Samuel Alito

Prop 8 Backers Urge Supreme Court to Review

The ballot initiative that revoked marriage equality in California has taken a big step towards having its constitutionality determined by America’s highest court.  In a long-awaited move, proponents of Prop 8 have petitioned the Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Hollingsworth .v Perry that the ballot initiative violated the federal Equal Protection Clause.  A nearly 500 page document, which can found here, lays out their rationale for urging the court to review the case.

Prop 8 Trial Tracker broke down the core of their argument:

The question presented in the case is: “Whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.” The proponents tell the Court that they should answer the “profoundly important question whether the ancient and vital institution of marriage should be fundamentally redefined to include same-sex couples.” They write that leaving the Ninth Circuit’s decision intact would have “widespread and immediate negative consequences” and would leave the impression that any “experiment” with marriage would be “irrevocable”.

The Ninth Circuit issued a very narrow ruling, avoiding the question of whether gay and lesbian couples in general have a constitutional right to marry.  Instead, it based its ruling on narrow grounds unique to California, where same-sex couples were left with all the state rights of marriage but not the name. It found that taking their designation of “marriage” while leaving their rights unchanged did not serve any of the purposes put forth by its defenders. Instead, its only purpose and effect was to lessen a targeted group’s status and dignity by reclassifying their relationship and families as inferior. While the Supreme Court will be presented with the narrower question as framed by the Ninth Circuit, it is impossible to tell, if it agrees to hear the case at all, whether they will rule on this principle or more broadly on the ability of states to deny lesbians and gays the right to marry.

The Supreme Court will likely decide in early October whether or not to hear the case.  Back in February, PFAW applauded the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in upholding the decision of the district court striking down Prop 8.

Marriage equality is just one of the many critical issues that will come before the Supreme Court when they reconvene next session.  The elevation of Prop 8 to the highest level of the judicial system underscores the increasing importance of the Supreme Court and the Presidential election.

It is a difficult to imagine a more conservative Court than the one we have now, but Mitt Romney has pledged to appoint justices even further to the right then John Roberts and Samuel Alito.  Romney has also enlisted far-right judge Robert Bork to advise him on judicial matters.

Visit RomneyCourt.com  for more on Mitt Romney’s extreme vision for the Supreme Court.

PFAW

Split Decisions Impact Immigration and Unions

Here’s a quick recap of the Supreme Court’s decisions during the past week: Unions are now further disadvantaged and despite some important changes to the state’s immigration law, racial profiling remains a viable option for Arizona law enforcement.

On June 21, the Supreme Court issued its decision on Knox v. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000. The case dealt with a labor policy several states have, known as agency shops, in which employees are not required to become members of the union representing their place of employment, but must pay dues since they benefit from the work the union does. At the point in which all employees working at an establishment that has a union presence are receiving higher wages, more vacation days, and overall better working conditions, it is only fair that all employees pay union dues and not free-ride off of just the union members who pay.

However, in the case of public sector unions, the Supreme Court held a generation ago that non-members have the right to opt out of having their dues used for political activity by the union, effectively weakening the union’s ability to operate on its members’ behalf. In Knox, the Court criticized the balance struck in 1986 and ruled that when the union has a mid-year special assessment or dues increase, it cannot collect any money at all from non-union members unless they affirmatively opt-in (rather than opt-out). This ruling addressed an issue that wasn’t raised by the parties and that the union never had a chance to address, furthering the Right Wing’s goal to hamper a union’s ability to collect dues and make it harder for unions to have a voice in a post-Citizens United political environment. To add insult to injury, Justice Alito let his ideological leanings shine through when he essentially claimed right-to-work laws are good policy.

After the Knox v. SEIU decision, the court released its ruling on the highly contentious 2010 Arizona anti-immigration law, known as S.B. 1070. In a 5-3 decision, the court struck down the majority of the southwestern state’s draconian immigration policy. The court ruled that much of the state’s law unconstitutionally affected areas of law preempted by the federal government, acknowledging the impracticality of each state having its own immigration policy. Oppressive anti-immigrant provisions were struck down, such as one criminalizing the failure to carry proof of citizenship at all times, and a provision making it illegal under state law for an undocumented immigrant to apply for or hold a job. The decision also recognized that merely being eligible for removal is not in itself criminal, and thus the suspicion of being eligible for removal is not sufficient cause for arrest.

Although the majority of S.B. 1070 was overturned by the Supreme Court this week, one component remains, at least for the moment. Officers can still check the immigration status of anyone stopped or arrested if they had “reasonable suspicion” that the individual may be undocumented. This keeps the door wide open for racial profiling. Arresting an individual is not the same as being convicted for a crime. Latinos and other minority groups can be stopped for a crime as simple as jaywalking and “appear” suspicious enough to warrant an immigration background check. By leaving this portion of the law, the US Supreme Court has, for the time being, allowed the potential profiling of thousands of Arizona residents, regardless of whether they are immigrants or US citizens, but has left open the ability to challenge the manner in which this provision is put into practice.

PFAW

Roberts Court Limits Privacy Act Protections

The five conservatives sharply limit when you can sue the government for illegally releasing personal information about you.
PFAW Foundation

A Jury of One's (Corporate) Peers

This week saw a brief but telling exchange before the Supreme Court involving the constitutional status of corporations.
PFAW Foundation

"The Number One Reason to Vote"

Lawrence O'Donnell discusses the critical importance of the Supreme Court in this - and any - presidential election.
PFAW

Justice Alito Has Some Things He'd Like to Say...

In the aftermath of Citizens United v. FEC, PFAW looks at the cases in which Justice Samuel Alito has also said "not true."

Right Wing Attacks on Sotomayor Gain Little Traction

Right-wing leaders geared up months ago to oppose any Supreme Court nominee that the Obama administration might have an opportunity to make, and they have doggedly followed their script through the announcement of David Souter's intention to resign, the announcement of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination, and her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. For all their professed concern about the "politicization" of the judiciary, right-wing leaders have been planning since before President Obama's inauguration to treat any Supreme Court nominee primarily as a chance to begin political attacks on red and purple state Democrats with an eye to elections in 2010 and 2012.

Themes from the Right -- Day 2

The second day of right-wing attacks on Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor continued many of the themes of the first day’s attacks, mostly distortions of her judicial record and public remarks and distortions of President Obama’s desire for judges who exhibit empathy. National Review published a wave of anti-Sotomayor commentary on its website.

Attacks on DOJ Nominees Signal Right's Judicial Nominations Strategy

Right-wing political and legal organizations have unleashed a coordinated campaign of over-the-top attacks on the qualifications, records, and fitness of President Obama’s nominees for important positions in the U.S. Justice Department. Deputy Attorney General nominee David Ogden has been the prime target of the Right’s wrath, but Solicitor General nominee Elena Kagan, Associate Attorney General nominee Thomas Perrelli, and Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen have also come in for their share of criticism.

The Human Toll: How Individual Americans Have Fared at the Hands of Bush Judges

People For the American Way Foundation has documented in a series of reports the damage that Bush nominated judges have done to the Constitution — and to Americans' ability to seek and expect justice in the federal courts when challenging unlawful treatment by corporations, government agencies, and other powerful entities. This report looks at a selection of cases with an eye to the human cost of a federal judiciary dominated by an ideology that is all too willing to sacrifice individual rights and legal protections.

The State of the Judiciary and the Bush Legacy

A report about the how the long-lasting part of President George W. Bush's legacy will be the weakening of Americans' rights and legal protections due to the dangerous state of the federal judiciary created by judges he has placed on the federal bench.

“Independent” John Sununu Rubberstamped 100% of George Bush’s Right-Wing Judges

In New Hampshire, the state Republican Party attempted to defend Senator John Sununu’s support of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito by calling Sununu “an independent voice for New Hampshire.” People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert said, “If John Sununu is an independent voice, why has he voted for every single one of President Bush’s most extreme judicial nominees? On the most important votes he’s taken confirming nominees to lifetime seats on the federal bench, he’s voted in lockstep with George W. Bush. He’s certainly distinguished himself as one of President Bush’s most loyal allies; he can’t reasonably be called ‘independent.’”

Supreme Court End-of-Term Analysis: 2005-06 Term

The 2005-06 term was clearly a period of transition for the Supreme Court, as Chief Justice Roberts replaced Chief Justice Rehnquist, and two justices in a sense replaced Justice O’Connor Justice Alito took her seat on the Court while Justice Kennedy replaced her as the “swing” vote in a number of closely divided cases. And while a relatively large number of the Court’s decisions this term were unanimous (generally where the Court was able to agree on a narrow approach and avoid divisive issues as in the New Hampshire abortion case), the new justices clearly pushed the Court towards the right in several important, closely divided cases.
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