Friday, June 28, 2013


Goddess of Justice


by Felicity Blaze Noodleman

United States Supreme Court in Washington DC

*  Art and photos supplied through "Google Images".
Special thanks to "The Los Angeles Times", "New York Times", "Reuters" and ABC

As I ponder subjects for future articles, trying to consider subjects worthy of commentary and research for the Group along came two big decisions from the US Supreme Court which begin to exemplify some of my deepest feelings concerning justice in this country over the past sixty years. Just when I was beginning to articulate expressions to describe the US High Court such as "The Leftest Political Bench" and describing The Greek Goddess of Justice as "needing a complete make over - in need of Laysik Eye Surgery and obtaining a new set of scales"! 

  • Affirmative Action
  • Voting Rights
  • Gay Rights
  • Texas Voting Rulings

The waters of Justice have been so badly polluted by the influences of the communistic left leaning
politicians in Washington it is doubtful the toxic effects will ever be  purified!

As a student in school I was taught of the three branches of Government with the checks and balances in our system of Democracy. The same teachers were just so all over themselves with praise for the decisions of the Supreme Court over the last sixty years or so.  But I thought;  just a minute here - how are these branches separate when such a heavy influence was being exerted by the political thinking of the Democrats?  This seemed to be a paradox even to myself during my High School years.  As a young adult i was affected by the society Washington was rebuilding.  During the confirmation hearings of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court I was given a real lesson on Constitutional Law.  

Illustration of the nation’s Nine Supreme Court Justices.  “ABC”

Judge Bork was not confirmed to the Supreme Court but he left a lasting impression on me.  I have never heard any person who knew so much about the law and how justice should be administrated.  It was an education to hear him speak before the Congressional Senate Judiciary Committee.  So now that I have made an introduction for the articles we are publishing this week from the most recent Supreme Court decisions in the news.  They announce the Court may be taking a path away from the political right and back to the center of the law and determining judgements with respect to their Constitutionality.  Something like this hasn't done in Washington for quite some time now!

The High Court rises at the end of June, but does not remain in recess long; over the summer they review cases for the upcoming Term, then hold a conference in late August to discuss which cases they want to hear. The new Term always begins on the first Monday in October. This has Felicity reporting on the Supreme Court for the Noodleman Group. 


U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, second from right, appears to take a nap while the rest of her fellow justices listen to President Obama's State of the Union speech.

 2.13.13 (Jason Reed/Reuters)


“The Los Angeles Times”

Supreme Court Takes Middle Ground On Affirmative Action

Abigail Fisher, who sued the University of Texas after being denied admission in 2008, arrives at a news conference after the Supreme Court upheld race-based admissions policies in a decision that also handed her case back to a lower court. 
(Charles Dharapak / Associated Press / June 24, 2013)

Justices uphold race-based admissions in a 7-1 vote that also questions whether such policies are necessary to achieve diversity.
By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
June 24, 20137:59 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Defying expectations that it was on the brink of doing away with affirmative action in higher education, the Supreme Court upheld using race as a factor in admissions decisions Monday as long as the race-based policies were truly necessary to achieve diversity.
The 7-1 vote brought conservative and liberal justices together on a middle-ground approach that reaffirms the importance of racial and ethnic diversity on campus while pushing college officials to try "race-neutral" policies for enrolling more minority students.
The decision in the case from the University of Texas was written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr.Antonin ScaliaClarence ThomasStephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
That outcome came as a relief to university officials and civil rights advocates. Since the justices agreed to hear the case last year, many had expected the conservative majority to use it as a vehicle to end affirmative action in education.
"The educational benefits of diversity are clear," said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "The court's decision reaffirms that it is in our national interest to expand opportunities for everyone."
Critics of affirmative action said they were pleased the justices remained skeptical of the idea of treating applicants differently because of their race.
Edward Blum, the American Enterprise Institute fellow who led the challenge to the Texas policy, said the court had "established exceptionally high hurdles" for universities that wish to continue race-based admissions policies. "This decision begins the restoration of the original color-blind principles to our nation's civil rights laws," he said.
The justices did not rule on the constitutionality of the University of Texas admissions policy, which favored some minority applicants, or on whether the university had violated the rights of Abigail Fisher, a white applicant who was turned down in 2008 and who brought the original lawsuit.
Instead, the justices told the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to take another look at the case and decide whether the Austin campus still needed to give a preference to some minority applicants. The justices noted that the state's "top 10" law, which awards college admission to the top 10% of each high school's graduates, has already led to an influx of Latino and black students.
Citing that improvement, Kennedy said it was no longer clear that the university needed to give an edge to black or Latino applicants to ensure a significant percentage of minorities on campus. The judges who review the Texas policy "must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity," he said in University of Texas vs. Fisher.
"If a nonracial approach" could work to bring about diversity, "then the university may not consider race," he said.
Kennedy's opinion won support from the conservative and liberal wings of the court, though Scalia and Thomas said they would have ended affirmative action if they could have.
The decision marked the first time that Roberts and Alito had endorsed the use of race as one factor in college admission decisions.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented alone, saying she would have upheld the Texas policy. JusticeElena Kagan took no part in the decision, since the case was under appeal when she served as U.S. solicitor general.
University of Texas President Bill Powers said he was encouraged by the ruling, noting the court had preserved precedents dating to 1978 that permit affirmative action. "Today's ruling will have no impact on admissions decisions we have already made or any immediate impact on our holistic admissions policies," Powers said.
Despite its progress in achieving diversity with the "top 10" law, the university's leadership said that success relied on the continued segregation of many high schools. The "top 10" plan also left out too many talented minority students from integrated, highly competitive high schools, they said.
A leading liberal critic of affirmative action said he was pleased the court told college officials they should consider race-neutral policies to achieve diversity. Richard Kahlenberg, a scholar at the Century Foundation, said universities should give "a break to economically disadvantaged students of all races."
Since the 1970s, the justices, like the American public, have remained divided over affirmative action. On the one hand, many liked the idea of the nation's leading universities opening the doors of opportunity to qualified minority students. At the same time, others objected to giving an explicit preference to some applicants over others because of race and ethnicity. This seemed to conflict with the Constitution's promise of "equal protection of the laws."
That tension has remained. In 1978, the court by a 5-4 vote struck down a policy at UC DavisMedical School because it reserved 16 of 100 slots for minorities. This was a quota, the majority said. At the same time, Justice Lewis Powell's controlling opinion said universities may consider a student's race in order to achieve a diverse class.
Powell's opinion became the governing rule, and his reference to diversity became the standard justification for affirmative action.
The Supreme Court revisited the issue in 2003, in a pair of cases from the University of Michigan. In one case, the justices struck down the undergraduate admissions policy at Ann Arbor because it awarded extra points to minority applicants. But in a 5-4 decision with an opinion written by JusticeSandra Day O'Connor, the court upheld the admissions policy at the law school because it evaluated students as individuals, but gave some weight to their race.
During that same period, while affirmative action was winning narrowly in the Supreme Court, it was losing when put before voters. California's voters approved a measure in 1996 that prohibited state agencies, including universities, from discriminating against or "granting preferential treatment" to any individual because of race. Similar bans have been adopted in Washington, Michigan, Florida, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Hampshire.
Following the court's 2003 ruling, the University of Texas decided to reintroduce an affirmative action policy that had been suspended in the 1990s after a loss in a lower court. That decision set the stage for Monday's ruling.
“The Los Angles Times”

“The New York Times”

Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act

Wade Henderson, president and C.E.O. of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, criticized the decision on Tuesday.

Published: June 25, 2013
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.

The court divided along ideological lines, and the two sides drew sharply different lessons from the history of the civil rights movement and the nation’s progress in rooting out racial discrimination in voting. At the core of the disagreement was whether racial minorities continued to face barriers to voting in states with a history of discrimination.

“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

The decision will have immediate practical consequences. Texas announced shortly after the decision that a voter identification law that had been blocked would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval. Changes in voting procedures in the places that had been covered by the law, including ones concerning restrictions on early voting, will now be subject only to after-the-fact litigation.

President Obama, whose election as the nation’s first black president was cited by critics of the law as evidence that it was no longer needed, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the ruling.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg summarized her dissent from the bench, an unusual move and a sign of deep disagreement. She cited the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and said his legacy and the nation’s commitment to justice had been “disserved by today’s decision.”

She said the focus of the Voting Rights Act had properly changed from “first-generation barriers to ballot access” to “second-generation barriers” like racial gerrymandering and laws requiring at-large voting in places with a sizable black minority. She said the law had been effective in thwarting such efforts.

The law had applied to nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states, including Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote that Congress remained free to try to impose federal oversight on states where voting rights were at risk, but must do so based on contemporary data. But the chances that the current Congress could reach agreement on where federal oversight is required are small, most analysts say.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority opinion. Justice Ginsburg was joined in dissent by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The majority held that the coverage formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, originally passed in 1965 and most recently updated by Congress in 1975, was unconstitutional. The section determined which states must receive clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington before they made minor changes to voting procedures, like moving a polling place, or major ones, like redrawing electoral districts.

Section 5, which sets out the preclearance requirement, was originally scheduled to expire in five years. Congress repeatedly extended it: for five years in 1970, seven years in 1975, and 25 years in 1982. Congress renewed the act in 2006 after holding extensive hearings on the persistence of racial discrimination at the polls, again extending the preclearance requirement for 25 years. But it relied on data from the 1975 reauthorization to decide which states and localities were covered.
The current coverage system, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, is “based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day.”

“Congress — if it is to divide the states — must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions,” he wrote. “It cannot simply rely on the past.”

The decision did not strike down Section 5, but without Section 4, the later section is without significance — unless Congress passes a new bill for determining which states would be covered.
It was hardly clear, at any rate, that the court’s conservative majority would uphold Section 5 if the question returned to the court in the unlikely event that Congress enacted a new coverage formula. In a concurrence, Justice Thomas called for striking down Section 5 immediately, saying that the majority opinion had provided the reasons and had merely left “the inevitable conclusion unstated.”

The Supreme Court had repeatedly upheld the law in earlier decisions, saying that the preclearance requirement was an effective tool to combat the legacy of lawless conduct by Southern officials bent on denying voting rights to blacks.
Critics of Section 5 say it is a unique federal intrusion on state sovereignty and a badge of shame for the affected jurisdictions that is no longer justified.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was one of the towering legislative achievements of the civil rights movement, and Chief Justice Roberts said its “strong medicine” was the right response to “entrenched racial discrimination.” When it was first enacted, he said, black voter registration stood at 6.4 percent in Mississippi, and the gap between black and white registration rates was more than 60 percentage points.

In the 2004 election, the last before the law was reauthorized, the black registration rate in Mississippi was 76 percent, almost four percentage points higher than the white rate. In the 2012 election, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “African-American voter turnout exceeded white voter turnout in five of the six states originally covered by Section 5.”

The chief justice recalled the Freedom Summer of 1964, when the civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered near Philadelphia, Miss., while seeking to register black voters. He mentioned Bloody Sunday in 1965, when police officers beat marchers in Selma, Ala.

“Today,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “both of those towns are governed by African-American mayors. Problems remain in these states and others, but there is no denying that, due to the Voting Rights Act, our nation has made great strides.”
Justice Ginsburg, in her dissent from the bench, drew a different lesson from those events, drawing on the words of Dr. King.

“The great man who led the march from Selma to Montgomery and there called for the passage of the Voting Rights Act foresaw progress, even in Alabama,” she said. “ ‘The arc of the moral universe is long,’ he said, but ‘it bends toward justice,’ if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.”

In her written dissent, Justice Ginsburg said that Congress was the right body to decide whether the law was still needed and where. Congress reauthorized the law in 2006 by large majorities; the vote was 390 to 33 in the House and unanimous in the Senate. President George W. Bush, a Republican, signed the bill into law, saying it was “an example of our continued commitment to a united America where every person is valued and treated with dignity and respect.”

The Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of the 2006 extension of the law in a 2009 decision, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. But it avoided answering the central question, and it seemed to give Congress an opportunity to make adjustments. Congress, Chief Justice Roberts noted on Tuesday, did not respond.
Justice Ginsburg suggested in her dissent that an era had drawn to a close with the court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act, in Shelby County v. Holder, No. 12-96.

“Beyond question, the V.R.A. is no ordinary legislation,” she wrote. “It is extraordinary because Congress embarked on a mission long delayed and of extraordinary importance: to realize the purpose and promise of the Fifteenth Amendment,” the Reconstruction-era amendment that barred racial discrimination in voting and authorized Congress to enforce it.

“For a half century,” she wrote, “a concerted effort has been made to end racial discrimination in voting. Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, progress once the subject of a dream has been achieved and continues to be made.”

“The court errs egregiously,” she concluded, “by overriding Congress’s decision.”

“The New York Times”


Supreme Court Declines To Take Up Two More Gay Rights Cases

Married couple Bill Hacket, 53, (L) and Thom Uber wave flags in West Hollywood, California after the United States Supreme court ruled on California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, June 26, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson


By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON | Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:20am EDT
(Reuters) - The Supreme Court, a day after deciding two major cases on gay marriage, declined on Thursday to take up two more cases on the issue.
The cases concerned Nevada's ban on same-sex marriage, and an Arizona law that denies state benefits to "domestic partners."
The court declined to take the cases without comment. Its action means an appeals court ruling striking down the Arizona law stays in effect, while litigation over the Nevada law will continue.
On Wednesday the justices struck down a key part of a federal law, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), that denied federal benefits to same-sex married couples.
The justices avoided deciding the constitutionality of a California law enacted in 2008, called Proposition 8, that banned gay marriage. The justices found that supporters of the law did not have standing to appeal a federal district court ruling that struck it down.
The Arizona case concerns a law that limits health benefits to employees' spouses and dependants, thereby excluding domestic partners, including those in same-sex relationships. Gay marriage is not recognized in Arizona.
Prior to the law being enacted via a ballot initiative in November 2008, the state had for several months allowed same-sex domestic partners to receive health benefits.
Gay and lesbian state employees sued before the new law was due to go into effect in January 2011, saying it violated their equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.
A federal district court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the law from going in effect. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in September 2011, prompting the state's appeal to the Supreme Court.
In the other case, supporters of Nevada's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage asked the Supreme Court to rule definitively that states could limit the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples.
The case arose when eight same-sex couples either tried to get married in Nevada or asked the state to recognize their out-of-state marriages. A federal court dismissed their claim. The case is pending before an appeals court, but the supporters of the ban asked the Supreme Court to take an early look at the issue.
The Arizona case is Brewer v. Diaz, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-33. The Nevada case is Coalition for the Protection of Marriage v. Sevick, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-689.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller, Vicki Allen and John Wallace)




Supreme Court Nixes Texas Voting Rulings


By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON | Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:14am EDT
(Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Thursday sent two cases concerning voting laws in Texas back to lower courts for reconsideration in light of a major ruling this week that knocked out a key section of the 48-year-old Voting Rights Act that fought discrimination at the polls.
The cases concern proposals on redistricting and voter identification that had been rejected by federal judges under a provision of the law that the Supreme Court ruling effectively nullified.
In Tuesday's ruling, the court struck down a section of the landmark 1965 law that sets the formula under which certain states have to ask the federal government or a judge for approval before making changes to their voting procedures.
The decision neutralized the so-called "preclearance" provision which required Texas and eight other states to submit proposed changes for approval.
The decision indicates that Texas will no longer have to undertake that process, at least until the U.S. Congress comes up with a new formula for areas covered by the law meant to protect blacks and other minorities in places where discrimination persists.
The voter identification law, passed in Texas in 2011, requires all voters to present identification when they vote in person. A federal judge said the law would impose a disproportionate burden on lower income people, many of whom are minorities.
The redistricting plan, approved after the 2010 census, was rejected by a federal court in part because there were not enough districts in which minorities were a majority.
Texas had sought Supreme Court review on both issues. The cases were put on hold while the court decided the challenge to the Voting Rights Act.
Lawyers representing minority voters had pointed out to the court that the 2011 redistricting plan could now be viewed as moot as the Texas legislature has passed a new plan that meets the requirements set by the lower court.
The redistricting case is Texas v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-496 and the voter identification case is Texas v. Holder, U.S. Supreme Court, 12-1028.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Vicki Allen)

Defense of marriage act, DOMA, Editorial cartoons, Politics, Supreme Court

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