Supreme Court

  • May 9, 2014

    Yesterday, Oklahoma officials delayed the execution of Charles F. Warne. The decision comes just a week after the botched execution of Clayton D. Lockett which left him “writhing in pain before he died of heart failure.” Erik Eckholm at The New York Times reports on the state of capital punishment in the Sooner State.
     
    Labor groups will be looking to get national attention next week as they kick-off fast-food protests in the U.S. and around the world. The Washington Post reports that the protest efforts are coming “at a time when the widening income gap has become a pressing issue” and fewer workers are aware of their rights.
     
    Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the justices will decide whether to hear oral argument in a case involving a public school graduation ceremony held at a church. Mark Walsh at Education Week’s School Law Blog breaks down Elmbrook School District v. Doe
     
    Jennifer Bard at Prawfblawg analyzes the problems facing legal education and “what we must do to make students not just practice ready but work ready.”
     
    Lambda Legal’s Blog notes an important victory for same sex couples in Indiana.  
  • May 8, 2014
    Guest Post

    by James C. Nelson, Justice, Montana Supreme Court (Retired)

    I am a non-believer. I became one late in my adult life because I was disgusted with the hypocrisy of religion in general and with the Catholic Church in particular. My decision was grounded in more hours of study and contemplation than I care to estimate. I do not believe in, much less pray to, any god.

    And my point with that opening is that the religion clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protect my fundamental right to be a non-believer; they insure, among other things, that my various federal, state, county and local governments cannot require me – directly or indirectly – to participate in any religious exercise. Read together these religion clauses form the wall of separation between church and state that the framers intended. They keep – or at least they are supposed to keep – religion out of government and government out of religion.

    That is why I cannot not accept the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 5, decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. In that case the Court held that the town opening its  official board meetings with a Christian prayer offered by members of the clergy does not violate the First Amendment and does not discriminate against minority faiths or coerce participation with non-adherents. 

    The Court’s decision is flat wrong. It respects neither the history underpinning the adoption of the religion clauses, the wall of separation, nor the reality that “We the People” are a pluralistic and diverse society encompassing all degrees of sectarian believers, agnostics and athiests. Nonetheless, that decision is now the law of the land—created from whole cloth and judicially blessed by the right wing Christian majority of our Nation’s highest Court. And, that puts me in a box.

    For many years I have stood during opening prayers in public meetings of federal, state and local government. I did so out of a sense of respect for the beliefs of others and for decorum – notwithstanding my personal dis-belief in the prayer and the god prayed-to. But, while respect can be freely given, it cannot be compelled.  And, thus, The Town of Greece leaves me but one option.

    I will stand no longer for prayer! I will not, as the Supreme Court suggests, leave the room during the invocation. Rather, I will sit during the prayer in the meeting room in which I am constitutionally entitled to assemble. I will not be bullied nor will I be shamed into standing. After all, it is not I who is violating the constitutional separation of church and state. I cannot and will not be compelled to participate in any fashion in government sponsored prayer.

  • May 8, 2014

    Critics of the Roberts Court assert that its recent trend of opinions have favored increasing restrictions on minorities. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Thomas B. Edsall explains why an examination of the high court’s decisions in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, Shelby County v. Holder and Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, reveals a “Supreme injustice.”
     
    As the Supreme Court prepares to address the recess appointment dispute in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, Victor Williams at The Huffington Post reminds Justice Scalia of “his former, much broader view of originalism in the context of presidential appointment authority.”
     
    The Supreme Court’s decision in Riley v. California and American Broadcasting Co. v. Aereo, Inc. “may significantly alter the way we capture, store, and consume information (Aereo) and the extent to which we can expect privacy with regard to, or control, that information (Riley).” Writing for the Brennan Center for Justice, Victoria Bassetti addresses whether the justices are “tech literate enough to get these cases right.”
     
    Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to amend the USA Freedom Act which “would require the National Security Agency to get case-by-case approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before collecting the telephone or business records of a U.S. resident.” Kevin Drum at Mother Jones has the story.
     
    Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is facing criticism for her decision to bypass the state Supreme Court’s stay in the execution of Clayton Lockett. Jamelle Bouie at Slate  argues that “Lockett’s execution was a horrifying display—a cruel and unusual death that wouldn’t have happened without Mary Fallin.” 

     

  • May 7, 2014

    As controversy continues to surround Oklahoma’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett, a “bipartisan panel of legal experts have urged sweeping changes in what it calls the ‘deeply flawed’ administration of capital punishment.” Erik Eckholm at The New York Times reports on the panel’s proposal for execution by single-dose injections. At The Week, Andrew Cohen explains why either John Paul Stevens or Sandra Day O’Connor should lead Oklahoma’s  investigation.
     
    Writing for The New York Times, Justin Gillis reports on a new study which shows “with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, and heat waves becoming more common and more severe…the effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States.”
     
    As the Supreme Court nears the end of its term, many will be focusing on the justices’ ruling in high stakes securities class action and software patent cases. Lawrence Hurley at Reuters has the story.
     
    At The Life of the Law, Katherine Thompson writes to President Obama about immigration law and the struggles facing same-sex couples—and he writes back. 

     

     

  • May 6, 2014

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Town of Greece v. Galloway that the First Amendment was not violated when monthly board meetings in Greece, New York were opened with a Christian prayer. In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the ruling would “strike a heavy blow against the nation’s tradition of religious pluralism, and will lead to prayers that will actively promote a single faith’s religious values.” At The Daily BeastGeoffrey R. Stone, former ACS Board Chair and current Co-Chair of the Board of Advisors for the ACS Chicago Lawyer Chapter as well as Co-Faculty Advisor for the University of Chicago Law School ACS Student Chapter, breaks down the decision. At The Atlantic, Garrett Epps reveals how the court’s decision “shows how far the ground has shifted under the Establishment Clause in the last 30 years” while Dahlia Lithwick at Slate prepares her readers to “get ready for a lot more Jesus in your life.”  
     
    In the wake of Oklahoma’s botched execution of Clayton D. Lockett, the White House “has commissioned yet another study of lethal injections.” Writing for The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen explains why President Obama “would be better off lobbying the Supreme Court and Congress to make changes.”
     
    At The New York Times, Adam Liptak reports on a new study which reveals that Justice Antonin Scalia “voted to uphold the free speech rights of conservative speakers at more than triple the rate of liberal ones” while David S. Joachim reports on the “pivotal” Republican primaries in North Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky and what they could mean for the 2014 midterm elections.
     
    At Womenstake, Michelle Banker comments on a Guttmacher Institute study which shows that “more bills to protect access to abortion have been introduced thus far in 2014 than had been introduced in any year for the past 25 years.”