Category - USA: Judiciary

Supreme Court to Decide Marriage Rights for Gay Couples Nationwide

New York Times, By Adam Liptak, January 16

Washington — The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether all 50 states must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, positioning it to resolve one of the great civil rights questions in a generation before its current term ends in June.

The decision came just months after the justices ducked the issue, refusing in October to hear appeals from rulings allowing same-sex marriage in five states. That decision, which was considered a major surprise, delivered a tacit victory for gay rights, immediately expanding the number of states with same-sex marriage to 24, along with the District of Columbia, up from 19.

Largely as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision not to act, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has since grown to 36, and more than 70 percent of Americans live in places where gay couples can marry.

The cases the Supreme Court agreed to hear on Friday were brought by some 15 same-sex couples in four states. The plaintiffs said they have a fundamental right to marry and to be treated as opposite-sex couples are, adding that bans they challenged demeaned their dignity, imposed countless practical difficulties and inflicted particular harm on their children.

The pace of change on same-sex marriage, in both popular opinion and in the courts, has no parallel in the nation’s history.

You don’t have to give thanks.

I believe in being grateful for the universe. It is one of the few entities with a shelf life beyond that of what can be bought, sold, or stolen. Moreover, our obscene privilege as Westerners is lethally obvious. But to hell with the manufactured gratitude of Thanksgiving™, wherein kindly advertising voice-overs urge us to count our table of blessings (and hopefully shop for some more). This excerpt from a missive by Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti rightly gives that sales pitch the finger:

Face it: Thanksgiving is depressing this year, and you don’t have to give thanks

We shouldn’t ask grieving people to plaster on a smile to make the rest of us feel better. Even if it’s the holidays.

This Thanksgiving, it’s difficult not to think about loss.

For a lot of people, this time of year brings more sadness than cheer – thinking about the kinds of relationships you wish you could have with family or friend, thinking about loved ones that aren’t there. And as injustice prevails in Ferguson, as another young man of color is killed with seeming impunity, as sexual predators are given standing ovations and sexual violence across the US continues to be unearthed, it’s hard to remember how to be thankful. It’s easier to ask what we are supposed to be thankful for at all.

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Judge rips apart Kentucky’s gay marriage argument

The (Louisville, KY) Courier-Journal, By Andrew Wolfson, July 1

In striking down Kentucky’s ban on gay marriage, a federal judge Tuesday rejected Gov. Steve Beshear’s argument that the ban is needed because only opposite sex couples can procreate and maintain the state’s birth rate and economy.

“These arguments are not those of serious people,” wrote Senior U.S. District Court Judge John G. Heyburn II.

“Even assuming the state has a legitimate interest in promoting procreation,” Heyburn wrote in a 19-page opinion, its lawyers never explained how the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage has “any effect whatsoever on procreation among heterosexual spouses.”

Heyburn stayed his ruling, putting it on hold pending the outcome of gay marriage cases from four states that are to be argued Aug. 6 at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Those include Heyburn’s ruling in February that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Harris v. Quinn: Will the Supreme Court Abolish Public Sector Unions on Monday?

Naked Capitalism, By Lambert Strether, June 29

I cruised by Scotusblog today and saw this note:

At 9:30 a.m. on Monday we expect orders from the June 27 Conference, followed by the opinions at 10:00 a.m. We will begin live-blogging at this link at approximately 9:15. The only remaining undecided cases of the Term are Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn.

Yeah, yeah, Hobby Lobby boo! So what’s Harris v. Quinn?

I’m glad you asked. LA Times:

[Harris vs. Quinn] asks whether a state may compel even those public employees who elect not to join a union to pay fees to the union, since they benefit from the collective bargaining agreements it negotiates.
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SCOTUS Overstepping?

That’s what I think in light of the flapdoodle at SCOTUS over recess appointments:

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court seemed inclined to rein in the president’s power to make “recess appointments” when the Senate is out of town, as justices on Monday suggested the practice under both parties had exceeded constitutional limits.

The Constitution grants the president power “to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate,” allowing appointees to serve temporarily without confirmation—including some whose prospects for Senate approval were unlikely.

But justices of all ideological stripes suggested Monday that a tool intended to keep the government running during the republic’s early days had morphed over the centuries into a weapon to be wielded in power struggles between Congress and the White House.

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Justice Scalia ‘very much’ suspects he has homosexual friends

MSNBC, By Irin Carmon, October 6

Few Supreme Court Justices are as comfortable with the media as Antonin Scalia, but the three voluble interview sessions he sat for in the forthcoming issue of New York magazine stand out even for him for their candor.

In the interview with New York’s Jennifer Senior, Scalia discusses everything from his conception of the Devil to his process of writing briefs. He also laments, ”One of the things that upsets me about modern society is the coarseness of manners. You can’t go to a movie — or watch a television show for that matter — without hearing the constant use of the F-word–including, you know, ladies using it.”

In Conversation: Antonin Scalia

On the eve of a new Supreme Court session, the firebrand justice discusses gay rights and media echo chambers, Seinfeld and the Devil, and how much he cares about his intellectual legacy (“I don’t”).

New York Magazine, By Jennifer Senior, October 6

On September 26—a day that just happened to be the 27th anniversary of his swearing-in as associate justice—Antonin Scalia entered the Supreme Court’s enormous East Conference Room so casually that one might easily have missed him. He is smaller than his king-size persona suggests, and his manner more puckish than formal. Washingtonians may know Scalia as charming and disarming, but most outsiders tend to regard him as either a demigod on stilts or a menace to democracy, depending on which side of the aisle they sit. A singularity on the Court and an icon on the right, Scalia is perhaps more responsible than any American alive for the mainstreaming of conservative ideas about ­jurisprudence—in particular the principles of originalism ­(interpreting the Constitution as the framers intended it rather than as an evolving document) and textualism (that statutes must be ­interpreted based on their words alone). And he has got to be the only justice to ever use the phrase “argle-bargle” in a dissent.

You came to Washington as a lawyer during the Nixon administration, just before Watergate. What on Earth was that like?
It was a sad time. It was very depressing. Every day, the Washington Post would come out with something new—it trickled out bit by bit. Originally, you thought, It couldn’t be, but it obviously was. As a young man, you’re dazzled by the power of the White House and all that. But power tends to corrupt.

Snowden’s email provider shuts down abruptly – resistance squashed

Yesterday, I asked the question, “Is Obama losing it?”  This may provide part of the answer.  Lavabit, the email service used by Edward Snowden, was shut down abruptly by Ladar Levison, Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC..  In an open letter to former users, Levison starts out by saying:

“I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit  (See or here or here)”

As if that were not clear enough, he goes on to point out that he can’t tell us why he’s shutting down.  But we can figure it out from this line:

“As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.”

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Federal appeals court: Journalists can’t decline to testify in criminal trials

New York Times, By Matt Zapotosky & Justin Jouvenal, July 19

A New York Times reporter whose book is at the center of a criminal leak case against a former CIA officer accused of being one of his sources cannot invoke a reporter’s privilege and refuse to testify at the officer’s trial, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

In a divided decision that will probably rile journalists across the country, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that reporter James Risen can be forced to testify at the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who is charged with 10 felony counts in a federal leak case. The majority of judges ruled, effectively, that neither the First Amendment nor common law offers protection to journalists who promise anonymity to their sources from having to testify about them in criminal proceedings.

“There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings about criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in, absent a showing of bad faith,” Chief Judge William B. Traxler wrote.

The decision was not unanimous. Judge Roger L. Gregory wrote in a dissent that “freedom of the press is one of our Constitution’s most important and salutary contributions to human history.” He argued that case law had created a sort-of “reporter’s privilege” not to reveal sources in certain instances, taking into consideration “the harm caused by the public dissemination of the information” and the “newsworthiness of the information conveyed.”

“Even in ordinary daily reporting, confidential sources are critical,” Gregory wrote.

Via Power Of Narrative: The Splendiferous Difference Obama Makes