Guest Post

  • October 30, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Sarah Moncelle, SCSJ Researcher

    Recognizing that new technology has revolutionized the way we share data, Southern Coalition for Social Justice has launched Election Collection, a data gathering initiative that uses a location-based mobile data collection app to document, track, and rapidly respond to voting irregularities and instances of voter suppression at polling places nationwide for the 2014 General Election. The app’s design was guided by community geography principals and is directly informed by the array of needs communicated by litigators, organizers and researchers in attendance at the inaugural convening of the Southern Leaders for Voter Engagement in May of this year.

    Election Collection is a free app designed to help voting rights advocates record instances of voter suppression for use by election protection volunteers as well as voting rights litigators, social scientists, and other voting rights advocates. This app allows users to nimbly relay the status of Election Day events in real time to both in-house legal response teams and to fellow volunteers on the ground. On Election Day, trained volunteers will be able to log in to personalized accounts and record incidents of voter suppression using its listed forms. The intuitive app is easy to navigate as it follows a simple design that should be familiar to those who have ever filled out a form on a website. Volunteers can select from a wide range of text fields, drop-down menus, multiple-selection buttons, and photo and audio file attachments to relate a highly accurate and comprehensive account of voter suppression events.

  • October 24, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Jason Steed, Associate at Bell Nunnally, and president of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Lawyer Chapter

    *This is the final post of a three-part series.

    In part 1, I suggested that predictability is the real value that term limits have to offer, and that this ought to be the focus in nonpartisan arguments for judicial term limits. And in part 2, I tried to briefly address some of the practical problems that must be solved before term limits can be imposed. In this post I want to have a little fun thinking about what term limits might look like in real life.

    In part 1 I mentioned the circumstances surrounding the 1968 election, which led to Nixon making four appointments to the Supreme Court in a single term. Let’s imagine that the public’s reaction to this revolution in the Court’s composition produced (quickly!) a constitutional amendment to impose the 18-year term limits we’ve been talking about. And let’s imagine that the only way the Republicans would go along with this, in 1972, was if everything could go into effect immediately—so that Nixon, who was a shoo-in for reelection (beating George McGovern 49 states to 1), could be assured the opportunity to appoint two more Supreme Court justices before leaving office. (Of course, no one would know at the time that Nixon would be forced to resign in 1974.)

  • October 23, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Jason Steed, Associate at Bell Nunnally, and president of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Lawyer Chapter

    In part 1, I tried to briefly explain why the argument for term limits should be focused on the nonpartisan value of increased apolitical predictability in the Court’s appointment process. Justices shouldn’t be tempted to base their retirement decisions on partisan politics, and we shouldn’t be left to speculate wildly about when the next justice might retire—or about how many appointments the next president might get.

    But once we agree term limits are a good idea (and 70% of the public agrees on this), we must shift to the practical concerns that surround the actual implementation of term limits. Right off the bat, at least four questions (or problems) arise:

    1.  How long should the term limits be?

    2.  What about the filibuster and other attempts to deprive a president of an appointment?

    3.  What about the role of Chief Justice—how does that work in a fixed-term system?

    4.  How do we transition? That is, how do we impose fixed terms on nine sitting justices who everyone expected to have lifetime appointments?

    Now, I’m no scholar on these matters, and I assume others have addressed them already, in one way or another. But here are my thoughts:

  • October 22, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Jason Steed, Associate at Bell Nunnally, and president of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Lawyer Chapter

    *This is part one of a three part series.

    There’s been a lot of talk lately about term limits for Supreme Court justices. Norm Ornstein brought renewed attention to the issue in May. Erwin Chemerinsky has proposed term limits in his new book, The Case Against the Supreme Court. And a recent poll asked about it, and shows nearly 70% of the public thinks term limits are a good idea.

    I was invited to write a blog post on this topic because I have a short article forthcoming in the December issue of The Federal Lawyer, which also makes a case for term limits. But unlike Ornstein and Chemerinsky, my primary focus isn’t the politics or ideology of the Court. My focus is on the 1968 presidential election.

    In a nutshell, a confluence of circumstances turned the 1968 election into a watershed for the Supreme Court. The newly elected Nixon was suddenly able to appoint four new justices to the Court—in his first term—transforming the progressive Warren Court into the moderately conservative Burger Court, and setting a trajectory (through the appointment of William Rehnquist) for the much more conservative Court that we have today. (You’ll have to read the article when it comes out, to get my full take on the story.)

    Yes, this transformation of the Court—politically and ideologically—has been deeply troubling for progressives over the last 40 years. But it would be a mistake, when making an argument for term limits, to spend too much time complaining about the longevity of the Court’s rightward bent. Imposing term limits will require a constitutional amendment, which will require support from both sides. And you can’t get support from both sides if you’re complaining about something that one side really, really likes.

  • October 17, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Eric J. Segall, the Kathy and Lawrence Ashe Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law

    Prior to the oral arguments in the 2013 same-sex marriage cases involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, Supreme Court commentators committed to marriage equality debated just how fast the Court should act. On this blog, I urged the Court to strike down DOMA in the Windsor case but deny standing to the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 litigation in the hope that the logic of Windsor would lead lower federal courts to strike down state laws banning same-sex marriage. I advocated that approach fearful of the political backlash that would result from the Court creating a national rule imposing same-sex marriage on reluctant states in one bold strike.

    Those who wanted the Court to act quickly had two substantial objections. First, the Court’s job is to decide cases “under the law” not to make political predictions and calculations about the effects of those decisions. Second, gays and lesbians should not have been forced to wait one more day before achieving the marriage equality they deserve.

    Now that events have unfolded, it is important to address both of those objections (albeit with hindsight) because the arguments for and against the Court acting quickly on same-sex marriage shed important light on the appropriate role of the Supreme Court in our political system and how the Court should force important social change in the future.