• July 16, 2014

    by Nicholas Alexiou

    At Vox, Libby Nelson looks at Tuesday’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Fisher v. University of Texas in which the court again ruled in favor of the university, even after the case had been remanded by the Supreme Court last year.

    Erwin Chermerinsky discussed five ways to reform the Supreme Court, including merit based selections and term limits, at Moyers & company.

    At The New York Times, Steven Greenhouse discusses a push by both federal and state officials to provide a bit more certainty for part-time workers.

    Adrian Shirk takes to The Atlantic to look at the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Pell v. Procunier, which upheld a California limitation on which inmates the press could interview, leading to a lack of media access in our nation’s prisons across the country.


  • July 15, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    With voting rights under attack across the country, the Obama administration plans to join lawsuits in Ohio and Wisconsin.  Last year the Supreme Court dealt a blow to voting rights in much of the South with the decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Joining the lawsuits in Ohio and Wisconsin marks the first time the Justice Department has intervened against statewide voting laws outside the areas that the Supreme Court freed from federal oversight.

    In Ohio, the Republican legislature passed laws that cut six days from the early voting period and ended same-day registration, among other restrictions. Secretary of State Jon Husted then announced that there would be no early voting on Sundays or on weekday evenings.  A federal judge restored early voting on the last three days before the election, but left in place the cut of three days from the early voting period and same-day registration. These cuts were clearly meant to disenfranchise minority voters and voters who don’t typically vote Republican.

    A brief filed recently by the law’s challengers uses detailed voting records to establish that blacks are far likelier than whites to take advantage of early voting. In 2012, 20 percent of blacks did so, compared to just 6 percent of whites.

    In Wisconsin, a strict voter ID law which was passed by a Republican dominated legislature and quickly signed into law by Republican Governor Scott Walker, was struck down by a federal judge, who ruled that it discriminated against black voters. The state has appealed the ruling.

  • July 15, 2014

    by Nicholas Alexiou

    At SCOTUSblog, Lyle Dennison breaks down Monday’s gargantuan decision by an en banc sitting of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al Bahlul v. USA.

    Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick was on The Daily Show last night discussing the Supreme Court’s recently concluded term.

    At Above the Law, Elie Mystal looks at how recent law school graduates might be the reason for a drop in LSAT applications.

    Peter Hardin discusses, at Gavel Grab, the upcoming Tennessee Supreme Court retention elections and how the political environment in the state is vastly different than during the last retention election eight years ago.

    Michael Li examines the upcoming Texas redistricting case at the Brennan Center for Justice blog.

  • July 14, 2014

    by Jeremy Leaming

    John Seigenthaler, a champion of a free speech, human rights and a courageous journalist, died July 11 at the age of 86. Seigenthaler, The New York Times in noting his death said he pursued a “muscular approach to journalism as a crusading newspaper editor and publisher and as the founding editorial director of USA Today.”

    Seigenthaler was also a close friend to Robert F. Kennedy. According to The Tennessean, the newspaper Seigenthaler reported for and eventually became editor, RFK met Seigenthaler “because the young reporter had written a number of news stories about growing corruption in the organized labor movements, particularly involving Jimmy Hoffa and his Teamsters union.” The Times also noted that as reporter for The Tennessean Seigenthaler was dogged in exposing the corruption of Hoffa’s Teamsters and “hounded the union boss.” It was some of Seigenthaler’s reporting that would help revive a federal grand jury that indicted Hoffa for jury tampering.

    When RFK became attorney general during John F. Kennedy’s presidency, Seigenthaler (pictured) was tapped to help the Kennedys work with a growing civil rights movement. In spring 1961, Seigenthaler was dispatched by RFK to help some of the first Freedom Riders; waves of youngsters in buses headed to the Deep South in what would be become a deadly and high-profile attempt to draw attention to ongoing segregation in public places. Seigenthaler was injured trying to help some of the Freedom Riders who were being beaten by a mob of rabid racists in Montgomery, Ala.

    After RFK’s assassination in 1968 during a run for the presidency, it would not be long before Seigenthaler returned to journalism, eventually leading the editorial pages of the USA Today and much later founding the First Amendment Center, part of the Freedom Forum.

    U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), one of the young student Freedom Riders who was beaten and jailed, told The Tennessean Seigenthaler “was a newspaper man at heart who represented the highest tradition of journalist integrity and reporting. He used the power of the pen to help make this country a better place. He was a skillful negotiator, the consummate professional, yet he was a humble, down-to-earth gentleman who was dedicated and committed to his family and friends.”

    [image via Curtis Palmer]

  • July 14, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor, The University of Chicago

    *This piece is cross-posted at Huffington Post

    A recent Washington Post article reported that the state constitutions of eight states -- Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas -- expressly prohibit individuals who do not believe in God from holding public office.

    The Arkansas constitution, for example, provides that "no person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in... this State," the Mississippi constitution stipulates that "no person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this State," the Tennessee constitution states that "no person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishment, shall hold any office in... this state," and so on.

    Are such provisions constitutional? The history of such laws goes back to the very founding of our nation, for a central question facing the Framers of our Constitution concerned the appropriate role of religion in government. For more than a thousand years, it had been the norm for Christian societies to have an established religion. At the time of the American Revolution, nine of the 13 colonies still had an established church, and most colonies expressly limited the right to hold public office to members of their established church. Over the next decade, though, Americans increasingly questioned the appropriate role of religion in the affairs of government.

    A critical debate occurred in Virginia, where a lengthy struggle culminated in the adoption in 1785 of Thomas Jefferson's Statute for Religious Freedom. The preamble of Jefferson's bill condemned those "legislators and rulers" who have "assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as... true and infallible," and then "endeavored to impose them on others."