Supreme Coolness

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The operatic “Odd Couple”

*Warning! This post contains House of Cards spoilers. Beware/Enjoy!

The Supreme Court has never been cooler than it is right now. I place the kickoff around the summer of 2013 with a Tumbler page adorably called Notorious R.B.G. dedicated to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. By last summer, the website tipped. Ginsburg had seen it and commented on her eponymous website telling Katie Couric that she’s “a fan.”

If bloodshed is any proof of adoration, this woman’s tattoo of the “Supreme” R.B.G. puts her on another level of fandom. Clearly Ginsburg is having a moment. Continue reading

Making heads and tails (and “death spirals”) of the healthcare case, King v. Burwell

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Do you live in a state with its own exchange?

How many articles, journals, blog posts, podcasts, and Tweets does it take to understand King v. Burwell? The short answer: Several. One can easily find himself in their own “death spiral” of content, to use the parlance of the media and Justices recently, and still end up in the same place – confused, but maybe hungry for more.

I was hungry for more and followed the analyses closely, but even I got a bit lost in the weeds of the case. It’s been over a week since oral arguments were delivered in King v. Burwell, which took a second stab at the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court. By Thursday of last week, at least five friends and students asked me “What the heck is this case really about?” I forwarded links to articles and podcasts that delivered simple, straightforward explanations, and recommended writers to follow on Twitter. But I know some of those well-intentioned folks will never open that link, listen to the podcast, or even open the email. What to do?… Continue reading

Fisher v. The University of Texas 2.0

Abigail Fisher and her eponymous affirmative action case headed to the SCOTUS last week, again. The question we’re all wondering with this news is: If the Court takes this case, are affirmative action policies in college admissions dead? Despite graduating from Louisiana State University almost three years ago, Fisher said it is her hope that the Justices take this case again and end what she and the Project on Fair Representation believe is the unlawful use of race in college admissions at the University of Texas, the school she sued after she was denied acceptance. The question they’re asking the justices to answer this time is “whether the Fifth Circuit’s re-endorsement of UT’s use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions can be sustained under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.”

The Court punted in the 2013 decision, remanding the case back to the lower court Continue reading

The Fair Housing Act: How fair is Fair?

There was a case argued two weeks ago that I’ll admit I paid no attention to when I created my roster of Cases to Watch in the OT14: Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project.  A woman who teaches a course on social justice in urban areas asked if I knew anything about this case after it popped up on her Twitter feed.  Her students were interested in the impact of the case and, as many of them had just taken my law and politics course and knew the ideologies of the Supreme Court bench, wanted to know more about it so they could make predictions about the outcome.  As an educator and (self-described) specialist of Supreme Court activities, I did a deep dive into researching it in an effort to help with this teachable moment and immediately moved it into the top five cases to watch this term.

This is a case about a specific part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, that iconic piece of legislation signed one week after Dr. King was shot, called the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Continue reading

Selma’s error of omission: The specter of Shelby County

In one of the opening scenes in Selma, Ava DuVernay’s depiction of Dr. King’s quest for legislation that would end decades of disenfranchisement in the American South, Oprah plays a woman jammed up by Black codes prevalent in the South in 1965. A voter registrar quizzes her with questions that neither she nor any educated person of the time could possibly answer. She fails his test and is once again denied the right to register to vote. Right away we learn Selma is clearly not just a biographical film about Dr. King and other Civil Rights legends like Congressmen John Lewis, but also about the pain, shame, and violence endured by these men and women to get the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed.

A group of fellow history teachers and I went to see an early release of Selma last week. I had mixed feelings about it. Continue reading

On the docket: Reed v. Town of Gilbert

By Cara L. Gallagher

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Gilbert, Arizona’s sign regulations.

A preview of a case that will be heard tomorrow in the SCOTUS: Reed v. Town of Gilbert.

Question: Can a town impose more regulations on religious signs posted on public streets than political, ideological, or property signs?

10-cent explanation: The town of Gilbert, Arizona has municipal codes about when, where, and for how long signs can be displayed in town. If you’re a candidate running for elected office, your campaign sign can remain in public for an unlimited amount of time. If the town posts signs reminding citizens what day to vote, they can be posted four and a half months prior to the date and up to 15 days after. Got a sign advertising an HOA meeting? Those can stay out 30 days before the meeting and must be taken down 48 hours after. But if the pastor of a local church in Gilbert, adorably called the Good News Community Church, wants to put signs out to remind people of upcoming services, he has only 12 hours before the event to display it and must take it down within an hour after the event or risk penalties. There are also regulations on the sizes of the signs. Good News signs can’t be more than six square feet whereas HOA signs can be 80 square feet, political signs 32 square feet, and ideological signs 20 square feet. These regulations also apply to signs for nonprofit, charitable, and educational organizations. Continue reading

Technology loses at the Supreme Court, again.

Being with family over the holidays resulted in harmonious interactions and your typical familial dust ups. One such kerfuffle, this one of the generational sort, arose when we volunteered to upgrade my father’s iPad 1 to a newer model. We’ve tried to do this before, for his birthday, and he repeatedly denies our offer. Yes, that’s a first edition iPad that he still uses and refuses to give up. Most would react to the upgrade with a swift “YES” and a maybe a backflip. His dismissive reaction is likely attributable to the glimpse he’s seen of a future where he’s forced to alter past practices in order to integrate new technology. That tension doesn’t look appealing. The possibilities of increased efficiency and productivity aren’t worth the challenges that come with new technology like learning new tricks, updating skills, and encountering hurdles along the way. After reading Chief Justice John Roberts’ year-end report, I imagine his mindset is fixed in very much the same way my father’s is when it comes to outfitting the Court with 21st century technology.

Continue reading