Supreme Court

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National: Russian firm indicted in special counsel probe cites Kavanaugh decision to argue that charge should be dismissed | The Washington Post

A Russian company accused by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III of being part of an online operation to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign is leaning in part on a decision by Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh to argue that the charge against it should be thrown out. The 2011 decision by Kavanaugh, writing for a three-judge panel, concerned the role that foreign nationals may play in U.S. elections. It upheld a federal law that said foreigners temporarily in the country may not donate money to candidates, contribute to political parties and groups, or spend money advocating for or against candidates. But it did not rule out letting foreigners spend money on independent advocacy campaigns. Kavanaugh “went out of his way to limit the decision,” said Daniel A. Petalas, a Washington lawyer and former interim general counsel for the Federal Election Commission.

Full Article: Russian firm indicted in special counsel probe cites Kavanaugh decision to argue that charge should be dismissed - The Washington Post.

Editorials: Brett Kavanaugh, Who Has Ruled Against Campaign Finance Regulations, Could Bring an Avalanche of Big Money to Elections | Lee Fang/The Intercept

The elevation of D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court could have a profound impact on the rules governing the American democratic system. In recent years, the Supreme Court has swiftly remade the landscape of American politics, gutting 1960s-era civil rights laws restricting voter suppression, sharply weakening labor unions, and deregulating the campaign finance system to allow for wealthy individuals and corporations to exercise greater influence over elected representatives. With President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, that influence is poised to grow. Kavanaugh’s appellate court decisions and public comments suggest that he will accelerate the trend toward a political system dominated by wealthy elites — often operating in the shadows, without any form of disclosure.

Full Article: Brett Kavanaugh, Who Has Ruled Against Campaign Finance Regulations, Could Bring an Avalanche of Big Money to Elections.

Editorials: Does Brett Kavanaugh Spell the End of Voting Rights? | Ari Berman/The New York Times

In late 2011, the Obama administration blocked a South Carolina law that required voters to show a photo ID before casting their ballots, finding that it could disenfranchise tens of thousands of minority voters, who were more likely than whites to lack such IDs. But when South Carolina asked a federal court in Washington to approve the law, Brett Kavanaugh wrote the opinion upholding it. He ruled that the measure was not discriminatory, even though the Obama administration claimed that it violated the Voting Rights Act. Judge Kavanaugh, whom President Trump nominated for the Supreme Court recently, pointed to a 2008 Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana’s voter ID law, which he interpreted as giving states broad leeway to restrict their voting procedures. “Many states, particularly in the wake of the voting system problems exposed during the 2000 elections, have enacted stronger voter ID laws, among various other recent changes to voting laws,” he noted in approval.

Full Article: Opinion | Does Brett Kavanaugh Spell the End of Voting Rights? - The New York Times.

Editorials: Kavanaugh’s Record Doesn’t Bode Well for Voting Rights | Ari Berman/Mother Jones

Donald Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, could determine how the court rules on cases that shape the future of voting rights in the United States. And if his track record is any indication, many Americans could be disenfranchised as a result. As a judge on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, Kavanaugh voted in 2012 to uphold a South Carolina voter ID law that the Obama administration said would disenfranchise tens of thousands of minority citizens. The Justice Department blocked the law, which required government-issued photo identification to vote, in late 2011 for violating the Voting Rights Act. “The absolute number of minority citizens whose exercise of the franchise could be adversely affected by the proposed requirements runs into the tens of thousands,” wrote Tom Perez, who was then assistant attorney general for civil rights and now leads the Democratic National Committee. The Justice Department found that more than 80,000 minority registered voters in South Carolina did not have DMV-issued identification, with African Americans 20 percent more likely than whites to lack such ID.

Full Article: Kavanaugh’s Record Doesn’t Bode Well for Voting Rights – Mother Jones.

Editorials: Voting rights in Justice Kennedy’s Constitution | Edward Foley/SCOTUSblog

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s jurisprudence on voting rights must be understood in the context of his overall constitutional philosophy. While certainly appreciative of the role that democratic elections play as part of the republican form of government established by the Constitution — see, for example, his concurrences in U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thorton (1996) and Cook v. Gralike (2001) — Kennedy did not view voting rights as having a paramount status within the pantheon of constitutional rights. Nor did Kennedy consider the protection of voting rights as legitimating the rest of the Constitution. Rather, he saw voting rights as important insofar as they were part of the Constitution. For him, it was the priority of the Constitution itself that gave voting rights their significance. The hierarchy of authority, as he saw it, ran from the Constitution to democracy, not the other way around.

Full Article: Voting rights in Justice Kennedy’s Constitution - SCOTUSblog.

Editorials: Kennedy’s Retirement Could Threaten Efforts to End Partisan Gerrymandering | Michael Wines/The New York Times

For 14 years, as partisan gerrymanders across the country grew more extreme, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy came to symbolize hopes that the Supreme Court would eventually rein them in. His retirement this week did not merely dampen those hopes. Experts said it also presented a potentially crippling threat to growing efforts by voting rights advocates and Democrats to halt gerrymanders by legal and political means. Justice Kennedy was widely seen as the swing vote on gerrymandering in a court divided between liberals, who see the practice as unconstitutional, and conservatives, who regard it as a political problem, not a legal one. Indeed, he single-handedly preserved it as a judicial question, in a 2004 case involving Pennsylvania’s Legislature, when he declined to join four other justices who declared that it is impossible to determine when a political map becomes unacceptably partisan. “That no such standard has emerged in this case,” he wrote then, “should not be taken to prove that none will emerge in the future.”

Full Article: Kennedy’s Retirement Could Threaten Efforts to End Partisan Gerrymandering - The New York Times.

Editorials: Trump will replace Kennedy with a Scalia clone. Only one thing might stop him. | Richard Hasen/Slate

Buckle up, folks. If you did not like what the Supreme Court has done in the last few weeks on voting rights, public-sector unions, and Trump’s travel ban, things are going to get a whole lot worse now that Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring and with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts about to become the new swing justice. There’s precious little Democrats can do, at least in the short term, either to stop the nomination of another clone of Justice Antonin Scalia, or to stop the political benefit President Donald Trump is likely to get from such an appointment. Fixing the Supreme Court will be a long-term project. In short order, I expect President Trump to take the safe route and nominate a stellar Scalia clone. My personal expectation is that Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is a likely pick. Trump has reportedly already said he intends to select the next justice from a previously circulated list of Federalist Society–approved judges. Following the playbook used for Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation, the new nominee will be a very smart (likely white male) judge with impeccable credentials who can get up in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and commit to absolutely nothing in terms of his future rulings.

Full Article: Trump will replace Kennedy with a Scalia clone. Only one thing might stop him..

North Carolina: Supreme Court Won’t Hear North Carolina Partisan Gerrymandering Case | The New York Times

The Supreme Court passed up an opportunity on Monday to take another look at whether the Constitution bars extreme partisan gerrymandering, returning a case from North Carolina to a trial court there for a further examination of whether the challengers had suffered the sort of direct injury that would give them standing to sue. The move followed two decisions last week that sidestepped the main issues in partisan gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland. The new case was an appeal from a decision in January by a three-judge panel of a Federal District Court in North Carolina. The ruling found that Republican legislators there had violated the Constitution by drawing the districts to hurt the electoral chances of Democratic candidates.

Full Article: Supreme Court Won’t Hear North Carolina Partisan Gerrymandering Case - The New York Times.

Editorials: Suppression of Minority Voting Rights Is About to Get Way Worse | Richard Hasen/Slate

On Monday, five years to the day that the Supreme Court decided Shelby County v. Holder, a case in which the court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act with assurances that other parts of the act would still protect minority voters, the court proved those assurances false in Abbott v. Perez. In Abbott, the Roberts court on a 5–4 vote eschewed the judicial minimalism it has used to avoid other contentious issues—such as partisan gerrymandering and the clash between anti-discrimination laws and religious liberties—to contort rules limiting its own jurisdiction so that it could give states like Texas freer rein for repression of minority voting rights. The signals from Justice Neil Gorsuch, who signed onto a Clarence Thomas concurrence, show that things will only get worse going forward, especially if Justice Anthony Kennedy retires in the near future. In the time before the Supreme Court’s 2013 opinion in Shelby County, states like Texas with a history of racial discrimination in voting had to get federal approval—or “pre-clearance”—before making changes in their voting rules. To get pre-clearance, the state had to show that changes would not make minority voters worse off.

Full Article: The Abbott v. Perez case echoes Shelby County v. Holder as a further death blow for the Voting Rights Act..

North Carolina: Supreme Court Orders New Look at North Carolina Gerrymandering Case | Bloomberg

The U.S. Supreme Court told a panel of judges to reconsider a ruling that would force North Carolina to redraw its congressional voting map to give Republicans less of a partisan advantage. The justices ordered a new look based on their week-old ruling in a similar case from Wisconsin. That decision said Democratic voters hadn’t shown they have legal standing to challenge the state’s Republican-drawn assembly map. North Carolina Democrats are trying to invalidate a map that gave Republicans 10 of the 13 U.S. House seats in the 2016 election with 53 percent of the overall congressional vote. Democrats say fairer lines would produce something closer to representational parity. A three-judge panel said that North Carolina lawmakers were “motivated by invidious partisan intent” and that the map “perfectly achieved the General Assembly’s partisan objectives.”

Full Article: Supreme Court Orders New Look at North Carolina Gerrymandering Case - Bloomberg.

Texas: Supreme Court Upholds Texas Voting Maps That Were Called Discriminatory | The New York Times

The Supreme Court on Monday largely upheld an array of congressional and state legislative districts in Texas, reversing trial court rulings that said the districts violated the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against voters on the basis of race. The vote was 5 to 4, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said the trial court had “committed a fundamental legal error” by requiring state officials to justify their use of voting maps that had been largely drawn by the trial court itself. In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the majority opinion represented a dark day for voting rights. The Constitution and the Voting Rights Act “secure for all voters in our country, regardless of race, the right to equal participation in our political processes,” she wrote. “Those guarantees mean little, however, if courts do not remain vigilant in curbing states’ efforts to undermine the ability of minority voters to meaningfully exercise that right.”

Full Article: Supreme Court Upholds Texas Voting Maps That Were Called Discriminatory - The New York Times.

Alabama: Seven Ways Alabama Has Made It Harder to Vote | The New York Times

Five years after the Supreme Court invalidated the Voting Rights Act’s requirement that certain states get federal approval to change their election laws, there are few places where the results are clearer than in Alabama, where the lawsuit began. Alabama has enacted a slew of restrictive laws and policies, many of whichdisproportionately affect African-Americans, Latinos and other marginalized groups. In this, it stands out only in degree, not in kind: All over the country, state legislators are making it harder to vote. State officials say the voting measures are intended to prevent election fraud. Here is the landscape of voting rights five years after the lawsuit, Shelby County v. Holder, through the lens of the state that started it. Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Alabama announced that in 2014, it would start requiring photo identification to vote under a law passed in 2011 but stymied by the Voting Rights Act. The number of states with similar laws has since ballooned.

Full Article: Seven Ways Alabama Has Made It Harder to Vote - The New York Times.

Wisconsin: Democrats seek to bring case back to Supreme Court before 2020 elections | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin Republicans are claiming victory with Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to send a lawsuit over the state’s legislative boundaries back to a lower court without addressing whether the map is constitutionally drawn. But Democrats say the ruling doesn’t put the legal fight to bed as Republicans suggest, and vow to clear any hurdle to get the nation’s highest court to answer the question of whether Wisconsin’s districts are so partisan that they violate the Constitution before the next round of map drawing.

Full Article: Democrats seek to bring case back to Supreme Court before 2020 elections.

Editorials: Will the Court Ever Address Gerrymandering? | Richard Hasen/The New York Times

Among major democracies, only in the United States are self-interested politicians given the exclusive power to design election districts for themselves and their allies. Other countries lodge this power with independent commissions. In the absence of such institutions, the pressure for courts to impose constitutional constraints on partisan gerrymandering becomes powerful, particularly as the manipulation of electoral districts for partisan advantage has become more brazen, more extreme, more effective and more consequential. Decisions on two cases Monday by the Supreme Court — an alleged Republican gerrymander in Wisconsin and a Democratic one in Maryland — shut down one novel approach to attacking partisan gerrymanders on constitutional grounds.

Full Article: Opinion | Will the Court Ever Address Gerrymandering? - The New York Times.

Georgia: Gerrymandering cases unresolved after Supreme Court ruling | Atlanta Journal Constitution

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to decide Monday whether it’s constitutional for states to create electoral maps that give an advantage to one political party over another, preserving district boundaries in Georgia and across the nation. The court’s decision leaves in place partisan gerrymandering — the practice of state legislators drawing districts to help ensure the election of Republicans or Democrats. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Wisconsin Democrats, saying they failed to prove they had a right to sue statewide rather than challenging individual legislative districts. The court also decided against Maryland Republicans who had sought a preliminary injunction in a case involving a congressional district. Separate lawsuits contesting Georgia’s districts are still pending.

Full Article: Partisan gerrymandering left untouched by U.S. Supreme Court.

North Carolina: Is North Carolina partisan gerrymander case up next after Supreme Court ‘punts’ on Wisconsin and Maryland? | McClatchy

The U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped making a landmark ruling on Monday about when gerrymandering for partisan gain goes too far, leaving some legal analysts to speculate that North Carolina could have the next case to test that question. The justices issued long-awaited rulings in Wisconsin and Maryland cases that could have had a profound stamp on legislative redistricting in the states and reshape American politics. Instead, the justices sent both cases back to lower courts for further proceedings, a move largely described on social media as “a punt.” That means the next case in the queue for the Supreme Court is the North Carolina lawsuit questioning whether the Republican-controlled General Assembly went too far in 2016 when it redrew the state’s 13 congressional districts in response to a court order. A panel of federal judges ruled in January that North Carolina’s congressional districts were unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders, and an appeal awaits action by the Supreme Court.

Full Article: NC gerrymander case: Supreme Court on Wisconsin, Maryland | McClatchy Washington Bureau.

Wisconsin: Gerrymandering case: Very ‘red’ map in ‘purple’ Wisconsin | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Wisconsin legislative map at the heart of the U.S. Supreme Court’s closely watched redistricting case is a stark example of how district lines can be drawn to keep one party in power in a very purple state no matter how it is faring at the ballot box. In good times and bad, Wisconsin Republicans have enjoyed a virtual lock on the 99-seat state Assembly, thanks to the map they drew in 2011. Their control of the Legislature is essentially baked in before voters go to the polls to pick their representatives. How tilted is the map? Here is one way to measure it: Take the top-of-the-ticket statewide election results (for governor or president) as a measure of how many people are supporting each party in a given year. Then see how those voters are distributed across the state’s 99 Assembly districts to find out how many seats favor each party.

Full Article: Wisconsin gerrymandering case: Very 'red' map in 'purple' Wisconsin.

Minnesota: Supreme Court strikes down Minnesota law on voter clothing | Star Tribune

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a Minnesota law that prohibits people from wearing political clothing or buttons at polling places, calling the ban overly broad but leaving room for the state to impose narrower restrictions. The 7-2 ruling invalidating the particulars of Minnesota’s law left state and county officials who administer elections unsure what’s proper attire and what isn’t for the upcoming August primary and the November general election. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that Minnesota’s law needed clearer parameters for both voters and election officials to avoid confusion and prevent potential violations of First Amendment free-speech rights. Roberts wrote that “the State must be able to articulate some sensible basis for distinguishing what may come in from what must stay out.”

Full Article: Supreme Court strikes down Minnesota law on voter clothing - StarTribune.com.

Editorials: The Ohio Purge and the Future of Voting | Dale Ho/The New York Times

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 to uphold Ohio’s program of canceling registrations of infrequent voters — a decision that history shows disproportionately strikes minority and low-income voters from the rolls. Under Ohio’s program, which a federal appeals court had struck down as violating the National Voter Registration Act, registered voters who don’t cast a ballot in two years are sent a notice asking them to confirm that they still reside at the same address. If they don’t respond, and then fail to vote in the next two federal elections, they are assumed to have moved to a different county and are excised from the rolls.

Full Article: Opinion | The Ohio Purge and the Future of Voting - The New York Times.

Editorials: Ohio’s voter purges were upheld by the Supreme Court. That doesn’t make them defensible. | Daniel Nichanian/NBC

Only 41 percent of registered voters went to the polls in Ohio’s 2014 general elections; the following year, just 43 percent voted. In the face of these abysmal rates, state officials should be focused on engaging the electorate and improving participation. But Ohio instead treats a failure to vote over such a two-year period as sufficient reason to trigger the process of removing someone from the voter rolls entirely. And on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that doing so was perfectly legal. Registered voters in the state who have not cast a ballot over two years are — and will continue to be — sent a notice by the local election board to confirm their registration. If they do not respond to the notice, and if they do not engage the electoral process over the following four years, they are purged from the voter registration lists.

Full Article: Daniel Nichanian: Ohio's voter purges were upheld by the Supreme Court. That doesn't make them defensible..