• June 2, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). Sen. Whitehouse is a member of the Judiciary Committee as well as the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Budget Committee, Environment and Public Works Committee, and Special Committee on Aging.

    The recent op-ed by two Republican members of the House of Representatives argues that their efforts to impeach the IRS Commissioner are on the level. Maybe.

    But when you look at how the Republican Party is paid for, Republicans have a very good reason for trying to keep their boot firmly on the neck of the IRS. Keeping an already timid bureaucracy even more intimidated has a significant strategic benefit.

    There is a dirty secret to the "dark money" organizations that plague our elections: They're not supposed to be in our elections. And if the IRS were doing its job, they wouldn't be.

    If we were rid of dark money, it would make the American people happier, as we are fully creeped out by the seemingly unlimited influence-buying in politics. But big special interests which make a killing off their political "investments" would not be happy at all. They might have to act out in the daylight where we can watch them; and they much prefer the dark to do their dirty work of killing climate change and campaign finance legislation, preventing Medicare from negotiating drug prices, and unleashing Wall Street from regulation.

    They also prefer the Republican Party, so protecting dark money gets the full attention of Party leaders in Congress. For them, political dark money has become as important as an air hose to a deep sea diver.

  • May 31, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Rosann Mariappuram, vice president of events, University of Texas School of Law ACS Student Chapter, and former staff member, Reproductive Health Access Project

    *This post was first published on the Reproductive Health Access Project blog.

    I arrived in Washington on Tuesday, March 2, the day before the oral arguments for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. I was planning to meet up with the Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP) staff to make rally signs and then attend the rally on Wednesday morning. As we touched down in D.C. my fellow law students and I got a flurry of excited texts from a friend who was already at the Supreme Court, telling us that there were only two dozen people in line for public tickets so far – and that normally 30 to 50 people got in. We grabbed our suitcases, hopped on the Metro, jogged up Capitol Hill, and got in line by 5pm. We estimated we might be the 30th to 35th people in line.

    Spending the night on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court was definitely an adventure. Friends stopped by with supplies and food, and RHAP’s amazing board member Emily Kane-Lee gave us a sleeping bag, umbrellas, and hats. Over the course of the night as we hid from the rain we shared stories of why the case was so important to us with other people in line. I got interviewed by a TV station from Houston and the website Refinery29, which was very exciting (and nerve-wracking)! Before I knew it though the sun was coming up and security guards were letting us into the Court.

  • May 31, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    At Jost on Justice, Kenneth Jost provides commentary on the Supreme Court’s decision in Foster v. Chatman, celebrating a long overdue victory for racial justice.     

    The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear an appeal challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty, reports Lawrence Hurley at Reuters.

    Large pharmaceutical companies may be able to accomplish what the Supreme Court has not – forcing an end to the death penalty, opines Rose Carmen Goldberg at Harvard Law and Policy Review

  • May 27, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Arusha Gordon, Associate Counsel, Legal Mobilization Project, Lawyers’ Committee  for Civil Rights Under Law

    On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Wittman v. Personhuballah, No. 14-1504.  The case involves Virginia’s Third Congressional District, which the Virginia State Legislature drew in the wake of the 2010 census. In drawing and then approving the challenged map, the Virginia legislature chose to increase the Black Voting Age Population (BVAP) of Virginia’s only majority-minority congressional district (Congressional District 3) from 53.1 percent to 56.3 percent, rather than creating two congressional districts with significant percentages of African-American voters. Currently, Representative Bobby Scott, from the Third Congressional District, is Virginia’s only African-American representative in Congress.

    Plaintiffs – three Virginia voters – sued the Commonwealth of Virginia, challenging the 2010 redistricting plan as a racial gerrymander in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. A three-judge panel of the District Court of Virginia found that, in violation of the constitution, racial considerations were the Legislature’s predominant concerns in drawing the district and it was not necessary to draw the challenged plan to achieve a compelling governmental interest. In January, 2016, the District Court approved a remedial plan for redistricting.

    Although the Commonwealth elected not to appeal the District Court’s decision, members of Virginia’s Congressional delegation chose to intervene and then appeal. In addition to raising questions regarding the merits of the case and whether the redistricting plan was constitutional, the appeal also raised questions regarding when a party has standing to intervene. 

  • May 27, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    In The Orange County Register, ACS Board member Erwin Chemerinsky explains why courts cannot force the Senate to hold hearings and to vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland. 

    At Balkinization, David Gans dismisses claims that the Supreme Court can properly function with an eight-member bench.

    In The New York Times, ACS Board member Linda Greenhouse comments on the Supreme Court's opinion in Zubik v. Burwell, concluding “It’s a case about women who should not, by reason of their particular employment, have to forfeit the right to comprehensive health care that the law makes available to other women in the work force."