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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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.” Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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.” Read More