Live: Supreme Court Decisions

Awaiting key decisions in Washington, D.C. from the U.S. Supreme Court on gay marriage and the Voting Rights Act.

  • Welcome to our live blog for the Supreme Court's decision day, Jun 25, 2013. It's the second decision day of the week. 

    On Monday the court handed down a decision that kept in place the University of Texas affirmative action policy, but suggested it should be held to a higher standard. Look for that one to make its way back to the court in the years to come. 

    For a full round-up of yesterday's decision, check out our report from Ariane de Vogue and Abby Phillip HERE.
  • What's Happening Today? We Don't Know Yet

    Our court watcher Ariane de Vogue points out that  opinions will be released at 10 AM. There are 6 cases left to be decided.  She expects there to be one more day of opinions although we have no guidance on the exact day. 

    We are waiting, of course,  for the voting rights case and the gay marriage cases (and reporters are praying they aren’t released on the same day).

  • Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

    The most covered cases are the ones concerning gay marriage and the Voting Rights Act. But there are eight others, including a poignant case that Ariane describes like this:

    This case pits a federal law meant to protect Indian parents and their children against South Carolina state law.

    Baby Veronica was put up for adoption at birth by her biological mother  three years ago. Her biological father had relinquished his parental rights via text message. But when the biological father learned of the adoption he challenged it. He said he never would have sent the email if he thought the baby was going to be put up for adoption.

     Because the man is part Indian he was backed by powerful lawyers of the Cherokee Nation. His lawyers fought to block the adoption and won  citing the federal law, the Child Welfare Act of 1978.  The South Carolina Supreme Court “with a heavy heart” said that while state law would have allowed the adoption, federal law did not. In Court, a lawyer for the adoptive couple argued passionately that the federal law meant to keep Indian families together should not be used in the circumstance of an absentee father. 


    Read some of the arguments in that case HERE.

  • Here's Terry Moran's piece for World News on yesterday's affirmative action decision. He's up at the court today too.

  • What's the scene outside? a smattering of folks on both sides of the gay marriage issue, including this guy with an enormous rainbow flag... the photo was taken by our Chris Good outside the court.

    by Zachary.B.Wolf on Jun 25, 2013 at 1:50 PM



  • This photo from Chris Good makes it appear there are more media than activists...

    by Zachary.B.Wolf on Jun 25, 2013 at 1:52 PM



  • Dear Mr Chief Justice, please don't release voting right case on the same day as gay marriage cases. Yours v. Truly, ariane
  • 2 boxes at Scotus today
  • I'm told the "two boxes" Ariane references below means there are likely between two and four decisions. That could leave two more tomorrow.
  • Alito's Loud Sighs

    As we wait for decisions, here's a little bit of color from inside yesterday's session, when Justice Samuel Alito sighed visibly at the dissent read by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg... This dispatch is from the Washington Post's Dana Milbank:

    When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, Alito visibly mocked his colleague.

    Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the high court, was making her argument about how the majority opinion made it easier for sexual harassment to occur in the workplace when Alito, seated immediately to Ginsburg’s left, shook his head from side to side in disagreement, rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling.

    Days earlier, I watched as he demonstrated his disdain for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, the two other women on the court. Kagan, the newest justice, prefaced her reading of an opinion in a low-profile case by joking that it was “possibly not” the case the audience had come to hear. The audience responded with laughter, a few justices smiled — and Alito, seated at Kagan’s right elbow, glowered.

    His treatment of the 80-year-old Ginsburg, 17 years his elder and with 13 years more seniority, was a curious display of judicial temperament or, more accurately, judicial intemperance. Typically, justices state their differences in words — and Alito, as it happens, had just spoken several hundred of his own from the bench. But he frequently supplements words with middle-school gestures.


  • It appears there is a decision in that Indian adoption case... stand by...
  • Alito has the first two opinoins today

  • More from Chris Good - Section 5 is the pertinent section of the Voting Rights Act...


    by Zachary.B.Wolf on Jun 25, 2013 at 2:09 PM

     
  • Voting Rights Act Decision - One Portion Struck Down

    Terry Moran is hearing from inside the court and says the court has struck down Section 4 of the voting rights Act. They did not do anything to the all-important Section 5 of the Act. That means - and bear with us as we read through this - that Congress has to update the Voting Rights Act to determine which areas have to be pre-cleared, but that the federal government can still force states to submit their congressional district lines for the federal government's okay. The sticky aspect here is that Congress has to update the law. Congress can't agree to much now.
  • Terry Moran reports that the court is saying Congress has to go back to the Voting Rights Act and rewrite the law to bring it out of the era of the Civil Rights struggle and into today's era.
  • The Voting Rights Act decision was 5-4... Kennedy joining with the conservative justices to strike section 4.

  • Here's a primer on the Voting Rights Act issues at state from Ariane de Vogue - 

    The Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson and aimed at discriminatory voting practices -- such as literacy tests -- undertaken by some southern states. It was passed after "Bloody Sunday," when protestors urging voting rights protections were beaten while trying to march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

    At issue in the case was whether Congress was right in 2006 to reauthorize the expiring sections of the law for 25 more years.

    Section 4 and Section 5 of the law were under scrutiny by the court.

    Section 5 of the law -- the preclearance section -- requires states, mostly in the South, with a history of discrimination to get any changes in voting rules pre-cleared by federal officials in Washington, D.C.

    Section 4 contains the coverage formula used to decide which jurisdictions get covered.

    Lawyers for Shelby County, Ala., a covered jurisdiction under the VRA, argued that Congress was wrong in 2006 to reauthorize extend the provision. They argued that "things have changed in the South" and that the mostly Southern states covered by Section 5 should no longer be subject to a law that exacts a "heavy, unprecedented federalism cost" absent a widespread and persisting pattern of constitutional violations.

    The jurisdictions covered under the law include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia as well as portions of California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota.

    In reauthorizing the Act in 2006, Congress held 21 hearings, heard testimony from witnesses and amassed more than 15,000 pages of evidence. The vote was 98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House.

    In court briefs, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. argued that "Congress made the considered judgment in 2006 (as it had in 1970, 1975 and 1982) that covered jurisdictions continue to resist minority voters' equal enjoyment of the right to participate in the political process."

    A lower court upheld Section 5, ruling that Congress, "after assembling and analyzing an extensive record, made its decision: Section 5's work is not yet done."

    The decision was penned by Chief Justice John Roberts, who as a young lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department argued to limit the reach of the law. In 2009, the Supreme Court heard a related case and Roberts warned that some members of the court had "serious misgivings" about the constitutionality of Section 5.

    Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the high court, was making her argument about how the majority opinion made it easier for sexual harassment to occur in the workplace when Alito, seated immediately to Ginsburg’s left, shook his head from side to side in disagreement, rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling.


  • Here's the decision from the court in that Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl story. Click Here.

    The decision was reversed entirely, which suggests that the young girl, who was taken from her adoptive parents and given to her biological father, will now be taken from her biological father and given back to her adoptive parents. Heartbreaking story all around.
  • Here's the AP Lede on the Voting Rights Act story - 

    Headline: High Court Voids Key Part of Voting Rights Act

    The Supreme Court says a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act cannot be enforced until Congress comes up with a new way of determining which states and localities require close federal monitoring of elections.

    The justices said in 5-4 ruling Tuesday that the law Congress most recently renewed in 2006 relies on 40-year-old data that doesn't reflect racial progress and changes in U.S. society.

    The court did not strike down the advance approval requirement of the law that has been used, mainly in the South, to open up polling places to minority voters in the nearly half century since it was first enacted in 1965. But they said lawmakers must update the formula for determining which parts of the country must seek Washington's approval for election changes.


  • Charles White, the national field director for the NAACP is in front of the court and sees this decision as a victory because the court maintained Section 5 - and found that "pre-clearance" is still constitutional and necessary.

    White calls the decision "a victory moment for us."

    "It still marks that there is a lot of work to be done," says White.
  • The head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund says she's disappointed in the decision and accuses the court of finding that hey're in a better position than Congress to interpret the Voting Rights Act. She said the formula for determining how the Voting Rights Act should be interpreted...

    But, standing across the street from Capitol Hill, she says the media should turn it's cameras around and look at the Capitol building, where Congress now needs to rewrite Section 4 and redetermine the formula for the Voting Rights Act.

  • the next question on the Voting Rights Act will be whether Congress can come together to rewrite the law. Congress can't come together on much these days.

  • Here's the actual decision from the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act case "Shelby County v. Holder." Read it HERE.
  • Congressman John Lewis watches Voting Rights decision with @abc . He says he is "sad and dismayed." pic.twitter.com/wjbBHA4g0h

  • "What the Supreme Court did was to put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act," John Lewis tells me.
  • Tomorrow is going to be the last decision day of the term. So both gay marriage cases...
  • This is a photo of NAACP's Sherilyn Ifill, speaking outside the Supreme Court today, and telling reporters that Congress must now act to save the Voting Rights Act...

    Image Credit: Alisa Wiersema 
    by Zachary.B.Wolf on Jun 25, 2013 at 2:43 PM



  • Some basic facts on the VRA from our Joan Greve:

    President Johnson called for the act following a voting rights march in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, which ended when Alabama state troopers tear gassed, whipped, and beat the participants with nightsticks.

    The bill passed the Senate with a 77-19 majority and a 333-85 majority in the House.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. was present when President Johnson signed the bill into law on August 6, 1965.

    Because of the Voting Rights act, voter turnout among Mississippi’s African Americans rose from 6 percent in 1964 to 59 percent in 1969.

    When the Voting Rights Act was passed, no African American held a seat in the U.S. Senate. 


  • Speaking now outside the court: Edward Blum, the conservative activist who hand-picked the cases in both the affirmative action case decided yesterday and the voting rights act case decided today. It's been a big week for him. 

    He said the American South long ago laid down disenfranchisement and the nation should have a one-size-fits-all set of laws where it comes to voting.
  • Some conservatives aren't happy with today's decision because it keeps Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (although it requires Congress to write an update) - Here's what Carrie Carrie Severino, Chief Counsel  of Judicial Crisis Network said:

    Today's decision brings the Voting Rights Act into the 21st century.
     It is absurd to use limited federal dollars scrutinizing minor changes to
    voting procedures in Alaska when we could be prosecuting actual
    instances of voter discrimination and intimidation.
     As 2012
    Census Bureau data now shows, the jurisdictions covered by Section 5 under
    the outdated formula actually had higher black voter turnout that non-Section 5
    states.
     Ensuring that all Americans receive equal treatment at the ballot
    box is fundamental to a democratic society and is too important a mission to
    be based on 40-year-old data.
      

    Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the high court, was making her argument about how the majority opinion made it easier for sexual harassment to occur in the workplace when Alito, seated immediately to Ginsburg’s left, shook his head from side to side in disagreement, rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling.

    Days earlier, I watched as he demonstrated his disdain for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, the two other women on the court. Kagan, the newest justice, prefaced her reading of an opinion in a low-profile case by joking that it was “possibly not” the case the audience had come to hear. The audience responded with laughter, a few justices smiled — and Alito, seated at Kagan’s right elbow, glowered.

    His treatment of the 80-year-old Ginsburg, 17 years his elder and with 13 years more seniority, was a curious display of judicial temperament or, more accurately, judicial intemperance. Typically, justices state their differences in words — and Alito, as it happens, had just spoken several hundred of his own from the bench. But he frequently supplements words with middle-school gestures.


  • Here's more conservative reaction... this from "Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage foundation...

    If Congress had updated the coverage formula
    to use registration and turnout data from the 2004 election,
    none of
    the states currently subject to Section 5 would have remained covered because
    the registration and turnout of black voters is on par with white voters and
    exceeds that of white voters in some of the covered states.
      It is a
    victim of its own success and is no longer needed.
    Despite claims to the
    contrary, Americans will continue to be protected from discrimination by the
    other permanent provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
    ” 
     



  • Clarence Thomas Would Have Found Section 5 Unconstitutional

    Ariane de Vogue points out there is one voice that stood out on the Voting Rights Act decision: 

    Thomas went much further than his colleagues. He would have
    struck Section 5 of the law which requires states –mostly in the South—with a
    history of discrimination to get any changes in voting laws approved by federal
    officials in Washington.
    “While the Court claims to issue no holding on section 5
    itself, its own opinion compellingly demonstrates that Congress has failed to
    justify current burdens with a record demonstrating current needs.
    By leaving
    the inevitable conclusion unstated , the Court needlessly prolongs the demise
    of that provision.
    For the reasons stated in the Court’s opinion, I would find
    Section 5 unconstitutional”

  • Ginsburg Issues Blistering Dissent - Arc of Moral Justice Not Served by Decision

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only justice who voted against the affirmative action decision yesterday, read a blistering dissent to today's voting right's act decision from the bench. Audio won't be available until next term, but here's how ABC's Ariane de Vogue describes it:

    Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench. Justices rarely do this unless they feel very strongly about  the issue. In her statement, which was slightly different from the written opinion) she invokes History, the reconstruction amendments and the March on Selma.

    She says Congress did not exceed its authority in 2006 when it reauthorized the Voting Rights Act for 25 more years.

    “It was the judgment of the Congress that 40 years has not been a sufficient amount of time to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination following nearly 100 years of disregard for the dictates of the 15th Amendment . That judgment of the body empowered to enforce the Civil War Amendments by appropriate legislation should garner this Court’s unstinting approbation.

    The great man who led the march from Selma to Montgomery and there called for the passage of the
    Voting Rights Act foresaw progress, even in Alabama.
    “ Ginsburg said.

    "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,’ ” Ginsburg said, quoting Martin Luther King Jr. Ginsburg added, “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion. That commitment has been disserved by today’s decision.” 

  • SCOTUS stopped the heart of the Voting Rights Act today.
  • SCOTUS: Individuals can still sue under the Voting Rights Act--a process the Court has previously called "inadequate" to fix the problem.
  • #SCOTUS decision in #VRA case is clear: Congress must act to protect voters from discrimination. Join the movement restorevotingrights.org
  • VRA: 'The Sky Is Not Falling'

    Inbox - University of Notre Dame Associate Professor of Law Jennifer Mason McAward (a
    former clerk
    for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor), who specializes in civil rights and Constitutional law, says…

    "“Despite early commentary on Shelby County v. Holder, the sky is not falling.  The Supreme Court made it very clear that racial discrimination in voting is unconstitutional, that federal courts remain available to block discriminatory voting laws from taking effect, and that Congress can require federal preclearance for voting changes in jurisdictions with a recent history of voting discrimination.  What the Court held in Shelby County is that Congress erred by relying on 40-year-old data to determine which jurisdictions must seek preclearance today.  Congress remains free to compile recent data and to apply the preclearance provision to jurisdictions that discriminate – of which there are plenty.  Thus, it is up to Congress to determine the future use of the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act.

  • Obama 'Deeply Disappointed' - 

    In a written statement from the White House, the president says that while we've made progress, but "voting discrimination still exists."


    I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today.  For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans.  Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.
     
    As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote.  But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists.    And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination.  I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls.  My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process. 

    Because of the Voting Rights act, voter turnout among Mississippi’s African Americans rose from 6 percent in 1964 to 59 percent in 1969.


  • True the Vote, which was at the center of conservative efforts to tackle "voter fraud" in 2012, released a statement praising today's court decision as a "step in the right direction." On the other side of the issue, ABC News covered allegations that True the Vote was engaged in voter suppression efforts. You can read the Nightline report on that HERE

    True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht's statement:

    This is without doubt
    a step in the right direction for our Republic. 
    In the months leading up to this decision, the
    nation has come to realize, through an assortment of scandals and revelations,
    just how far the federal government has reached into the daily lives of
    ordinary citizens.
    It is our hope that as the nation considers adjustments – we
    keep an eye toward our founding values of liberty, justice and common privacy.

    The process of reigning in federal abuses begins with our election systems –
    today’s decision serves as momentum in our favor.



    For decades, voters
    in various states, counties and boroughs have been punished for the sins others
    committed in a bygone era.
    Washington has treated whole segments of this nation
    as guilty until proven innocent.
    Ideological bureaucrats have used this law to
    exact a form of racial justice on their presumed enemies while ignoring the
    country’s demands for basic election integrity measures.
    Thankfully, the Court
    stripped Washington of a power that was only being used as a weapon today.



    An active electorate
    is the key to a healthy, representative republic.
    It is our responsibility to
    engage, serve and question our election systems.
    Today the average voter was
    returned an immense power in the American experiment.
    God help us if we do not
    use it wisely.




  • Rejecting the 'Sky is Not Falling' Argument - 
    In response to the argument by the Notre Dame scholar that the rest of the Voting Rights Act works without section 5 - assuming Congress can't agree to update it - Terry Moran offers this:

    The lower court in this case rejected this notion:

    “Congress explicitly found that  “case-by-case enforcement alone . . . would leave minority citizens with [an] inadequate remedy.” 
    “These “Section 2 “ claims, Congress found, involve “intensely complex litigation that is both costly and time-consuming.” 
    “It heard from witnesses who explained that “it is incredibly difficult for minority voters to pull together the resources needed” to pursue a Section 2 lawsuit, particularly at the local level and in rural communities.
    “Congress also heard testimony that during the time it takes to litigate a section 2 action—often several years—proponents of a discriminatory law may enjoy its benefits, potentially winning elections and gaining the advantage of incumbency before the law is overturned. 
    “Given all of this, and given the magnitude and persistence of discrimination in covered jurisdictions, Congress concluded that case-by-case litigation—slow, costly, and lacking section 5’s prophylactic effect—“would be ineffective to protect the rights of minority voters.”



  • ABC's Jeff Zeleny watched the decision come down with Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who is now a Congressman. He said the decision puts a "dagger in the heart" of the Voting Rights Act...
  • Eric Holder - 'The right to vote deserves our vigilant protection'

    Attorney General Eric Holder is saying the Supreme Court struck at a cornerstone of voting rights. He said the Department of Justice will continue to prosecute all voting discrimination it finds...

  • From @HuffingtonPost , @TheRevAl : #SCOTUS Just 'Canceled' Martin Luther King's Dream bit.ly/16x7RXR fb.me/yNdvOomU
  • Of Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina, one black candidate has won statewide office: slate.me/1aKAsfC #SCOTUS #VRA
  • Biden: We Will Do 'Everything In Our Power' To Ensure Fair Voting 

    ABC's Mary Bruce reports: Vice President Joe Biden said today he is “disappointed” with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act and vowed to work with Congress to address the Court’s concerns and ensure fair voting.

    “Today's decision upset a well-established practice,” Biden said. “The Voting Rights Act has been repeatedly enacted by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the Congress.

    “Voting is a fundamental right, it's the foundation of our democracy. The Voting Rights Act has been critical and an effective means to guarantee that core right,” he added.

    Speaking at the top of a White House event marking the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Biden reiterated that not all of the Voting Rights Act was struck down.

    “It says the Congress can pass new legislation,” he said of the ruling. “They struck down a section that talked about new regulations ensuring that every American has equal access to the polls. We're going to work with Congress on this effort, and the administration is going to do everything in our power to ensure fair and equal voting processes are maintained.



  • Justice Ginsburg Tells a Story

    From Terry Moran:

    In her exhaustive dissent in the Voting Rights Act case, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argues that the Supreme Court should defer to Congress’ judgment of the realities of voting, and uphold the law.

    Congress did its homework, she essentially says. Congress found that racial discrimination in the South and other states under the Act’s jurisdiction still poisons our democracy. And she tells a story, citing a 2010 criminal case:

    “A recent FBI investigation provides a further window into the persistence of racial discrimination in state politics.

    Recording devices worn by state legislators cooperating with the FBI’s investigation captured conversations between members of the state legislature and their political allies. The recorded conversations are shocking. 

    Members of the state Senate derisively refer to African-Americans as “Aborigines” and talk openly of their aim to quash a particular gambling-related referendum because the referendum, if placed on the ballot, might increase African-American voter turnout. 

    Legislators and their allies expressed concern that if the referendum were placed on the ballot, “‘[e]very black, every illiterate’ would be ‘bused [to the polls] on HUD financed buses’”

    These conversations occurred not in the 1870’s, or even in the 1960’s, they took place in 2010. The District Judge presiding over the criminal trial at which the recorded conversations were introduced commented that the “recordings represent compelling evidence that political exclusion through racism remains a real and enduring problem” in Alabama. 

    Racist sentiments, the judge observed, “remain regrettably entrenched in the high echelons of state government.”

    Amendment .S.

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