Dahlia Lithwick

  • July 30, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Last fall Risa L. Goluboff and Dahlia Lithwick nailed the slew of new onerous voter ID laws in a piece for Slate detailing the “ugly parallels between Jim Crow and modern vote-suppression laws.”

    The two noted that a few other commentators had also noticed the parallels between these new laws and ugly era of Jim Crow. The majority of the voter ID laws make it much more difficult to vote, and many have been enacted by Republican-controlled legislatures.

    As this blog has noted time and again, the proponents of these laws claim the country’s elections are ridden with voter fraud and that the laws are only about protecting the integrity of the democratic process. But this blog has also pointed out the wobbly evidence of voter fraud. And in their piece for Slate, Goluboff and Lithwick say that voter fraud is a “problem that is statistically rarer than heavy-metal bands with exploding drummers.”

    Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt in a recent ACS Issue Brief also took on the claim that these new voter suppression laws were justified by rampant fraud, saying there are more reports yearly of UFOs.

    The Huffington Post’s Dan Froomkin wonders why many journalists feel compelled to trumpet or give credence to proponents’ claims of voter fraud. “Voter fraud simply isn’t a problem in this country,” he writes. “Studies have definitively debunked the voter fraud myth time and again."

    What do exist, Froomkin notes, are the blatant efforts to use photo ID laws to depress voter turnout, mainly among communities of color, low-income people, students and the elderly. These laws make it extremely difficult to obtain the proper form of ID. A report by The Brennan Center for Justice shows just how costly it is for people in a slew of states to attain the proper ID.

  • May 11, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Quickly after President Obama announced his support of marriage equality, the president’s knee-jerk detractors doused the moment with cynicism. The president, they said backed into the announcement or they snidely asked what’s the difference between a flip-flop and evolving.

    The response from the far right – Obama is a scourge, a menace to society, God is surely irked now – was overwrought and hardly surprising. The cynicism, however, was offensive for its insensitivity and cluelessness. Did the dunderhead crowd listen to the president’s comments or was it expressing a latent distaste for gay Americans or ignorance of the challenges lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender Americans face in a society where many are still bent on oppressing and marginalizing them.

    Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, argues that listening to Obama’s comments is, surprising as it may seem, helpful, writing, “Whatever your view of President Obama’s motives, or the legal consequences of his statement …, it is not in dispute that the words he spoke gave many Americans – including gay children and teenagers – the message that he had heard them, and that their experiences mattered so much that he’d changed his views – personal, political and legal.”

    Or as James Fallows, the longtime correspondent for the Atlantic, said:  

    I am aware that there are various slice-and-dice cynical assessments one could make of the president’s comments today. (Why did he take so long? Why did he back off the support he’d expressed in the 1990s? Might this be useful as a wedge issue in the election? It doesn’t have any immediate since it’s still up to the states. And so on.) But the fact remains that five minutes before his announcement, no one could be sure that he would take the step of staying that his personal views had changed. He did – and it was important, brave, potentially risky, and right. That should be noted It’s a significant day.

  • February 22, 2012

    by John Schachter

    “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts,” Will Rogers famously retorted. In 2012, his aphorism applies to all the branches.

    This week’s satirical news source the Onion ran a story with the headline, “Disturbed Beltway Sources Report Congress Eerily Cooperative Today.” Among the highlights of the piece:

    “I don't know what's going on here, but I know I don't like it,” said Time political columnist Joe Klein, who watched C-SPAN in disturbed shock as the Senate proceeded quickly and smoothly on a federal judicial confirmation. “Something's off. Something is definitely off. It's almost as if lawmakers are putting the well-being of the country above their own self interest and hard-line party ideology.”

    “This can't be good for America,” he added.

    Who would have thought that the judicial nominations logjam would become fodder for political satirists? Unfortunately, the vacancy crisis is more than a laughing matter, with scores of unfilled seats on benches across the country limiting the access to justice that many Americans need and deserve. It truly is time for members of Congress to become more “eerily cooperative” and provide up-or-down votes on the many nominees awaiting action.

  • November 15, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The Supreme Court’s decision to hear a legal challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes more than a review of the landmark law’s minimum coverage provision. (That provision has greatly animated Tea Party activists and riled Georgetown University law school professor Randy Barnett, who loudly proclaims that the Obama administration has no limiting principle – if it can force us to purchase health care coverage, then the federal government’s power is boundless, and soon it will mandate the purchasing of broccoli and gym memberships.)

    As Simon Lazarus and Dahlia Lithwick write in a recent piece for Slate, the justices will, however, also consider the argument advanced by 26 Republican governors and attorneys general that the ACA’s extension of Medicaid coverage is unconstitutional because the program “coerces” state governments.

    They write:

    If a majority of the court now leans toward imposing new curbs on Congress’ spending (as opposed to the much-maligned Commerce Clause) power, that could portend changes far more radical than limits on Congress’ regulatory authority to impose the individual mandate. The states’ attack on the ACA’s Medicaid expansion provisions would cripple Medicaid as well as other state-administered programs that are federally funded and supervised. Also vulnerable could be antidiscrimination guarantees prescribed by conditional funding programs such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Age Discrimination Act, the Rehabilitation Act (banning discrimination against people with disabilities) and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.  

    If the Medicaid expansion were to be called into doubt, major environmental programs that set federal standards but delegate implementation responsibility to the states could wobble as well. Legal challenges and intensified political and bureaucratic resistance to all such programs would become the norm if state governments could get into court to challenge federal conditional funding offers on the ground that they are politically constrained even if voluntary on paper. 

    See the entire Slate piece for their thoughts on why the high court decided to take up the lawmakers' strained argument.

    Lazarus also addressed the state politicians' legal challenge to the Medicaid provision in his ACS Issue Brief, “The Health Care Lawsuits: Unraveling a Century of Constitutional Law and the Fabric of Modern American Government.”

  • March 30, 2010

    Clerking for two Supreme Court justices taught Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray about the value of precedent, he said this week, explaining why his state would not join the suit of 13 attorneys general challenging health care reform. In the late-1980s, Cordray served in the chambers of Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, whose constitutional law teachings he referenced in his statement regarding health care reform.

    The suit filed by 12 Republican attorneys general and one Democrat has raised hackles, though experts have questioned its chances for success. The suit has caused public clashes between the governors and attorneys general of six states.

    "Anybody who proposes something like this is either ignorant -- I mean, deeply ignorant -- or just grandstanding in a preposterous way," said Charles Fried, former solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan. "It is simply a political ploy and a pathetic one at that."