• October 15, 2014

    by Katie O’Connor

    This past spring, McCutcheon v. FEC dealt the latest in a series of blows to campaign finance reform, striking down aggregate limits on the total amount of money a person can contribute to all candidates, parties, and PACs. Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion for the majority of the Court and Justice Breyer dissented. In this ACS Issue Brief, Alan Morrison asserts that while “the Chief Justice is right that the prior decisions of the current Court, as well as some of its predecessors dating back to Buckley v. Valeo, almost certainly support his conclusion on the invalidity of aggregate limits…Justice Breyer has by far the better argument that our democracy and the Constitution permit campaign finance laws that prevent more than what the majority will allow.”

    By the time the Court considered the aggregate limits in McCutcheon, most of the arguments in defense of such limits and other campaign finance reforms had been gradually eroded by the Court’s previous cases. The only defense to aggregate limits in McCutcheon was an argument that, without such limits, donors would be able to circumvent limits on contributions to parties, candidates, and PACs. However, there were a number of weaknesses in this defense, and given the Court’s decision in Buckley v. Valeo, it could hardly withstand scrutiny. Thus, the Court struck the aggregate limits as unconstitutional.

  • October 15, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Irin Carmon of MSNBC reports on the Supreme Court’s temporary reversal of Texas’s restrictive abortion law that closed all but eight abortion clinics in the state.  

    In Politico, Jost Gerstein examines the possible reasoning behind the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on voter ID laws. 

    Jamelle Bouie argues in Slate that while voter ID laws disproportionately impact people of color, the main motivation for voter ID laws is hyper-partisanship, not racism.

    On the blog for the Brennan Center for Justice, Jonathan Brater praises Colorado for expanding voting access.

    Joe Davidson of The Washington Post argues that a Supreme Court case on a federal whistleblower could have enormous implications. 

  • October 15, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    Yesterday the Supreme Court allowed more than a dozen abortion clinics in Texas to remain open, blocking a state law that would have shut them down, reports The New York Times. The law, like many passed in states with conservative legislatures, is disguised to protect woman’s health. It required all abortion clinics in the state to meet the standards for “ambulatory surgical centers,” including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing, and required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Under those strict and unnecessary requirements, all but eight of the state’s clinics were shut down. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed the law to stand, but the U.S. Supreme Court issued a five sentence ruling blocking the law – for now. 

    Yesterday’s order blocked the surgical-center requirement entirely and the admitting-privileges requirement as it applied to clinics in McAllen and El Paso. Perhaps not surprisingly, Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would have allowed the law to be enforced.

    The law was challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which notes the fight for reproductive justice in Texas and across the country is not over.  In a statement, the organization said, “This fight against Texas’ sham abortion law is not over. HB2 was designed to gut the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade and half of the state’s clinics remain closed. We will continue this legal battle until the rights of Texas women are restored.”

    The Center for Reproductive Rights also notes that major medical groups oppose the types of restrictions found in Texas’ HB2. Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose hospital admitting privileges as a requirement for physicians providing abortion services.

    Next week, ACS’s Northeast Ohio Lawyer Chapter will host an event titled Reproductive Rights: An Examination of Pending Litigation Challenging Abortion Laws. The event will feature reproductive justice experts and scholars: Stephanie Kight, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, Rep. Kathleen Clyde, Ohio House of Representatives District 75 and B. Jessie Hill, Associate Dean for Faculty Development & Research, and Professor of Law and Laura B. Chisolm Distinguished Research Scholar, Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

    For detailed explanation of the Supreme Court's ruling, see Irin Carmon's article for MSNBC.

  • October 14, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    ACS President Caroline Fredrickson appeared on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show this weekend to discuss the future of the Fair Housing Act, marriage equality and the Supreme Court.

    Nicolas Kristof of The New York Times looks at how the justice system is evidence that the United States is still a profoundly unequal society.  

    Brad Friedman of Salon lauds Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court for the Seventh Circuit for his opinion on the Wisconsin voter ID law. 

    In The Washington Post, Robert Barnes discusses how the Supreme Court often keeps secret its reasoning behind monumental decisions.

    Richard Wolf of USA Today writes about the lack of vocal response from conservatives on the same-sex marriage decisions. 

  • October 10, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    Yesterday saw two rare victories for voting rights in states where conservative lawmakers and governors with presidential aspirations are catering to the fringe rightwing. The Supreme Court stopped officials in Wisconsin from requiring voters there to provide photo identification before casting their ballots in the coming election. While three justices dissented, voters were handed a 6-to-3 victory, not the 5-to-4 loss one might expect. Meanwhile in Texas, Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos concluded a two-week trial in Corpus Christi by finding the state’s voter ID law “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”

    In Wisconsin the voter ID law is one of the strictest in the nation and was clearly drafted and passed with the intention of making it more difficult for minority voters, particularly in the Democratic strongholds of Milwaukee and Madison, as well as elderly and younger voters to cast their ballots. As The New York Times reports, since it was passed in 2011 and signed into law by Governor Scott Walker, it has been mostly blocked by various. A federal trial judge had blocked it, saying it would “deter or prevent a substantial number of the 300,000-plus registered voters who lack ID from voting” and would disproportionately affect black and Hispanic voters.

    The law was provisionally reinstated last month by a unanimous three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Chicago. With the election looming, the law’s challengers quickly asked the Supreme Court to block it, knowing it would be nearly impossible to educate voters who lack a photo ID on the process to obtain an ID, and allow time for them to take time off work and wait in a long line at the DMV.