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Supreme Court Strikes Down TX Abortion Restrictions

The Supreme Court ruled today that a Texas law limiting access to abortions was unconstitutional:

The Supreme Court’s 5 to 3 decision ruled unconstitutional a 2013 Texas law that required all abortion providers to meet ambulatory surgical standards and physicians to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Supporters of the regulations under House Bill 2 said they aimed to protect women’s health. Abortion advocates called the mandates unnecessary, expensive and an “undue burden” on women’s rights.

...In the court opinion, the justices said lawmakers couldn’t prove the rules actually protected women’s health. The move suggested restrictive abortion measures won’t stand unless policy designers prove they keep women from harm.

The opinion is here. [More...]

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Obama's Supreme Court Pick

I read the other contenders withdrew from the race.

I couldn't disagree more with Obama's announcement that he's tapped Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.

We don't need another Alito on the Court. It's got enough conservative law and order type former prosecutors.

Republicans will love this choice. It seems to me Obama just wants to appease them and get them to back off their position that the next president should get to choose Scalia's replacement.

So disappointed.

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Obama's Supreme Court Choices

A new name has emerged as a finalist in the Supreme Court sweeps to replace Justice Scalia. Meet Paul Watford.

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Justice Thomas Asks Questions

Justice Clarence Thomas asked questions of a government lawyer during oral arguments yesterday. It was the first time in 10 years he's asked a question. What was the case? A gun rights case.

"Ms. Eisenstein, one question," Thomas said. "This is a misdemeanor violation. It suspends a constitutional right. Can you give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?"

What misdemeanor is that? The federal law that prohibits someone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence in state court from owning a firearm.The case is Voisine v. United States.

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On Scalia and Naming His Replacement

On Scalia and his legacy, I wrote this.

The issue of replacing Scalia, Kagro and I did this. Starting at the 40 minute mark, I think David and I discuss this in a manner that, imnsho, you won't find anywhere else. Take a listen.

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Justice Antonin Scalia Dead at 79

You'll have heard this by now.

The big issues - President Obama will nominate a replacement. The GOP Senate will not vote or confirm the nominee. What will this mean?

Discuss.

[Update TL below]}

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Supreme Court Upholds Execution Drug

In a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Alito, the Supreme Court has upheld Oklahoma's use of midazolam in executions. The reasoning:

Alito said the prisoners failed to identify a “known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain,” which he said was required under the court’s previous ruling upholding lethal injection. And he said plaintiffs had failed to establish that a massive dose of midazolam “entails a substantial risk of severe pain.”

Some background is here. The opinion is here.

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SCOTUS Rules Constitution Requires Marriage Equality

Decision here.

Discuss.

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Supreme Court Upholds Obama's Health Care Act

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court today upheld the Affordable Choices Act. The opinion in King v. Burwell is here.

The 6-to-3 ruling means that it is all but certain that the Affordable Care Act will survive after Mr. Obama leaves office in 2017, and will give it a greater chance of becoming an enduring part of America’s social safety net

Dissenters: Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The Court upheld the Act's tax subsidies intended to assist the ability of the poor and middle-class to buy health insurance. [More...]

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The Silence of Judges on Mass Incarceration

Via Sentencing Law and Policy: U.S. District Court Jed Rakoff gave a speech at Harvard Law School last Friday about mass incarceration in the U.S. and the responsibilities of lawyers and judges. He says judges need to be more outspoken in their criticism. Bloomberg BNA has reprinted it in its entirety. For those who want the short version, here is a portion of the last paragraph.

In many respects, the people of the United States can be proud of the progress we have made over the past half-century in promoting racial equality. More haltingly, we have also made some progress in our treatment of the poor and disadvantaged. But the big, glaring exception to both these improvements is how we treat those guilty of crimes. Basically, we treat them like dirt. And while this treatment is mandated by the legislature, it is we judges who mete it out. Unless we judges make more effort to speak out against this inhumanity, how can we call ourselves instruments of justice?

Judge Rakoff is not suggesting the strides we have made towards racial equality extend to the criminal justice system. To the contrary, he writes [More...]

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Would a public option have eliminated incentive for King v. Burwell?

There is no public option in the Affordable Care Act. On its own merits, as Wendell Potter explains, that's a shame. But there is another reason why no public option in ACA is a bad thing - if ACA included a public option, the challenge to tax credits and subsidies on the exchange, now before the the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell, would never have existed.

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Colorado's "Feisty" Federal Judge

The Denver Post today has a detailed profile of Senior District Court Judge John Kane, who is well-known for challenging authority.

As a boy growing up in Depression-era Denver,John Kane learned to identify with those on the fringes of society, the powerless, those who were forced to sit in the balcony at movie theaters. He also learned to challenge authority — a skill he embraces with gusto as a federal judge.

Judge Kane was our first public defender in 1964. He served as a Deputy Director in the Peace Corps. He was appointed to the federal bench by President Carter in 1977. He's been an outspoken critic of the war on drugs for decades and of the draconian child p*rn sentencing guidelines. Most recently, he's been in the news for his decisive and much heralded rulings in inmate Jamal Hunter's abuse lawsuit against Denver sheriffs at the Denver County Jail. [More...]

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Supreme Court Upholds Michigan Ban on Affirmative Action

In a 6-2 vote, the Supreme Court has upheld Michigan's ban on affirmative action in college admissions. The full opinion in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action is here.

The opinion holds that Michigan voters had the right to amend their constitution to prohibit public universities from considering race in admissions decisions.

Justices Sotomayor wrote the 58 page dissent, joined in by Justice Ginsburg. The Chicago Tribune discusses the dissent here. [More...]

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Opening SCOTUS Briefs In Hobby Lobby, Conestoga

Via Marty Lederman, the government's opening brief (PDF) in Hobby Lobby and the plaintiff's opening brief (PDF) in Conestoga. The government is the petitioner in Hobby Lobby and the Conestoga plaintiffs are the petitioners in their case.

Bone up as we will be discussing these issues during the week.

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Senior Federal Judge Ends His Popular Blog

Nebraska senior Federal Judge Richard Kopf, whose excellent blog Hercules and the Umpire I've written about a few times here and here, has decided to pack up his keyboard and quit blogging. I'm really sorry to see him go. His blog was immensely readable, sometimes serious, sometimes humorous. He has not been pressured to give up the blog, he's doing it voluntarily.

I'm sure many blogs would be willing to host him if he felt like writing a post or two, TalkLeft among them. I wouldn't care that he's not a "leftist," as he says.

Judge Kopf isn't taking the blog down, he's just not writing any more. If you haven't read him yet, go over and take a look. I think the judiciary would be much more transparent if more judges blogged. We, the public, tend to think of federal judges as being isolated in their ivory towers. It's nice to see a few that show their personality off the bench, and provide us with valuable legal insights while doing so.

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