Supreme Court

On Every Issue, Vote the Court

We are seeing increasing recognition of the Supreme Court as a central and critical issue in the presidential election.
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Far Right Poised to Reverse a Century of Progress with Romney's Court

Far right scholars are eager for a Romney victory, because his Supreme Court would turn their cramped vision of the Constitution into reality.
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Obama Talks About the Supreme Court

The president discusses the consequences if the next Supreme Court justices are chosen by Mitt Romney.
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PFAW Targets Female Voters in Ohio: Romney’s Supreme Court is Just Too Dangerous for Women

People For the American Way launched a campaign today aimed at making sure Ohio women understand the danger of a Supreme Court nominated by Mitt Romney. The campaign, which includes television, direct mail, Internet advertising and telephone calls, exposes the power that Romney’s Supreme Court justices would have to eliminate abortion rights and undermine the rights of women in the workplace.

The TV ad, “Mitt Romney’s Supreme Court: Too Extreme,” can be viewed here. Versions of the ad previously ran in Ohio and in Florida during the Republican National Convention.

“Mitt Romney too often tries to hide his extremism on issues including reproductive rights and equal pay,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “But when it comes to his Supreme Court picks, he’s been clear: he’ll bow to the far right and deliver justices who would roll back the rights of women. A Romney presidency might only last four years, but his Supreme Court could threaten the rights of women for a lifetime.”

“Polling has made it indisputably clear that women, particularly women in Ohio, will be critical in deciding the outcome of this election,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “We’re making sure that female voters have all the facts about the dangers of a Romney presidency.”

 

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Richard Mourdock and the Supreme Court

If Mitt Romney wins the election, his Supreme Court justices would empower far-right politicians like Richard Mourdock to codify their religious beliefs into law.
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Montana Campaign Finance Caps Can Stay For Now

The Court declines to wreck Montana's campaign finance system just two weeks before Election Day.
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Michael Keegan: Log Cabin Republicans Kidding Themselves About a Romney Supreme Court

People For the American Way President Michael Keegan responds to the Log Cabin Republicans’ endorsement of Mitt Romney:

I’m not surprised that the Log Cabin Republicans have gone against the best interests of LGBT Americans in endorsing Mitt Romney. Responding to their rationalization would normally not be worth the time, but one of their attempts at self-justification deserves a response. Log Cabin claims, ‘Those who point fearfully to potential vacancies on the United States Supreme Court, we offer a reminder: five of the eight federal court rulings against DOMA were written by Republican-appointed judges. Mitt Romney is not Rick Santorum, and Paul Ryan is not Michele Bachmann.’

The Log Cabin Republicans have willfully ignored everything Mitt Romney has said about the Supreme Court.

Romney has said that he will appoint Supreme Court justices and lower court judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who are both adamantly opposed to protecting the rights of gay people under the Constitution. Both dissented in Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling that ended criminal sodomy laws. In his dissent, Scalia accused the Court’s majority of signing on to the ‘homosexual agenda.’ These are the kind of Justices that Mitt Romney has promised to nominate to the Supreme Court.

We can also look to Romney’s choice of Robert Bork to lead his judicial advisory committee, a clear signal that he’s ready to cede judicial nominations to the Religious Right. Bork has vehemently disagreed with every pro-gay rights decision the Supreme Court has ever made, and even claims that marriage equality will lead to ‘man-boy associations’ and ‘polygamy.’ This is who Romney has picked to advise him on judicial nominations.

Romney doesn’t just support amending the Constitution to prohibit marriage equality – an amendment that every justice would be obliged to enforce. Everything Romney has said about judicial nominations indicates that he will appoint Supreme Court justices and lower court judges who will do lasting damage to the rights of all Americans – including LGBT people. No LGBT American or anyone who believes in equality should be fooled into thinking otherwise.

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The Circuit Court's DOMA Decision and the 2012 Election

Mitt Romney has made clear that his judicial nominees would not protect Americans' rights like the Second Circuit did yesterday.
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Elizabeth Warren Ad Warns of Republican Senate Influence On Supreme Court

People For the American Way has been stressing the enormous importance of the Supreme Court in the next election, emphasizing that if Mitt Romney is elected, he has promised to nominate extreme right-wing judges who will limit our civil liberties and rescind equality measures. In a new ad, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren echoes these concerns, warning that a Senate dominated by Republicans has the potential to approve a justice that would help overturn Roe v. Wade. Warren’s opponent Scott Brown has already voiced his support for Justice Antonin Scalia, naming the ultra-conservative judge as his favorite on the Supreme Court. We cannot afford to elect candidates like Mitt Romney or Scott Brown, who are sure to nominate and confirm justices that will take us back in time and turn back the progress we have made on behalf of women’s rights, worker’s rights, voting rights, and more.

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Debate Exposes Importance of Supreme Court to Working Women

The discussion of Lilly Ledbetter highlights the threat to working women that Mitt Romney's Supreme Court would pose.
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CWA Tries to Win Over Women By Claiming Romney Can’t Overturn Roe v. Wade

Concerned Women for America is trying out a novel strategy in its fight to draw women to support Mitt Romney this November: denying that the next president can do anything to eliminate abortion rights. In a new TV ad, CWA counters a MoveOn.org ad featuring female celebrities talking about the issue of reproductive rights in the presidential election. In the CWA ad, women derisively call the MoveOn.org supporters “Hollywood women” and mock the contention that a President Mitt Romney would “overturn Roe v. Wade.”

“Have they ever heard of the separation of powers?” asks one Concerned Woman.


Maybe it’s CWA that needs the civics lesson. Mitt Romney has repeatedly stated that he would choose Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. It even says so on his website. With as many as three Justices possibly retiring in the next four years, Romney might very well have the opportunity to shape a court that would take away the right to choose.

Which, of course, is what CWA has been working toward since its founding. A petition on CWA’s website calls for signers to support “any and all legislative efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade” and “support pro-life nominees to the courts.” A pamphlet the group distributed shortly before President Obama's inauguration said anti-choice advocates should work to "pass limits on abortion and appoint judges who will overturn Roe." And here’s the CWA’s blog discussing an Alabama Supreme Court ruling in February that challenged Roe.

This ruling has major implications for the pro-life movement. First, it clearly mirrors the growing sentiments of a majority of Americans who are pro-life, especially our younger generation. Second, Alabama has set a clear precedent that more states are expected to emulate. Finally, as state laws continue to represent Americans’ growing pro-life attitude, the U.S. Supreme Court will be called upon to reconsider and, ultimately, repeal Roe.

Unveiling the deception of Roe shouldn’t be a difficult task. Mario Diaz, Esq., Legal Counsel for Concerned Women for America, explains, “Legally speaking, Roe v. Wade is simply indefensible. It rests on the false premise that the ‘fetus’ is not a ‘person’ because the Justices say so. The scientific bases for that claim simply were not there in 1973, and they are not there now. In fact, JusticeBlackmun acknowledged that ‘[i]f this suggestion of personhood is established, [Roe's] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [Fourteenth] Amendment.’ Advances in science have been proving just that: we are dealing with a baby, not a blob of tissue as some conveniently tried to tell us. This decision by the Alabama Supreme Court is another indication that Roe‘s house of cards is slowly tumbling down.”

Pro-life conservatives can only hope that the Supreme Court revisits the abortion question sooner rather than later. With a few more decisions like the one in Alabama, we may just hold the legal trump card when that time comes.

Romney himself as also tried this tactic, claiming that there is nothing he would do to restrict abortion rights. A New York Times editorial this morning sets that notion straight.

 

Supreme Court to Hear Arizona Voting Rights Case

The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear a critical voting rights case next year. Arizona has appealed a 9th Circuit decision that barred the state from requiring proof of citizenship from those registering to vote via a federally-approved registration form. Current federal law allows voters to register via federal form instead of a state-specific form. Those opting to do so must swear under penalty of perjury that they are citizens. Arizona’s law, which is currently stayed, would require voters using that form to jump over an extra hurdle to register, requiring them to show proof of their citizenship, a provision disproportionately affecting low-income and minority voters.

The AP explains:

The ruling applies only to people who seek to register using the federal mail-in form. Arizona has its own form and an online system to register when renewing a driver's license. The court ruling did not affect proof of citizenship requirements using the state forms.

Arizona officials have said most people use those methods and the state form is what county officials give people to use to register. But voting rights advocates had hoped the 9th Circuit decision would make the federal mail-in card more popular because it's more convenient than mailing in a state form with a photocopy of proof of citizenship.

The mail-in card is particularly useful for voter registration drives, said Robert Kengle of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which is representing Native American and Hispanic groups in the case.

The conservative wing of the Supreme Court has been eager to challenge voting rights laws in recent years. In 2008, a 6-3 majority of the court upheld Indiana’s voter ID law, paving the way for suppressive voter ID measures throughout the country. The Court may also hear a challenge to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires federal preclearance for voting rights changes in states and counties with a history of discrimination at the ballot box. Successful court challenges to discriminatory voting law changes this year have shown just how essential that provision still is.

While the composition of the Supreme Court is unlikely to change before these cases are heard, they underscore the importance of federal courts in this election. Not only are federal courts the final protection we have against discriminatory voter suppression laws, the makeup of these courts is on the line in the presidential election. Either Mitt Romney or President Obama could pick up to three Supreme Court Justices and dozens of federal court judges in the next term. Romney has promised to appoint Justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who have both signaled their hostility to voting rights. If he does, and the Court shifts farther to the right, we could see decades of progress for fair and free elections slip away.

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VP Debate Highlights the Importance of the Supreme Court

Joe Biden spells out the danger of a Supreme Court with Romney justices hand-picked by the infamous Robert Bork.
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College Diversity Case Shows Importance of Sup. Court as Election Issue

Since Bush replaced O'Connor with Alito, an important affirmative action precedent is now in doubt. The presidential election affects the Supreme Court and all of us.
PFAW

Fisher v. University of Texas Rally Showcases Support for Affirmative Action

Yesterday morning, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, a landmark case that could determine whether public colleges and universities can consider race as one of many factors when making admission decisions. Plaintiff Abigail Fisher, a white woman, alleges that the University of Texas discriminated against her based on her race when she was not admitted to the University of Texas in 2008. Should the Supreme Court choose to rule in favor of Fisher and rescind equality measures that were upheld by the Court just nine years ago in Grutter v. Bollinger, public colleges and universities would lose their ability to ensure a diverse student body.

People For the American Way, along with many proponents of affirmative action, rallied in front of the Supreme Court, stressing the necessity of diversity and inclusiveness in higher education. Champions of fairness and racial equality spoke, reflecting upon their own educational triumphs as a result of affirmative action and warning against a color-blind perspective that the Supreme Court may uphold. Speakers emphasized that individuals are multi-faceted, and cannot be judged solely by an SAT score or a GPA.

Speakers at the rally emphasized that a student must be evaluated wholly as an individual. A person’s race and ethnicity is part of their background and part of what they offer to the diverse university community, just like their athletic abilities or legacy family roots.

While people of color have made great strides in closing the education gap, disparities in higher education remain widespread. Colleges and universities must foster diversity and represent the vast spectrum of aspiring students and professionals. This will only enhance ingenuity, bridge the racial divides of our history, and preserve America’s platform of fairness and justice.

PFAW

The Romney Court: Losing Your Rights Has Never Been Easier!

This is Justice Antonin Scalia, who Mitt Romney and Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown both hold up as their model Supreme Court Justice, discussing his approach to some thorny Constitutional issues:

"The death penalty? Give me a break. It's easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state”

Looking forward to seeing your rights eliminated with “ease” by the Supreme Court? We have just the candidate for you.

PFAW

Poll: Americans Fear Romney Would Further Shift Supreme Court Toward Big Business

Survey finds high court is a significant factor for voters

A newly released Hart Research Associates poll indicates that Americans fear that if Mitt Romney is elected president, he will appoint Supreme Court Justices who will shift the court even more in favor of big business at the expense of everyday Americans. Hart also found that the Supreme Court is a significant factor for voters in the upcoming election.

The poll was conducted for the Alliance for Justice Action Campaign, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and People for the American Way. It consisted of a national online survey of 1,007 registered, likely voters between August 24-30, 2012 and two focus groups in Philadelphia

It found that 63 percent of all voters, and more than half of independent voters and presidential “swing” voters, say the issue of who will serve on the Supreme Court is an important consideration in their vote this year. According to the survey, what most concerns voters – a full 54 percent --is their worry that Romney will nominate justices who will consistently favor corporations over ordinary Americans.

In contrast, voters believe that Obama is more likely to choose justices who “will protect the rights of average people, not just the wealthy and powerful.” And they believe President Obama is much more likely to appoint justices who “would uphold the progress we have made on civil rights and women’s rights.” The voters surveyed were also concerned about Romney’s opposition to Supreme Court decisions favoring women’s rights, including Roe v. Wade, Indeed, 59 percent of all voters, and 62 percent of swing voters, say Romney’s belief that women have no constitutional right to have an abortion gives them less confidence in Romney.

“If the next president fills even one vacancy on the Supreme Court, he could change the court, and America, for decades,” said Nan Aron, President of the Alliance for Justice Action Campaign. “This poll makes clear that the American people don’t want the president to further shift the court toward corporate special interests for a generation or more.”

“Americans are convinced that a Romney Court would make it harder for women and minorities to lead their day-to-day lives,” said Nancy Zirkin, Executive Vice President of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “As the Court considers affirmative action and same-sex marriage, its role as the last arbiter of equality for millions of disadvantaged Americans is clear. And Romney will have to quell these fears if he ever hopes to gain the trust of these communities.”

“We pick a president for four years, but he picks Supreme Court justices for a lifetime,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “This polling shows that Americans are concerned about how this election will affect the future of the Supreme Court, and know that a Mitt Romney presidency would skew the Court ever further to the Right.”

Sixty percent of all voters, and 63 percent of swing voters said they had less confidence Romney would appoint the right kinds of justices to the Supreme Court when told that Romney favored the Citizens United decision, which led to opening the floodgates to massive corporate campaign contributions. Voters are influenced as well by a number of recent 5-4 decisions siding with corporations over people, including Wal-Mart over its female employees, AT&T over its customers, and the case decided against Lily Ledbetter that led to the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

A full memo on the poll and focus groups is below. A pdf of the memo is available here.

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TO: Interested Parties

FROM: Guy Molyneux, Hart Research

DATE: September, 2012

RE: The Supreme Court and 2012


On behalf of Alliance for Justice Action Campaign, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and People for the American Way, Hart Research has conducted opinion research on the potential impact that the issue of Supreme Court nominations could have on the 2012 presidential election. A national online survey of 1,007 registered, likely voters was conducted August 24-30, 2012, followed by two focus groups in Philadelphia.

1) The issue of Supreme Court nominations is an important voting consideration for registered voters, including a substantial portion of swing voters.

Fully 63% of voters say that the issue of nominating justices to the Supreme Court will be an important consideration in their voting this year. That includes 30% who say “very important” consideration. As we would expect, strong partisans assign the greatest weight to the issue, but substantial numbers of independent voters (55%) and presidential swing voters (54%) also report a significant level of concern about the Supreme Court issue. Moreover, after survey respondents hear information about Mitt Romney’s positions on judicial issues and his model for judicial nominations, they rate the importance of the Court even more highly: 71% say it will be an important voting consideration, including 39% (a 9-point increase) who say very important.

2) Voters have more confidence in President Obama than Mitt Romney with respect to Supreme Court nominations.

Voters say that they have more confidence in Barack Obama (46%) than Mitt Romney (41%) to select good federal judges and Supreme Court justices. Obama is trusted on judicial nominees much more than Romney among the voters who will likely determine the outcome of the presidential election. Independent voters prefer Obama by an 8-point margin (39% to 31%), and Obama’s advantage grows to an impressive 18 points (42% to 24%) among presidential swing voters (those undecided or weakly committed to a candidate). Women in the center of the electorate strongly prefer Obama, as he enjoys a 19-point edge with independent women (43% to 24%) and a 26-point advantage among swing women (44%-18%).

The president’s advantage over Romney rests on two main elements. First, voters believe Obama (61%) is much more likely than Romney (39%) to appoint justices who “would uphold the progress we have made on civil rights and women’s rights.” Second, most voters trust Obama (59%) rather than Romney (41%) to choose justices who “will protect the rights of average people, not just the wealthy and powerful.” Among swing voters, Obama enjoys commanding advantages of 55 points and 49 points, respectively, on these two dimensions.

3) The most compelling criticism of Mitt Romney regarding the Supreme Court is that his nominees will be biased in favor of corporations over average Americans.

The survey results reveal that what most concerns voters about the prospect of Mitt Romney nominating future justices is the notion that his nominees will consistently favor corporations over ordinary Americans. Fully 54% worry that Romney will appoint this kind of justice, far more than any other single concern (for example, 43% worry that Romney’s justices will “turn back the clock on civil rights and women’s rights”). Similarly, when voters are asked which of several criticisms of Romney concern them the most, the prospect of pro-corporate justices is the top choice for swing voters (30%), far ahead of limiting legal abortion (17%), turning back the clock on rights (17%), and other factors. And later in the survey, after voters have learned about Romney’s positions on a range of judicial issues, swing voters say their single biggest concern about Romney’s justices is they will favor corporate interests over average Americans (followed by the similar idea that they will “favor millionaires over the middle class”).

  • In the focus groups, voters gave very high ratings to a flyer focused on the theme that Romney will appoint justices who favor corporations over average Americans, and citing Romney’s embrace of justices who voted to give immunity to corporations that defraud consumers [AT&T], to protect corporations that pay women less than men [Wal-Mart, Ledbetter], and allow corporations to spend unlimited amounts on negative political ads [Citizens United]. Swing voters worry most that Romney justices will be “biased,” followed by their concern that Romney justices would be “too conservative.”

4) The single best “proof point” for the claim that Romney’s nominees will favor corporations is his support for Citizens United, which has already led to corporations and billionaires spending millions of dollars on negative political ads this year. Other powerful evidence includes the AT&T, Wal-Mart, and Ledbetter cases.

The research findings indicate that the single best way to demonstrate that Romney would appoint pro-corporate justices is to focus on his support for the Court’s decision [Citizens United] which opened the door for corporations and the wealthy to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections. Linking that decision to what citizens are already experiencing – a huge number of negative political ads funded by corporations and individuals – gives this issue real salience now.

Mitt Romney does not have an extensive track record of taking positions on most other Supreme Court cases, but he has been clear about the kind of justices he would appoint: judges “in the mold of Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Samuel Alito.”

As seen in past research, the AT&T, Wal-Mart, and Ledbetter decisions all trouble voters. Here is how they were described in the survey, each of them raising significant concerns about Romney:

  • Allow a company to use the fine print of its consumer contracts, such as for cell phones, to immunize itself from class-action lawsuits, even in cases in which the company knowingly defrauded its customers;
  • Deny female employees of a large national company who have been systematically paid less than men and denied promotions given to men the right to join together and go to court to stand up for their rights;
  • A woman could not file a discrimination suit against her employer for paying her less than men at her company for the same work for 20 years because she failed to file her suit within 180 days of her first paycheck, even though she had no way of knowing at that time that she was being discriminated against.

5) The concern that Romney will appoint anti-choice justices also has power with many voters.

Both the survey and focus groups reveal that Romney’s commitment to appoint anti-choice justices concerns many voters. In the survey, 59% of voters (and 62% of swing voters) say Romney’s belief that women have no constitutional right to have an abortion gives them less confidence in Romney.

  • The survey reveals that more voters are concerned when told that Romney believes there is no constitutional right to have an abortion than when informed simply that he favors “overturning Roe v. Wade,” suggesting that some voters do not fully understand the latter formulation in isolation.
  • When presented with two television ads concentrated on the choice issue, focus group participants indicated significant concerns about Romney among both independents (mean rating of 6.1 on scale of 1 to 10) and liberal Democrats (9.1).

6) Voters’ recognition of the importance of judicial nominees in evaluating Romney and Obama is greatly heightened when we remind them that justices serve for life.

  • Voters responded especially strongly to this formulation: “When you vote in November, you’re not just voting for the next four years – you’re voting for a generation.”

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