“Attorney General Lynn Fitch of Mississippi made nationwide news last week when she asked the Supreme Court to overturn its two leading precedents on the right to abortion, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. I was puzzled by the treatment of this filing as news, unless the news was that a state finally came clean with the court and told the justices what it really wanted them to do.”
“Back in 2014, when the Arizona Legislature passed a bill to provide business owners with a religious excuse to discriminate against gay people, the N.F.L. threatened to move Super Bowl XLIX out of the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill.
In 2015, when the N.C.A.A. led a pushback from its Indianapolis headquarters against a similar bill that the Indiana Legislature passed, Gov. Mike Pence said it was all a “great misunderstanding” and eventually signed a watered-down version that met the demands of the N.C.A.A. and other sports organizations that had protested.
In 2017, the North Carolina Legislature repealed an anti-transgender “bathroom bill” after the loss of the N.B.A. All-Star Game plus convention and tourism business cost the state millions of dollars in revenue and companies canceled plans to relocate there.” . . .
“As Ben Smith, the media columnist for The Times, suggested a few weeks ago, pretty much every journalist who passed through Washington, D.C., during the past half century knows President-elect Joe Biden and has a story to tell. I’d like to end this strange year, and welcome the new one and the new president, by telling mine.
I met then-Senator Biden in the mid-1980s, when he was a member of the Judiciary Committee and I was covering the occasional judicial confirmation. By 1987, he was chairman of the committee, after the Democrats retook the Senate in the 1986 midterms. That summer, President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.
Given the president’s success the year before in naming Justice William Rehnquist as chief justice and a little-known judge, Antonin Scalia, to fill Rehnquist’s associate justice seat, this nomination presented a huge challenge to Judge Bork’s opponents, and a disheartening one. Leaders of the liberal groups that assembled to fight the nomination of the outspoken conservative, a judge with reactionary views on civil rights and free speech, had little confidence that the Judiciary Committee’s chairman was up to the job.
“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.” “
“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?”
“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.”
By Linda Greenhouse
Contributing Opinion Writer
March 14, 2019, 165
Image: The cross that stands 40 feet tall on public land in Bladensburg, Md., is the subject of a Supreme Court case.
Credit Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
The cross that stands 40 feet tall on public land in Bladensburg, Md., is the subject of a Supreme Court case.CreditCreditChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Even before last month’s Supreme Court argument, the smart-money consensus was that those challenging the Latin cross that stands 40 feet tall on public land in Bladensburg, Md., would lose. Without debating that prediction, I want to make an obvious but, so far, underappreciated point: It really matters how the American Humanist Association and the other nonreligious plaintiffs lose.
If the justices permit the ultimate symbol of Christianity to remain, towering over other structures at the junction of two major roads, what theory will they use?
Will they say that even if such an object would be unconstitutional if erected today, this one should be grandfathered because it was put up by local citizens as a World War I memorial and stood without controversy for most of the ensuing 93 years?
Will the justices decide, as one lawyer, Neal Katyal, insisted in defense of the cross, that despite its origin as the centerpiece of Christian theology, a cross designated a war memorial acquires “an independent secular meaning?” (The Supreme Court’s leading precedent requires that in order not to violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, a government display of a religious symbol must have a “secular legislative purpose.”)”
By Linda Greenhouse
Contributing Opinion Writer
Dec. 6, 2018, 252
President Bush and Barbara Bush with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at his swearing-in ceremony in 1991.CreditCreditDirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Image
“It’s not hard for a new president, in concert with Congress, to erase a predecessor’s legislative, regulatory and diplomatic accomplishments. It’s a president’s Supreme Court legacy that lasts.
Many retrospectives on the life of President George H.W. Bush, who died last Friday, noted that one of the two men he named to the court, Clarence Thomas, is now in his 27th year as a justice and, at age 70, is on track to become one of the longest-serving Supreme Court justices in history.
Justice David H. Souter, who in 1990 became President Bush’s first Supreme Court appointee, has received much less attention in recent days, perhaps because he retired nine years ago and has avoided the spotlight ever since. The soft-spoken New Hampshire judge never became a lightning rod except to those on the right who, while thrilling to Justice Thomas’s hard-edge originalism, were sorely vexed by Justice Souter’s modestly progressive jurisprudence. While one became an icon, the other became the object of a negative mantra: “No more Souters.”
My goal here is not to appraise the two Bush 41 justices. It’s to compare the approaches — one conciliatory, the other, confrontational — that in the space of a single year (July 1990 to July 1991) produced such different nominees. Those approaches remain today as contrasting archetypes for how to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.”
A month ago, ThinkProgress published an essay by Ian Millhiser with the title “Clarence Thomas Is the Most Important Legal Thinker in America.” I did a double take. How could the estimable Mr. Millhiser sign his name to such an exaggerated claim? But his argument was not that Justice Thomas, who recently turned 70, is winning victories today, but that he is paving the way for victories down the road — and perhaps not all that far down the road. Observing that 20 percent of Trump-appointed appeals court judges are Justice Thomas’s former law clerks, Mr. Millhiser wrote, “Thomas lost the war for the present, but he is the future of legal conservatism.”So no, the court’s future is not already here, not yet. Those of us on the progressive side of the street are unlikely to look back on Justice Kennedy’s final term with nostalgia. But soon enough, we may decide that it was the best we’re going to see for a long time.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.Linda Greenhouse, the winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize, writes on alternate Thursdays about the Supreme Court and the law. She reported on the Supreme Court for The Times from 1978 to 2008, and is the author of several books.
“Here’s a possible solution to the most commented-upon mystery growing out of the Supreme Court’s argument this week in a case of crucial importance to the future of public employee unions: Why did the normally loquacious Justice Neil M. Gorsuch stay silent? Could the junior justice have caught something from Justice Clarence Thomas, who famously went a decade without asking a single question? Was Justice Gorsuch overcome by the knowledge that with his eight colleagues tied four to four — as revealed by the vote two terms ago in a nearly identical case that was argued but not yet decided by the time of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death — he holds the fate of organized labor in his hands?
No, nothing as tantalizing as that. I think the answer is probably a good deal more pedestrian. The lawyer representing the labor union, David C. Frederick, is Justice Gorsuch’s former law partner. When President Trump nominated Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court a year ago, Mr. Frederick published an opinion essay in The Washington Post under the headline: “There Is No Principled Reason to Vote Against Gorsuch.” Identifying himself as “a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates and progressive causes,” Mr. Frederick called Judge Gorsuch “a longtime friend” and described him as “brilliant, diligent, open-minded and thoughtful.” So why would Justice Gorsuch beat up on his old friend when Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Anthony M. Kennedy were doing an enthusiastic job of it?”
“The challengers, supported by the Trump administration, maintain that this longstanding distinction between chargeable and nonchargeable expenses is unsupportable because everything a public employee union does is inherently political. Thus, they argue, it violates the First Amendment for the objectors to have to support the union in any way, and therefore the precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, must be overruled.
In support of this argument, Justices Alito and Kennedy were obsessively focused on unions as political actors that could, in Justice Alito’s words, “push a city to the brink and perhaps over the brink into bankruptcy.” Their goal was to show that public employee unions are political to their very core.
“Do you think that this case affects the political influence of the unions?” Justice Kennedy asked Mr. Frederick. When the lawyer began his answer with a No, Justice Kennedy went on, with evident sarcasm:
“So you’ve — I can try to find a union newsletter which says don’t worry about the Supreme Court, our political influence will be exactly the same as it was before, if this case comes out against us?”
“That’s not a chargeable expense, Justice Kennedy,” Mr. Frederick began. “We’re talking about —” “
Unions and Collective Bargaining power. This is a difficult subject. In Hamden and the State of CT, we have a too much power in the public employee unions, or, for complex reasons, they negotiated for overly generous, and unsustainable pension and work benefits, that now endanger the economies of the state and local governments. Meanwhile, we have workers at places like Walmart, Subway, and home nursing aides, who are so poorly paid, that they remain in poverty after working full time. How will this extreme haircut affect these two problems? On the one hand, we have unionized public service labor that is overpowerful, and needs a haircut, and poorly paid service workers in the private sector, who desperately need more collective bargaining power, and better wages and benefits. The benefit of this right wing hair cut it that it might bring some support to Hamden and Connecticut against the unsustainable benefits agreed to in the last 40 years or so. Will this haircut throw out many babies with the bathwater? Or will it curb the the excesses of big labor, while allowing for a new growth in unionization in the private sector where collective bargaining is so desperately needed. The answer probably lies in the practices of counties like Germany, and the Scandinavian countries, where the social net is stronger, which allows for more risk taking. David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com