning its own precedents the Supreme Court yesterday removed limits on corporate campaign spending citing the First Amendment free speech rights of corporations.

In dissenting from the majority in Citizens United v. FEC Justice Stevens wrote “Under the majority’s view, I suppose it may be a First Amendment
problem that corporations are not permitted to vote, given that voting
is, among other things, a form of speech.”

Dahlia Lithwick has the story here.