Tuesday, November 17, 2015

GWorks Interviews: Ari Berman

"[Chief Justice Roberts] says, 'History didn’t end in 1965.' But, what he misses is that voter suppression didn’t end in 1965, either—that...this particular part of the Voting Rights Act that he didn’t like, Section 5, it blocked 3000 discriminatory voting changes from 1965 to 2013.”

In this four-part interview, Ari Berman, Senior Contributing Writer at The Nation and author of Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux (4 August 2015)), discusses his background; covering voting rights; the history of enacting and challenging the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), culminating in Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 Supreme Court case striking down VRA’s "coverage formula," the means the law used to identify states subject to voting rights regulation by the federal government; and what voting rights will look like in the 2016 election and beyond.

Viewers may watch the complete interview above, select a particular part from the list in the upper left corner of the video above or scroll to a particular part below.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Women's Suffrage & the Nineteenth Amendment

The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution
The National Archives

The right of citizens of the United States to vote
shall not be denied or abridged
by the United States or by any state
on account of sex.

Congress shall have power
to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Passed by Congress on 4 June 1919, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing to women the right to vote, was ratified on 18 August 1920.

Monday, August 17, 2015

In Memoriam: Julian Bond (1940–2015)

Jim Obergefell, Pamela Horowitz & Julian Bond
At the Supreme Court on the morning of  Oral Argument
Obergefell v. Hodges (and consolidated cases), the marriage equality cases.
Washington, DC (28 April 2015)

Julian Bond, an essential part of the Civil Rights movement, died on Sunday. The obituary in The New York Times, Julian Bond, Charismatic Civil Rights Leader, Dies at 75, offers a sense of Mr Bond's extraordinary life.

I was at the Supreme Court on 28 April 2015, the morning the Court heard oral argument in Obergefell v. Hodges, the marriage equality cases, and shot the photograph (above) of Mr Bond and Pamela Horowitz, his wife, who were standing in line and talking with Mr Obergefell.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Voting Rights Act at 50

The first page of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

On 6 August 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law.

Watch President Johnson's "The American Promise" speech, delivered to Congress on 15 March 1965, days after violence in Alabama against peaceful civil rights advocates marching to dramatize the desire to vote and the need for voting rights, asking the Congress to enact a voting rights law.

With Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., looking on (right), President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the President's Room at the United States Capital. Photo: Yoichi Okamoto. Source: LBJ Presidential Library.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bill Kristol Interviews Justice Samuel A. Alito

Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, interviews Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito as part of Mr Kristol's interview series, Conversations With Bill Kristol. Justice Alito discusses his education, including studying at Yale Law School, thinking about the theoretical legitimacy of Supreme Court decision-making and an interesting assessment of the Warren Court as an "untheoretical Court"; the work of the Court, including the relevance of Oral Argument, how the Justices decide and write cases, and the importance of clear decisions; dissenting in three recent free speech cases; marriage equality and dissenting in Obergefell v. Hodges, including discussion of the problem of the Court basing the decision in substantive due process; and baseball. 

It is an in-depth and interesting interview that gives insight into how Justice Alito thinks about the Court, his job and some issues the Court has faced recently. The following are some particularly interesting excerpts from the interview:

Photo: Thank You, SCOTUS

"Thank you, SCOTUS"
21 July 2015
© Fabrizio di Piazza

Bank Street Book Store is an institution on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Bank Street's storefront window reflects a reaction to the Supreme Court's decision on 26 June 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodgesa 5-to-4 decision written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy holding that the Fourteen Amendment's Equal Protection clause requires individual states to (1) issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in their own state and (2) recognize marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples by other states.

For more on the decision, including a reprint of the decision and links to relevant coverage, please visit the GWorks Post Obergefell v. Hodges—The Supreme Court & Marriage Equality.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Moon!

Commander Neil Armstrong on the surface of the moon
(20 July 1969)
Photo: Buzz Aldrin, NASA

"Apollo 11 astronauts trained on Earth to take individual photographs in succession in order to create a series of frames that could be assembled into panoramic images. This frame from Aldrin's panorama of the Apollo 11 landing site is the only good picture of mission commander Neil Armstrong on the lunar surface." NASA

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Describing the Supreme Court

As the Supreme Court of the United States concluded its 2014 Term in June, a perhaps surprising assessment began to emerge: The Court appeared more liberal in this last Term than it had for quite a while.

Above: Deep Dive: Monumental Decisions, The Supreme Court 2014- 2015 (The Aspen Institute)
Jeffrey Rosen, President and CEO of The National Constitution Center interviews
Sentor Chris Coons (D–DE), Alan Cooperman, Ken Davis, David Frum,
Neal Katyal, David Leonhardt, Sam Tanenhaus and Garry Wills

In Right Divided, a Disciplined Left Steered the Supreme Court, The New York Times Supreme Court Correspondent Adam Liptak notes the shift and writes,
the court’s four-member liberal wing [Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan], all appointed by Democratic presidents, managed to pick off one or more votes from the court’s five conservative justices, all appointed by Republicans. 
They did this in large part through rigorous bloc voting, making the term that concluded Monday the most liberal one since the Warren court in the late 1960s, according to two political-science measurements of court voting data.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Fourteenth Amendment

On 9 July 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which Congress passed on 13 June 1866, was ratified.

Below, you may find pictures of the Amendment as it was proposed and a transcript of the Amendment.

Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution
Source: Our Documents

Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution
Source: Our Documents

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Courting The Death Penalty

An anti-death penalty protestor faces the Supreme Court building. (30 June 2014. Washington, DC) PHOTO: Fabrizio di Piazza

For the reasons stated in Justice Sotomayor's opinion, I dissent from the Court’s holding. But rather than try to patch up the death penalty’s legal wounds one at a time, I would ask for full briefing on a more basic question: whether the death penalty violates the Constitution.
576 U. S. ____ (2015)

In With Subtle Signals, Supreme Court Justices Request the Cases They Want to Hear, The New York Times Supreme Court Correspondent Adam Liptak explored instances of the Supreme Court broadcasting interest to hear a case on a particular issue. This Term there was no more dramatic example than Justice Stephen G. Breyer's dissent in Glossip v. Gross, a 5-to-4 decision written by Justice Samuel A. Alito upholding as constitutional Oklahoma's use of a "500-milligram dose of midazolam, a sedative, as the first drug in its three-drug protocol" for execution by lethal injection.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

4 July 1776

Declaration of Independence (Dunlap Broadside)
Photo: National Archives (Flickr)

"[Above] is the first printed version of the Declaration of Independence. Drafted for the most part by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence justified breaking the colonial ties to Great Britain by providing a basic philosophy of government and a list of grievances against the Crown. John Dunlap of Philadelphia was the printer to the Continental Congress." National Archives

You may read the full text of the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, Charters of Freedom Web site.

The Flag: Happy Fourth of July (2015)!

Happy Fourth of July (2015)
Photo: Library of Congress (Flickr)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Civil Rights Act of 1964

On 2 July 1964, with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., standing behind him, President Lyndon B. Johnson
signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the East Room of the White House
Photo: Cecil Stoughton. Source: LBJ Presidential Library.

The first page of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Source: National Archives.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Obergefell v. Hodges—The Supreme Court & Marriage Equality

A crowds in front of the Supreme Court on 28 April 2015, the day the Court heard oral argument in Obergefell v. Hodges. PHOTO: Fabrizio di Piazza

Today, in a 5-to-4 decision written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteen Amendment's Equal Protection clause requires individual states to (1) issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in their own state and (2) recognize marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples by other states.

Read the Opinion below and at the Supreme Court's Web site. For more on the case, visit SCOTUSblog's Obergefell v. Hodges case page.

Jim Obergefell, named plaintiff in the marriage equality cases (Obergefell v. Hodges and consolidated cases) before the Supreme Court this Term, speaks to media after the Court heard oral argument in Obergefell. To Mr Obergefell's immediate right are Mary Bonauto and Doug Hallward-Driemeier, attorneys who argued for Petitioners in the case. PHOTO: Fabrizio di Piazza

Thursday, June 25, 2015

King v. Burwell—The Supreme Court & Healthcare

Today, in a 6-to-3 decision written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., the Supreme Court ruled that the tax credit the Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes available to low income citizens who buy healthcare coverage purchased on insurance exchanges "established by the state" applies to exchanges established by the state and the federal government. This means ACA, a signature piece of the Obama Administration's legislative legacy, remains intact and a key element used to make healthcare more affordable is available not only in the 16 state exchanges but in the 34 exchanges the federal government established for the states who did not establish their own exchange.

Read the Opinion below and at the Supreme Court's Web site. For more on the case, visit SCOTUSblog's King v. Burwell case page.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Members of Congress Ask Court for Same-day Audio of Upcoming Opinion Announcements

Today, sixteen Members of Congress sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., "to urge the Court to provide the American people with access to live audio of its court proceedings for the first time."
People may disagree on the outcome of any given case, but we can all agree that the American public is better served when all three branches of our government are transparent and accessible... 
Over the course of the next few weeks, the Court will announce opinions in closely-watched cases that will impact the lives of millions of individuals and families across America. Accordingly, the Court should provide the American people the opportunity to hear in real tim the arguments and opinions that will shape our society for years to come.
Read the full letter below:

Edward Snowden & John Oliver Talk Surveillance & Communication

"I guess I never thought about
putting it in the context of your junk."

Edward Snowden

A bit slow on the uptake. But, on 5 April 2015, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver was devoted to the issue of government surveillance. The episode includes Mr Oliver's interview with Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden whose leaked a huge trove of government documents to journalists Barton Gellman, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

The interview starts at approximately 13:40.

The interview is worth watching for two reasons:

First, Mr Oliver is a fine interviewer who challenges Mr Snowden on, among other things, handing over data to persons (reporters) whose technical capacity does not match Mr Snowden's.

Second, Mr Oliver not only demonstrates that Americans have a...let's call it limited understanding of who Mr Snowden is and what he did. Mr Oliver suggests a useful way one might have thought to communicate the data to Americans to increase understanding and concern.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lost & Found: Mother Emanuel, Charleston, SC

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Charleston, SC

Cynthia Hurd
Susie Jackson
Ethel Lee Lance
Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor
Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney
Senior Pastor at Emanuel AME
Tywanza Sanders
Reverend Dr. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr.
Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
Myra Thompson

"Witnesses said Mr. Roof sat with church members
for an hour and then started venting against
African-Americans and opened fire on the group."

The New York Times (18 June 2015)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Barack Obama & Marc Maron

President Barack Obama & Marc Maron
On Friday 19 June 2015, President Barack Obama recorded an interview with Marc Maron on his podcast, WTF With Marc Maron. The interview aired on Monday.

It is worth a listen.

The interview lasts almost an hour. It touches on a wide range of topics—the President's youth; some of his policy successes and failures; his view of the democratic process; and a bit about how the President functions as a private person while President.

Of course, the podcast begins with Mr Maron's stewing about the This & That of the interview.

The interview is of particular interest, value and success for two related reasons:

First, Mr Maron is a deft interviewer and an enthusiastic listener; he has no apparent political axe to grind, no particular political expertise (which is not to say he lacks the powers of observation); and he has a great interest in inviting his interviewees to explore their subject matter.

Second, the President responded with similar interest, enthusiasm and depth.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I Love You More, StewBeef

If you can get one of these guys to admit their mistakes, you may have a moment of self-satisfaction and catharsis. But, it doesn't mitigate the horrible consequences of those decisions—nor does it seem to stop the next guy from repeating those mistakes... 
So, people of the future, is it futile to try to pin these people down? 
Would it be easier just to give up and let Rumsfeld go—preferably on an ice floe into the North Atlantic? 
Because, no matter what evidence, no matter what arguments or historical fact you put in front of these people, they think learning curves are for pussies. And, even if they did learn, it wouldn't change the past or prevent the same mistakes in the future. Which is why I want to say to you, in the future, please, never stop trying anyway because there's always hope that one day they'll think just for a second. And that second will be enough time for us to shove these motherfuckers onto that ice floe.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Snowden's Post-Terror Generation

"President George W. Bush confers with staff via telephone from his office aboard
Air Force One during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base."
(11 September 2001) Source: The National Archives

Edward Snowden took to the OpEd section of this morning's The New York Times on the second anniversary of the beginning of media publishing government secrets Mr Snowden took while he working for National Security Agency (NSA)—well, while working as a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor for the NSA.

In The World Says No to Surveillance, Mr Snowden writes of "the emergence of a post-terror generation,"
In a single month, the N.S.A.’s invasive call-tracking program was declared unlawful by the courts and disowned by Congress. After a White House-appointed oversight board investigation found that this program had not stopped a single terrorist attack, even the president who once defended its propriety and criticized its disclosure has now ordered it terminated.
This is the power of an informed public.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Photos: Marriage Equality at the Supreme Court

Please note: Readers should see a slideshow above.

On Tuesday 28 April 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Obergefell v. Hodges and consolidated cases to consider marriage equality. The Court addressed two questions:
  1. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
  2. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?
It was a momentous day. The Court Plaza was unusually full of demonstrators for and against same-sex marriage; media; unsuspecting tourists. The photographs above, taken by GWorks Editor Fabrizio di Piazza, give a sense of what the day looked like.

The Court published transcripts and audio on the day oral argument occurred. These are best reviewed at Oyez, where readers can listen to the audio and follow along with a transcript.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Iran Deal

On Thursday 2 April 2015, Federica Mogherini, the European Union's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced that Iran and the "P5+1" (United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China, facilitated by the European Union) reached an understanding on the elements to proceed with negotiating control of Iran's nuclear capacity.

What is called the "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action" explains,
These elements form the foundation upon which the final text of the JCPOA will be written between now and June 30, and reflect the significant progress that has been made in discussions between the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran.

President Barack Obama appeared in the White House Rose Garden on the evening of 2 April 2015 to discuss the agreement.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Photo: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
(26 March 1964)
Marion S. Trikoso, Photographer
Library of Congress "No known restrictions on publication."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Judicial Attitude: Justice Stephen G. Breyer Talks to Noah Feldman About the Supreme Court

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Stephen G. Breyer and Harvard Law School Professor Noah Feldman talked about the Court at the 92d Street Y in New York on Thursday 12 March 2015. Video of the event is above. (Introductions consume the first ten minutes of the video.)

The Remover to Remove

The role of politics on the Court dominated the discussion in some form or other. Professor Feldman, more determined perhaps than other questioners of Supreme Court Justices, first tried asking Justice Breyer directly, explicitly about the role of politics on the Court.

After some back and forth about what ‘politics’ might mean, Justice Breyer said,
[00:14:10] I did work for Senator [Edward] Kennedy for two or three years when he was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. So, when you say, ‘politics,’ I think politics. Politics for us, when I was working on the Senate staff, meant, “Where are the votes?”; “Are you a Republican or a Democrat?”; and, “Who’s popular?”; and “Which party is going to be more popular as a result of this?” 
And that, I haven’t seen. That party sense of politics, no. 
Let’s try…you mean in the sense, ideological. ‘Are you an Adam Smith free-enterpriser?’ ‘Are you a Marxist trouble-maker?’ 
Well, you see, if I think I am writing an opinion and that’s what’s moving me, I had better think again. I know I am doing the wrong thing. And my colleagues feel the same. 
Well. There is a sense, though, in which I can sort of see what you mean.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lyndon Johnson's The American Promise at 50

Days after violence in Alabama against peaceful civil rights advocates marching to dramatize the desire to vote and the need for voting rights, President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed Congress about civil rights and the need to pass voting rights legislation. The Congress would soon pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which President Johnson signed into law on 6 August 1965.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

President Obama on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches

Edmund Pettus Bridge
Selma, Alabama

[Saturday 7 March 2015]
2:17 P.M. CST

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, President Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know I love you back.  (Applause.)

It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes.  And John Lewis is one of my heroes.

Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning 50 years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind.  A day like this was not on his mind.  Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about.  Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect yourself when attacked.  A doctor described what tear gas does to the body, while marchers scribbled down instructions for contacting their loved ones.  The air was thick with doubt, anticipation and fear.  And they comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung:

“No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.”

And then, his knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, and a book on government—all you need for a night behind bars—John Lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change America.

President and Mrs. Bush, Governor Bentley, Mayor Evans, Sewell, Reverend Strong, members of Congress, elected officials, foot soldiers, friends, fellow Americans:

As John noted, there are places and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided.  Many are sites of war—Concord and Lexington, Appomattox, Gettysburg.  Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character—Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.

Selma is such a place.  In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history—the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham; and the dream of a Baptist preacher—all that history met on this bridge.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Dred Scott (6 March 1857)

Cue the Civil War.

Friday 6 March marks a low point in our history: On this day in 1857, the Court announced its Opinion in Scott v. Sandford.

Mr Scott and his wife, Harriet Robinson, enslaved in Missouri, were taken by their en-slaver into Illinois (a free state) and a free part of the Louisiana Territory (free under the Missouri Compromise), where they lived for ten years. On returning to Missouri, and after the death of their en-slaver, Mr Scott sued for his freedom, asserting he was a free man by virtue of his residence in a free state and territory of the United States.

The Court, in a decision written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, held that Mr Scott was not a citizen of the United States, and therefore could not sue in court, and, moreover, that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address

4 March 1865
Washington, DC

President Lincoln (far left) delivers his Second Inaugural Address. Source: Flickr.

At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

Crowd at Lincoln's Second Inaugural. Flickr.
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.


Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, Avalon Project (Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School) 

Image: Abraham Lincoln Delivers His Second Inaugural Address; source: Internet Archive Book Images, Flickr 

Image: The first page of a copy of Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address that President Lincoln endorsed after delivering the speech; source: Our Documents 

Image: Crowd at Lincoln's Second Inaugural; source: Library of Congress, Flickr

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

In a Word: The Supreme Court, Redistricting & Health Care

Oral argument in two Supreme Court cases of particular interest occurs this week.

Supreme Court
4 October 2014
© Fabrizio di Piazza
On Monday 2 March 2015, the Court heard argument in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Committee, addressing how states draw Congressional voting districts. On Wednesday 4 March 2015, the Court will hear argument in King v. Burwell, addressing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and tax credits for health care purchased through federal health plan exchanges. Brief case summaries and resources to consider follow the jump.

Both cases ask a seemingly basic question about the meaning of a word. The Arizona case asks: What does "legislature" mean? The health care case, the second challenge to the ACA the Supreme Court has heard, asks: What does "state" mean?

The implications of these seemingly basic questions are enormous. The Arizona case, in defining what "legislature" means, will define what body of government may regulate elections and by extension whether the people of a state have the power, through referendum, to control what the state legislature (House and Senate in Arizona) may do.

The health care case, in defining the word "state," will define the power of the federal government to subsidize health care premiums in 37 states that have not set up their own health care exchanges or where the federal government helps to run a state exchange. At risk, if the Court decides that "state" means only state government and not the federal government: access to tax credits for health care premiums, an important means ACA sets up to make health care coverage affordable.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Photo: Flag Raising on Iwo Jima (23 February 1945)

Flag Raising on Iwo Jima (23 February 1945)
Source: US National Archives, Flickr
"No known copyright restriction"