Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court’s Feminist Icon, Is Dead at 87 – By Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a pioneering advocate for women’s rights, who in her ninth decade became a much younger generation’s unlikely cultural icon, died at her home in Washington on Friday. She was 87.

The cause was complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, the Supreme Court said.

By the time two small tumors were found in one of her lungs in December 2018, during a follow-up scan for broken ribs suffered in a recent fall, Justice Ginsburg had beaten colon cancer in 1999 and early-stage pancreatic cancer 10 years later. She received a coronary stent to clear a blocked artery in 2014.

Barely five feet tall and weighing 100 pounds, Justice Ginsburg drew comments for years on her fragile appearance. But she was tough, working out regularly with a trainer, who published a book about his famous client’s challenging exercise regime.

As Justice Ginsburg passed her 80th birthday and 20th anniversary on the Supreme Court bench during President Barack Obama’s second term, she shrugged off a chorus of calls for her to retire in order to give a Democratic president the chance to name her replacement. She planned to stay “as long as I can do the job full steam,” she would say, sometimes adding, “There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president.” “

Opinion | On Religion, the Supreme Court Protects the Right to Be Different – By Michael W. McConnell – The New York Times

By 

Mr. McConnell, a former federal appeals court judge, is a law professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School.

Credit…Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“Some Supreme Court watchers have been quick to interpret recent decisions as skirmishes in American “culture wars” — with some decisions (on abortion and sexual orientation) siding with the cultural left and others (on religion) siding with the cultural right.

There is another way to look at them. Viewing the decisions as a whole, rather than one by one, they can be seen not as advancing left or right but instead as protecting pluralism — the right of individuals and institutions to be different, to teach different doctrines, to dissent from dominant cultural norms and to practice what they preach.

One indication is that most of these decisions broke 7-2 or 6-3, instead of along the predictable 5-4 conservative/liberal split. At a time when American politics is toxically polarized, it is a welcome relief that members of the court, which by constitutional design is supposed to be the least political of the three branches of government, can still find common ground across ideological divides.

In two of the religion cases, Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, both Democratic appointees, joined the Republican appointees in upholding the rights of religious institutions to set and follow their own doctrine. Two Republican appointees joined the decision treating discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status as “sex discrimination” — and Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, wrote the opinion. If law were only politics, those cases would not have come out that way.”

David Lindsay:  I was impressed by this man. He has the voice of Saruman. But my my slow wits were woken by the following comments.

trillo
Massachusetts
Times Pick

“The inferior quality of many American public schools, especially those serving inner-city minority populations, is a primary reason for this country’s outrageous economic and social inequality.” This is a conservative shibboleth. The schools are a symptom, not a cause of this country’s economic and social equality. The reason for those is longstanding racism and growing income and wealth inequality as a result of government policy, redlining and the criminal justice system, among other factors. School choice only assures that those left behind in public schools in poor urban districts will get an even worse education. If conservatives favored greater equality of outcomes for urban school districts, THEY’D FUND THEM BETTER.

8 Replies243 Recommended

Timothy commented July 9

Timothy
Brooklyn
Times Pick

The problem with the author’s argument is that these decisions allow ‘some’ people to be different: in one particular (presumedly acceptable) way; and at the expense of others’ difference. About the poor state of public schools: yes, many public schools are not doing so well, but that’s because conservatives have vigorously destroyed public education on budget, taxation, labor, and policy levels since the Reagan administration—with the express goals of dumbing down the (middle- and lower class) electorate and paving the way for religious indoctrination using taxpayer money…. as we’re seeing now. These demons play the long game, folks. And last, the health insurance issue, just in general: Why anyone thinks one’s employer’s values or morals should in any way affect how one uses one’s legally-provided health insurance is an absolute mystery. Yet another great argument for universal, national health care.

1 Reply213 Recommended

Julie commented July 9

Julie
East End of NY
Times Pick

This conservative vision of religious “liberty” is dangerous, especially when it comes to giving employers the “liberty” to enforce beliefs on other people just because they happen to be employees. The deciding factor in this vision is economic clout, not moral standing, when he who cuts the paycheck gets to decide the values. Likewise with public schools, denigrated as “failures” and sabotaged by the religious right. McConnell presents an economic argument to fix what he says is “The inferior quality of many American public schools.” It’s that “Private schools, including religious schools, bring needed competition.” God is not being worshipped here. Capitalism is.

3 Replies185 Recommend

Equality commented July 9

Equality
Times Pick

Last I checked vasectomies are covered by most insurance policies. Why are they not specificially excluded from insurance coverage due to the same religious beliefs? I’m confused. Men get birth control choices but women do not?

3 Replies154 Recommended

Thomas S commented July 9

Thomas S
Prospect, CT

What a masterpiece of sophistry! These religious institutions serve a pluralistic, secular society. They draw their clients and employees therefrom and, in a great many cases, they draw revenue from public coffers in reimbursement for their services. The facilities owned and operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor would be out of business were it not for Medicare and Medicaid. Unless they treat all equally, they should not be allowed to drink at the public trough. The same should apply to Catholic hospitals and health systems that deny reproductive health services to women, especially the poor for whom they purport to care so much. Around ninety percent of Catholics defy their church’s teachings on birth control. What the bishops can’t successfully impose on them, they would impose on anyone else that they can. The real trinity that they worship Is that of power, control, and money. Principle got lost in that tangle a long, long time ago.

1 Reply117 Recommended

 

Opinion | The Supreme Court, Too, Is on the Brink – By Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times

“The Supreme Court made the indisputably right call last week when it refused to block California from limiting attendance at religious services in an effort to control the spread of Covid-19.

A Southern California church, represented by a Chicago-based organization, the Thomas More Society, which most often defends anti-abortion activists, had sought the justices’ intervention with the argument that by limiting worshipers to the lesser of 25 percent of building capacity or 100 people, while setting a 50 percent occupancy cap on retail stores, California was discriminating against religion in violation of the Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause.

Given the obvious difference between walking through a store and sitting among fellow worshipers for an hour or more, as well as the documented spread of the virus through church attendance in such places as Sacramento (71 cases), Seattle (32 cases) and South Korea (over 5,000 cases traced to one person at a religious service), California’s limits are both sensitive and sensible, hardly the basis for constitutional outrage or judicial second-guessing.

So why did the court’s order, issued as midnight approached on Friday night, fill me with dread rather than relief?”

By The Editorial Board | George Floyd, Police Accountability and the Supreme Court – The New York Times

By 

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

Credit…Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

“A Minneapolis police officer, who was filmed kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes until the life left his body, has been fired, arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. That is a step toward justice. Those who take a life should face a jury of their peers. But the rarity of the arrest, the fact that police officers who brutalize or even kill other people while wearing a badge so seldom end up facing any consequences is an ugly reminder of how unjust America’s legal system can be.

There is a common refrain from street protesters in the wake of death after death after death after death of men of color at the hands of the police: “No justice, no peace.” In the absence of justice, there has been no peace.

Demonstrations in nearly a dozen cities, some of which turned violent, erupted in response to the killing of Mr. Floyd. At least seven people were shot in Louisville. Windows were broken in the state capitol of Ohio. And a police station was set ablaze in Minneapolis, where National Guard troops will again patrol the streets on Friday. The president tweeted early Friday that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which frames the problem backward. It is not a defense of torching a Target to note that police abuse of civilians often leads to protests that can spiral out of control, particularly when met with force.

Police officers don’t face justice more often for a variety of reasons — from powerful police unions to the blue wall of silence to cowardly prosecutors to reluctant juries. But it is the Supreme Court that has enabled a culture of violence and abuse by eviscerating a vital civil rights law to provide police officers what, in practice, is nearly limitless immunity from prosecution for actions taken while on the job. The badge has become a get-out-of-jail-free card in far too many instances.

In 1967, the same year the police chief of Miami coined the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” to threaten civil rights demonstrators, the Supreme Court first articulated a notion of “qualified immunity.” In the case of police violence against a group of civil rights demonstrators in Mississippi, the court decided that police officers should not face legal liability for enforcing the law “in good faith and with probable cause.” “

Opinion | A Precedent Overturned Reveals a Supreme Court in Crisis – By Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Christopher (TX) Lee for The New York Times

“The country wasn’t exactly holding its breath for the Supreme Court’s decision this week that the Constitution requires juror unanimity for a felony conviction in state court. The case promised little change. Unanimity has long been understood as constitutionally required in federal court as a matter of the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

The only outlier among the states was Oregon. Louisiana, where the case originated in an appeal brought by a man convicted of murder in 2016 by a 10-to-2 vote, changed its rule two years later to require unanimity going forward. Six Supreme Court justices agreed this week that contrary to the outcome of a 1972 case, there is not one rule for the federal courts and another for the states: Conviction only by a unanimous jury verdict is now the rule for both.

That sounds almost too straightforward to be very interesting. Even people with more than a passing interest in the Supreme Court may well have thought, “Well, then that’s that,” before moving on to other cases, other concerns.

That would have been a mistake. This decision, Ramos v. Louisiana, is in fact one of the most fascinating Supreme Court products I’ve seen in a long time, and one of the most revealing. Below the surface of its 6-to-3 outcome lies a maelstrom of clashing agendas having little to do with the question ostensibly at hand and a great deal to do with the court’s future. Peek under the hood and see a Supreme Court in crisis.”

Opinion | On the Wisconsin Primary, the Supreme Court Failed Us – By Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Lauren Justice for The New York Times

“The Supreme Court just met its first test of the coronavirus era. It failed, spectacularly.

I was hoping not to have to write those sentences. All day Monday, I kept refreshing my computer’s link to the court’s website.

I was anxious to see how the justices would respond to the urgent request from the Republican National Committee and Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature to stop the state from counting absentee ballots postmarked not by Tuesday’s election but during the following few days.

A federal district judge, noting that Wisconsin’s election apparatus was overwhelmed by the “avalanche of absentee ballots” sought by voters afraid to show up at crowded polling places, had ordered the extra time last Thursday, with the full support of the state’s election officials. Was I the only one left in suspense on Monday, holding out hope that the five Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices would put partisanship aside and let the District Court order stand?

In early evening, the answer landed with a thud. No, they would not.

In more than four decades of studying and writing about the Supreme Court, I’ve seen a lot (and yes, I’m thinking of Bush v. Gore). But I’ve rarely seen a development as disheartening as this one: a squirrelly, intellectually dishonest lecture in the form of an unsigned majority opinion, addressed to the four dissenting justices (Need I name them? Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan), about how “this court has repeatedly emphasized that lower federal courts should ordinarily not alter the election rules on the eve of an election.” “

Elizabeth Warren’s Days Defending Big Corporations – By Stephanie Saul- The New York Times

“Elizabeth Warren had never taken on the federal government before.

But in 1995, she found herself up against the Clinton administration, representing the Cleveland-based conglomerate LTV Steel.

Even though LTV had sold off its coal mines during the 1980s, a new law required it to contribute to a health fund for retired miners.

LTV believed that it should not have to pay. Those claims, the company said, should have been handled as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.

Ms. Warren’s job was to convince the Supreme Court to hear LTV’s case.

The court declined, but for Ms. Warren, the issue would fester. Over a decade later, when she ran for the Senate from Massachusetts in 2012, the Republican incumbent, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, tried to use her work for LTV against her, unleashing an ad calling her a “hired gun” who sided “against working people.” Notwithstanding the attack, Mr. Brown lost his seat to Ms. Warren.

The LTV case was part of a considerable body of legal work that Ms. Warren, one of the nation’s leading bankruptcy experts, took on while working as a law professor — moonlighting that earned her hundreds of thousands of dollars over roughly two decades beginning in the late 1980s, mostly while she was on the faculty at Harvard. Much of it involved representing big corporate clients.”

David Lindsay:  Wow. Terrific and interesting writing by Stephanie Saul, thank you.

This complicated dive into Warren’s corporate work while at Harvard, reinvorces what an extraordinary lawyer she is. She was tough as nails, not working always for widows and orphans, but almost always picking cases where she could try to protect the institution of bankruptcy.

‘The Enigma of Clarence Thomas’ Makes a Strong Case for Its Provocative Thesis – The New York Times

CreditCreditAlessandra Montalto/The New York Times

“In “The Enigma of Clarence Thomas,” Corey Robin presents a case that also happens to be a high-wire act — that the Supreme Court justice who almost never speaks from the bench, who writes controversial opinions paying little heed to legal precedent, is in fact quite explicable.

Other observers of the court have portrayed Thomas as a Constitutional purist, determined to uncover the document’s original meaning, but “Thomas’s originalism is at best episodic,” Robin writes, arguing that it doesn’t entirely cohere. More consistent has been something plenty of people don’t know about — and that those who do tend to brush aside as a bygone chapter from Thomas’s past.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Thomas was a self-described “radical” and adherent of Malcolm X. He took up the cause of the Black Panthers and marched against the Vietnam War. He was a black nationalist — and according to Robin, he still is. Far from abandoning his old views on race, Robin says, the longest-serving justice on the current Supreme Court has retrofitted those views to propel a conservative agenda.

“Thomas is a black man whose conservatism is overwhelmingly defined by and oriented toward the interests of black people, as he understands them,” Robin writes. The black nationalism underpinning his jurisprudence is a “secret hiding in plain sight.” “

David Lindsay: This report really surprised me. It is good to learn somethin completely new every day. Before this, I never saw any redeeming quality in Clarence Thomas.

Opinion | How to Fight Gerrymandering Now – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt

Opinion Columnist

Demonstrators protested against gerrymandering in front of the Supreme Court in March.CreditJoshua Roberts/Reuters

 

“John Roberts and the four other Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices last month gave their approval to extreme gerrymandering, which means that federal courts will no longer be able to reject political maps drawn for partisan reasons.

That’s a bad development for American democracy. Political parties will be able to entrench power by drawing legislative districts that allow them to win elections even when they receive fewer votes.

So what can opponents of gerrymandering do? I see several strategies:

1. Criticize the Roberts court for its partisanship. Both parties engage in shameful gerrymandering. But Republicans have done much more of it than Democrats. To be blunt, five Republican-appointed justices — including one who’s on the court only because Senate Republicans effectively stole a seat — delivered an enormous, anti-democratic gift to their own political party.”

Supreme Court Says Constitution Does Not Bar Partisan Gerrymandering – By Adam Liptak – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against the challengers opposed to partisan gerrymandering, the practice in which the party that controls the state legislature draws voting maps to help elect its candidates.

The vote in two cases was 5 to 4, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority. The court appeared to close the door on such claims.

The drafters of the Constitution, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority, understood that politics would play a role in drawing election districts when they gave the task to state legislatures. Judges, the chief justice said, are not entitled to second-guess lawmakers’ judgments.

“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” the chief justice wrote.”