Tag Archives: Court

The Roberts Corporate Court Strikes Again

By  CAP Action War Room

The Powerful Over the People

Yesterday, we celebrated two landmark Supreme Court rulings advancing LGBT rights, but a closer look at the rest of the Supreme Court term reveals a wide variety of troubling rulings. These rulings may be on different issues, but they all have a common theme: whenever possible the High Court’s conservative wing puts the interests of the powerful above those of the people. This term the Supreme Court has issued rulings attacking voting rights, consumer rights, workers’ rights, and more.

In particular, the Roberts Court chooses to side with powerful corporations at almost every possible opportunity. Even conservative-leaning Supreme Courts in the past have not sided with corporations as often. For example, in cases where the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce intervened, they won barely more than half the time under Chief Justice Rehnquist. Since Chief Justice Roberts and Alito joined the court in 2006, the Chamber has won 70 percent of its cases. Over the past two terms alone, the Chamber has prevailed in a whopping 88 percent of its cases. In fact, the Roberts Court is the most pro-corporate Supreme Court in more than six decades.

Here’s a few of the areas where the court trampled on the people at the expense of the powerful:

  • Voting Rights: Just this week, the Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. As a result, six states are already moving forward with voter suppression laws that previously would’ve been held up or blocked entirely. If individuals cannot vote, they of course cannot vote for politicians who support progressive or populist policies or vote against those who are the tools of corporate special interests like polluters, insurance companies, and Wall Street banks.
  • Workers’ Rights: In two decisions also handed down this week, the Court made it much harder for victims of workplace discrimination to seek justice. The first case severely limited the definition who counts as a supervisor, making it much easier for people to be intimidated out of taking action against harassment by their bosses. A second decision issued the same day made it much easier for corporations or supervisors to retaliate against individuals who complain about discrimination.
  • Human Rights: In April, the Court severely limited a 200 year-old law that allowed individuals to use the U.S. civil court system to seek recourse for human rights violations committed abroad. Chief Justice John Roberts led a splintered court in ruling that several Nigerians alleging an oil company aided an abetted torture, arbitrary killings, and indefinite detention could not sue, because the corporate conduct occurred outside the United States. It is now essentially impossible to hold anyone accountable for such conduct.
  • Consumer Rights: The Roberts Court has made a habit of issuing rulings that limit the ability of individuals to file class action lawsuits and/or seek justice outside the arbitration system that heavily favors corporations. The Court issued several such rulings this term, making it harder for individuals or even millions of individuals impacted by wrongdoing or some other harm to take on powerful corporations.

In addition, the Court ruled in favor of pharmaceutical companies, authorized what should be unconstitutionally intrusive police collection of DNA, undermined the rights of indigent defendants, and sided with big developers and trampled on “local community rights,” among other unfortunate decisions.

Based on the cases the Court has agreed to hear next term, it appears we may be in for more of the same. The Court will hear cases on abortion rights, housing discrimination, the separation of church and state, the ability of the president to fill executive vacancies in the face of Senate obstruction, affirmative action, and environmental laws, just to name a few potentially explosive decisions.

When the Court managed to rule against corporate interests and the powerful, it almost always came over the objections of Chief Justice Roberts and the other members of the Court’s conservative wing.

BOTTOM LINE: In spite of some bullets dodged and landmark victories, the Roberts Corporate Court continued to distinguish itself by overwhelmingly favoring corporate interests and the powerful over the rights and interests of individuals and the American people.

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Will the Supreme Court Say I Do?

By  ThinkProgress War Room

Supreme Court to Take Up Historic Marriage Equality Cases

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the first of two historic cases dealing with marriage equality. Here’s what you need to know about these two cases and how the High Court could come down.

Case #1 (Tuesday): Hollingsworth v. Perry

At issue: California’s Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban approved by California voters in 2008.

Legal Questions:

  • Is it unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause for California to prohibit marriage equality?
  • California’s governor and attorney general stopped defending the measure several years ago, so a group of cities and Prop. 8 proponents stepped in to defend the law in their place. The Supreme Court must decide if it was even proper for this group to have been allowed to do so in the first place.

Possible Outcomes:

  • Marriage equality for everyone, everywhere
  • Marriage equality in some places now, everywhere else later. One route proposed by the Obama administration would result in marriage equality right now in California and other states that have civil union laws that are essentially marriage in everything but name. Legally speaking, if California’s ban is deemed unconstitutional, bans in other states would then also be difficult to defend. As the president said recently, he can’t think of any reason why any state’s ban should be valid.
  • Marriage equality just in California. The Court could tailor a narrow opinion that invalidates Prop. 8, but doesn’t really advance jurisprudence in a way that is particularly useful anywhere else.
  • Marriage equality in California, probably. The Court could use the second question about legal standing to dodge making a decision on the merits, which would leave the district court decision invalidating Prop. 8 in place. There are some unresolved questions about how this particular approach would play out.
  • No marriage equality in California, at least for now. The Court could reverse the lower courts and leave Prop. 8 in place. The only way it could then be undone is by voters through yet another ballot measure or in a future Supreme Court case heard by a more progressive Court. A poll out last week found that 61 percent of California’s now support marriage equality, making this route likely to succeed if also costly, time-consuming, and limited only to California.

For more details on how the Court could strike down Prop. 8, check out ThinkProgress’ legal analysis HERE.

Case #2 (Wednesday): United States v. Windsor

At Issue: The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Legal Questions:

  • Whether Section 3 of DOMA, the part of the law that bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples for purposes of taxation, federal benefits, and more than 1,000 other rights or responsibilities, violates the legal married same couples’ guarantees of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment.
  • As with the Prop. 8 case, there are technical legal questions about whether the Supreme Court is even allowed to hear the case. First, can the Court hear the case since the executive branch already agrees with lower courts that the law is unconstitutional? After the Department of Justice stopped defending the law, House Republicans took up the cause of defending discrimination and have spent millions of taxpayer dollars doing so. The Court must decide if House Republicans are allowed, legally speaking, to stand in for the executive branch.

Possible Outcomes:

  • Marriage equality for everyone. The Court could simply rule that DOMA is unconstitutional because everyone has a constitutional right to marry the partner of their choice.
  • Marriage equality in some places. The Court could strike down DOMA and allow legally married same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as straight couples, but not rule on whether there is a broader constitutional right to marriage equality. Depending on how strongly worded such a decision is, it could make it difficult to defend other anti-gay laws and state marriage bans. Another version of this outcome could be decided on the basis of the Tenth Amendment, but this would establish a highly unfortunate precedent that could be dangerous for the social safety net.
  • Muddled mess. If the Court decides that it lacks jurisdiction for either or both of the reasons mentioned above, nobody is quite sure what exactly will happen. It’s possible that DOMA could remain valid everywhere but New York and New England (the federal circuit courts where the challenges were initiated). Another theory says the Obama administration could refuse to enforce the law, but then that still leaves open the possibility that a future anti-gay President Rubio could revive the law.
  • No change. The Court could disagree with the various lower courts that invalidated DOMA and find it to be constitutional. In this case, the only ways to get rid of DOMA would be a future case before a less conservative Supreme Court or Congressional repeal of DOMA. Senators and members of the House have already introduced a bill, the Respect for Marriage Act, to accomplish the latter.

For more details on how the Court could dump DOMA, check out ThinkProgress’ legal analysis HERE.

Stay tuned: ThinkProgress reporters will be both inside and outside the Supreme Court tomorrow and we’ll be bringing you live updates.

Get Involved: Sign Our Brief Telling the Supreme Court to Dump DOMA

Our partners at the Center for American Progress signed onto a legal brief against DOMA. Will you support their brief by signing on, and say that you won’t stand for the unconstitutional discrimination against LGBT people?

Sign HERE to tell the Supreme Court that DOMA must go.

Evening Brief: Important Stories That You Might’ve Missed

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