The Supreme Court has been quite busy this week…

Unfortunately I am extremely pressed for time so here is a brief synopsis:

(1) Affirmative Action – basically they “punted” meaning they decided to not make a decision and instead sent it back to the lower court from whence it came.

“The Supreme Court, in an anticlimax, sidestepped a sweeping ruling on affirmative action Monday, directing lower courts to re-examine whether a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas at Austin should survive constitutional scrutiny.

The 7-1 ruling reflected a broad consensus across the court’s ideological spectrum, but the justices reached near unanimity only by bypassing the core question in affirmative-action cases—whether racial diversity qualifies as a compelling government objective justifying preferential treatment.

The decision was a relief to the higher-education establishment, where affirmative action is widely supported. Dozens of institutions including all eight Ivy League schools filed briefs backing UT’s position. They stated, like UT, that they take race into account in some admissions decisions. Any ruling striking down that practice would have had nationwide repercussions, except in more than a half a dozen states that have already barred consideration of race in public university admissions.” (WSJ)

Sidebar:  Clarence Thomas does not believe in affirmative action. The irony in that situation is that he is ONLY on the bench because of affirmative action. His legal analysis is second rate and he did not deserve a seat on the highest court in the land. In this particular instance I believe “the program” failed miserably.

(2) The Voting Rights Act – this decision hurts my soul and makes me weary. The court struck down a key provision of the Act which required certain states to obtain federal clearance BEFORE implementing changes in voting procedures like moving a polling place, redrawing electoral districts or extensive voter id laws. This decision will have severe consequences for years to come.

The Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, the provision of the landmark civil rights law that designates which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court.

The 5-4 ruling, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that “things have changed dramatically” in the South in the nearly 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965.

The court’s opinion said it did not strike down the act of Congress “lightly,” and said it “took care to avoid ruling on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act” in a separate case back in 2009. “Congress could have updated the coverage formula at that time, but did not do so. Its failure to act leaves us today with no choice but to declare [Section 4] unconstitutional. The formula in that section can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance.”

The Voting Rights Act has recently been used to block a voter ID law in Texas and delay the implementation of another in South Carolina. Both states are no longer subject to the preclearance requirement because of the court’s ruling on Tuesday. (Huffpo)


“The decision will have immediate practical consequences. Texas announced shortly after the decision that a voter identification law that had been blocked would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval. Changes in voting procedures in the places that had been covered by the law, including ones concerning restrictions on early voting, will now be subject only to after-the-fact litigation.” (NYT)

Disastrously wrong decision made by the majority but then this happened:

(3) Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 – VICTORY!

The Supreme Court gave a major boost to marriage equality for gays and lesbians Wednesday, striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and clearing the way for gay marriages in California.

The decisions by the high court do not require the remaining 37 states to authorize same-sex marriage. But even JusticeAntonin Scalia, in dissent, said the court’s opinions will be read by judges across the nation as suggesting that bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional.

The DOMA ruling will bring equal rights to more than 100,000 gays and lesbians who were legally married. The justices by a 5-4 vote said the federal law denying benefits to those couples was unconstitutional because it denied them the equal protection of the laws.

The government cannot say these same-sex “unions will be treated as second-class marriages for purposes of federal law,” said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. The government cannot insist these same-sex marriages are “less worthy” or viewed as a “second-tier marriage,” he said.

And in the California case, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.spoke for the court in a procedural decision that threw out the appeal from the sponsors of Proposition 8, the ballot measure that limited marriage to a man and a woman. The effect of the second decision is to uphold a ruling by a federal judge in San Francisco who ruled gays and lesbians had a constitutional right to marry in California.

As a result of the ruling, California will likely become the 13th state where gay marriage is legal. (LAT, see also NYT)


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