What happens after race-based admissions policies lose in the Supreme Court?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Cara L. Gallagher, weekend contributor

This year, Groundhog Day will be celebrated on Wednesday, December 9th. That’s the day Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin – a case that tests the use of race in admissions processes – returns to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case heads back to the SCOTUS Wednesday only two years since Fisher I. The University received a warning shot last time when a 7-1 majority remanded the case back to the lower court ordering the UT prove the only way to achieve a “critical mass” of diverse students was to do so using race as a factor in their admissions process.

That was in June of 2013. Since then UT hasn’t changed its admissions processes and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled again last summer that the school’s use of race passed constitutional muster. Continue reading

Thanksgiving follies: Go ahead, talk politics at the dinner table.

fingerpointingBy Cara L. Gallagher, weekend contributor/holiday survivalist

Gaming the table talk at Thanksgiving when the participants include long-lost, rarely seen family members and friends requires much the same strategies as one’s approach to eating that day: Take control of the situation. Go in with a plan. Never attack. Take it one bite at a time and digest a bit before going farther.

Talk of the Republican candidates, the debates, and/or Hillary’s emails are the assumed political traps this Thursday. If those are the topics your turkey table is doomed to dwell on, consider switching the conversation to the no-less controversial but more scholarly topics: Supreme Court and its new term. Continue reading

The heroes, tragedies, and hope of segregated housing

“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald.

*Warning! This post has the potential for spoilers.

Show David Simon a hero and he’ll write you a biopic tragedy full of injustices, passive-aggressive slights, and indifference. He’ll also create original characters, like Tommy Carcetti, Bubbles, and McNulty, who will test the needle of your moral compass on an episodic basis. You’ll want try to find the good one, the one who consistently plays it above board, the incorruptible. You’ll find yourself at bars and cocktail parties when the inevitable discovery that all parties present have binged The Wire debating who the least bad character is. But none such character exists in nearly any of his HBO series. I say nearly because I can’t speak for Treme. Like the rest of us, I never made it through the entire series. My hunch is he’s not in New Orleans either.

The latest Simon series, Show Me A Hero, a short six-episode HBO series about housing, race, and politics set in mid-1980’s Yonkers, New York is one of his more hopeful tributes to social justice, but no less delivers on the tragedy. Continue reading

SCOTUS holiday party prep: 5 reasons you hate/love the Obamacare decision

fingerpointing5 reasons you hate/love the Obamacare decision (King v. Burwell)

What a week last week turned out to be at the Supreme Court! It certainly was exciting and unlike last year there wasn’t just one big case, like Hobby Lobby, that got so much attention. There were several big opinions that got the public’s attention over the last week, but one in particular has come up a lot this week.

Odds are you heard bits and pieces of the decisions, but it wasn’t exactly a light week for current events so you may have some gaps in the details. There’s also a very good chance you’re going to a holiday party this weekend where family or friends will gather and try ever so hard to avoid the cardinal sin of holiday gatherings – political discussions. They’re unavoidable and they always seem to happen whether you want them to or not. Rather than squirm or awkwardly walk away from the table when the inevitable happens, be ready and poised for that moment when someone says, “Did you hear about that healthcare decision?

Such a question is not totally inappropriate. Given how recently the Court finished the term with not only controversial and timely cases, but also a spectacular array of passionate majority opinions, thundering dissents, and even one cantankerous concurrence read from the bench, it’s no surprise the subject could come up. Lots of folks fall back on current events as discussion starters at holiday parties when no one knows what else to talk about. Listen, we’re here to encourage you to resist the urge to flee either because you don’t feel confident enough to hold the conversation or you’re worried your politics may differ from the person engaging the discussion. It’s gonna be ok. Continue reading

Scalia said go “ask the nearest hippie.” So I did. On Gay marriage, John Roberts, Outkast, and Rosé.

SCALIAIn his dissent of the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Scalia referenced the value of asking your nearest hippie tough, complex questions about constitutional interpretation and the meanings of intimacy and expression.

So I did.

I don’t live in Marin County or Ojai; I live in Chicago but presently reside in D.C. so my nearest hippie is of the urban, erudite fashion, rather than the bell-bottomed kind. She uses cloth diapers though so she’s basically a hippie (to Scalia).

We didn’t talk about intimacy, expression, or spirituality. Instead we focused on the constitutional issues we both noticed from the decision and dissents in conversations. By the end of the mostly textual discussion, we I thought other people were probably having similar conversations this weekend. In the spirit of inclusivity, we decided to celebrate Scalia’s call to action by publishing the transcript of our Q&A from the weekend. We casually explore our mutual love of constitutional questions, same-sex marriage topics, and the Obergefell case. Ladies and gentleman, I present Cara & Christina on Con Law: The Same-Sex Marriage Cases edition.

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Not Obamacare or gay marriage; The race and discrimination case. (TX Housing v. ICP)

While you were celebrating your free healthcare at gay wedding receptions, you likely missed a decision in a critical case about discrimination, housing, and a legal matter called disparate impact. The decision in this case (Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project) came down Thursday and was off the radar because the Obamacare decision came down the same day. Roberts delivered the Obamacare decision, which upheld the national insurance program and was joined by five other justices. Yes, this much-hyped case – the biggest of the term, in the eyes of some – did not turn out to be a 5-4 decision. The Texas case, however, was the 5-4 case of the day in which Kennedy cast a decisive vote and authored the opinion for the four other liberal justices. Continue reading

Obergefell v. Hodges, from inside the SCOTUS

IMG_0491History happened today. Will you remember where you were when the same-sex marriage decisions came down? I will. I was inside the Court when we all sat up somewhat shocked to hear the first case of the day was Obergefell v. Hodges. Again, I am lousy at predicting what cases we’ll get decisions on each day. This fact is already entered into the record. But because it was a decision of such importance, for the first time, I stopped writing, listened, and looked around to see how the audience, the public, were not only hearing but experiencing what I was hearing.

It wasn’t obvious from the start of Kennedy’s reading of the majority (made up of the four liberal justices) decision that it would come out on the side of the same-sex couples, many of which were in the Court to hear their case. He started off referencing the “millennia” of the institution of marriage. Those who listened to the oral arguments back in March will recall Kennedy used this word a lot to question Mary Bonauto, the attorney for the same-sex couples, on why the definition of marriage should be expanded to include same-sex couples when, for so long, it has been reserved to one man-one woman.

Continue reading