Yesterday, the Court heard oral arguments in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The case involves a decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down a Michigan constitutional amendment banning the use of racial preferences in higher education. The oral argument did nothing to dispel the nearly universal assumption of court-watchers that the decision will be reversed, although the argument against the amendment has a stronger basis in precedent than it's sometimes been given credit for.
Starting with Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 and continuing up to the Citizens United decision in 2010, the Supreme Court has repeatedly found that attempts by Congress to restrict campaign finance violate the Constitution. In 2011, a bare majority of the Court found that a public-finance law that didn't suppress speech violated the First Amendment. Based on today's oral argument in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, it is overwhelmingly likely that the Supreme Court will further restrict the ability of Congress to pass campaign-finance restrictions.
McCutcheon is a potentially new frontier in constitutional law because it involves campaign donations.
The Prospect's Paul Waldman has a terrific piece noting the terrible effects of states refusing the Medicaid expansion contained in the Affordable Care Act. Slate's Matt Yglesias notes who should get the blame for this: John Roberts and the other conservative Republican justices who—in an unprecedented decision—ruled that making existing Medicaid money from the federal government contingent on accepting the expansion was unconstitutional.
The government shutdown that began on Monday will have substantial effects on our country's justice system that will escalate over time. For the most part, the basic functions of the federal judiciary will continue during the Republican crusade against affordable health insurance.
One of the central arguments made by In the Balance, Mark Tushnet's terrific new book about the current Supreme Court bench (reviewed here by Garrett Epps), concerns the counterweight to the conservative faction led by Chief Justice John Roberts. If Democratic nominees are able to wrest control of the Supreme Court back from the Republican nominees who have controlled the median vote on the Court for more than four decades, Tushnet argues, it is Elena Kagan who is likely to emerge as the intellectual leader of the Democratic nominees. And despite what many liberals feared, there is every reason to think that this would be an outcome supporters of progressive constitutional values would be very happy with.