Caroline Fredrickson

  • October 13, 2016

    by Caroline Fredrickson

    “This is not an election about who’s going to be president just for the next four years. This is an election about the direction of the Supreme Court for the next 40 years”

    Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
    The Gazette

    Senator Grassley nicely sums up the importance of Nov. 8.

    If I had to quibble with his quote, I would add that with more than 10 percent of the judgeships vacant in the lower courts this is an election about the direction of the third branch of the federal government for the next generation. 

    Fortunately, the Presidential Commission on Debates announced that Fox News’s Chris Wallace has selected the Supreme Court as one topic for the final debate. But the list of topics is “subject to possible changes because of news developments.” The Supreme Court deserves to be topic A.

    Many articles have documented the proxy fight over the federal courts. But it bears repeating that the election results may continue an almost 50-year run of a conservative majority on the Supreme Court or begin a new period with a more progressive majority.

    Since February, the Court has been ideologically split down the middle with four conservative justices and the same number of progressives. This past month Justice Elena Kagan offered one of the best explanations, that I have heard, on why we need a ninth justice. During a September 16th event at Harvard Law School, Dean Martha Minow asked Justice Kagan about her experience on a Court that has no tie-breaking vote. Below is Kagan’s answer:

  • September 19, 2016

    By Caroline Fredrickson

    *This post is part of the ACSblog symposium: Constitution Day 2016.

    For the past few years, ACS has celebrated Constitution Day with the Annual Supreme Court Preview, a lively debate about challenges before the nine justices. Now, for obvious reasons, the Term starting October 3rd is different.

    With Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing in February and the refusal of Senate Republicans to consider the nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland, the Court is a diminished institution, limited in its ability to perform its constitutional role.

    With only eight justices at the end of the last Term, the Court was unable to resolve a number of critical cases, such as U.S. v. Texas, involving a nationwide injunction on the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) immigration program and the Zubik case, which asked whether non-profit religious employers can be required to provide their employees access to insurance coverage for contraception.

    Since 2000, one justice has determined many landmark cases that directly influence American lives. The ninth justice mattered in Bush v. Gore, deciding the 2000 presidential election; Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, unleashing unlimited corporate spending in campaigns; and Obergefell v. Hodges, upholding marriage equality.

    Looking forward at the coming term, the Court will again examine the constitutional contours of the death penalty and electoral redistricting. Undoubtedly more cases will be added to the docket. But just how many and on what topics seems directly related to when the justices can expect to be joined by a ninth colleague. Hopefully the justices will not have to wait much longer.

  • September 6, 2016

    by Caroline Fredrickson

    Last year, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse shed light on the fossil fuel industry’s “massive and sophisticated campaign” to deceive the American public about the harmful impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the environment. Big Oil’s strategy to create doubt about their products’ ability to cause widespread and lasting harm is eerily familiar to Big Tobacco’s tactics in downplaying the harm caused by cigarettes uncovered in United States v. Phillip Morris.

    Sen. Whitehouse, who has given 143 “Time to Wake Up” speeches on climate change on the floor of the Senate, explained in a recent speech how “phony climate denial” is the result of the fossil fuel industry actively misleading the public to protect their profits: “Phony-baloney front organizations are set up by the score to obscure industry’s hand. Phony messaging is honed by public relations experts to sow doubt about the real scientific consensus.”

    Big Oil, Sen. Whitehouse argues, is borrowing a page from the tobacco industry’s playbook in defrauding the American people. In February, Sen. Whitehouse gave remarks at the ACS event, “Combatting Climate Change in the Courts.” Speakers explored whether the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act could be applied to Big Oil in the way it was applied to Big Tobacco.

    In a recent ACSblog post, Sen. Whitehouse highlighted an example showing the fossil fuel industry is literally borrowing tactics from the tobacco industry. Last year, coal mining executives attended a workshop at the annual Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute titled, “Survival is Victory: Lessons From The Tobacco Wars.” The fossil fuel industry is gearing up for the slew of lawsuits coming their way.

  • March 11, 2016

    by Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society

    *This piece originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

    "A novel and absurd notion," is how leading legal scholars and historians describe Senate Republicans' obstinate refusal to consider President Obama's forthcoming nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia's death.

    I couldn't say it better myself. Even Senate Republicans in moments of candor acknowledge the absurdity and hypocrisy of their stand. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) admitted this week that he and his colleagues are defying longstanding Senate precedent by blocking a potential justice. Similarly, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told a radio talk show host that if the president were a Republican, there wouldn't be delay, putting the lie to the idea that a "lame duck" president is the issue.

    The scholars, who include ACS current and former Board members Erwin Chemerinsky, Pamela S. Karlan, and Geoffrey R. Stone, eloquently explain why Senate Republicans are absurdly wrong on this matter. It comes down to what the Constitution says, and what prior Senates have done. AEI's Norm Ornstein, a longtime scholar of Senate procedure, was instrumental in coordinating the letter.

    It is standard practice, the scholars write in a March 10 letter, that "when a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court to have a president, whatever the stage in his term, to nominate a successor and have the Senate consider it."

    Ornstein and the scholars continue, "If we buy the logic that decisions made by 'lame duck' presidents are illegitimate or are to be disregarded until voters make their choice in the upcoming election, that begs both the questions of when lame duck status begins (after all, a president is technically a 'lame duck' from the day of inauguration), and why senators up for reelection at the same time should not recuse themselves from decisions until the voters have decided whether to keep them or their partisans in office."

  • October 8, 2015

    by Paul Guequierre

    As the political right, including many Republican members of  Congress, continue an  attack on women’s healthcare in the form of ongoing  assaults on Planned Parenthood, American Constitution Society President Caroline Fredrickson testified today before the House Judiciary Committee in its second hearing in a series misleadingly titled, “Planned Parenthood Exposed: Examining Abortion Procedures and Medical Ethics at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider." 

    In her testimony, Fredrickson said:

    In reality, these videos are not about alleged illegal sales of fetal tissue. They are not about alleged violations of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. They are about a persistent campaign by a small group of people who believe that abortion should be illegal, by any means necessary.

    But the truth is that abortion is an essential component of women’s health care.’ It is also one of the safest medical procedures performed in the United States. And three in ten women in the U.S. will have a safe, legal abortion during her lifetime. Women and their doctors clearly understand that abortion is a safe, legal, and essential part of women’s health care. Women who seek access to abortion, like any patient seeking access to essential health care, are entitled to “privacy, dignity, respect, and support.”  Elected officials should listen to what women and their doctors already know – sham laws and baseless investigations that serve only to burden a woman’s right to choose have no place in our nation’s statehouses.

    Fredrickson’s testimony can be read here. See video of entire hearing from C-SPAN.