Scott Lemieux

Scott Lemieux is an assistant professor of political science at the College of Saint Rose. He contributes to the blogs Lawyers, Guns, and Money and Vox Pop.

Recent Articles

The Limits of Originalism

Two recent rulings by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spotlight the limitations of originalist readings of the Constitution, which would dominate a Court controlled by conservatives.

S upreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently issued two rather remarkable opinions that challenge landmark rulings of the liberal Warren Court, one directly and the other implicitly. The solo opinions—one on voting rights, the other on the right to criminal representation—may not portend major changes in the law for the immediate future. But together, the two opinions display the unworkability of Thomas’s influential brand of originalism, and they also show how radical an agenda a Supreme Court controlled by contemporary Republicans could pursue. Having blocked any consideration of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, Republicans on Capitol Hill have signaled their determination to ensure continued conservative dominance on the Court. On the Supreme Court, “conservative” is often associated with “originalism”— the idea that the constitutional provisions should be interpreted based on their meaning when they were ratified. Thomas is the...

"One Person, One Vote" Battle Just Starting

Three scholars scrutinize Evenwel v. Abbott, a Supreme Court ruling with broad implications for both the future of voting rights and the direction of the Court.

AP Photo/Eric Gay, File
AP Photo/Eric Gay, File In this May 30, 2013 file photo, Texas state Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa looks at maps on display prior to a Senate Redistricting committee hearing, in Austin, Texas. The U.S. Supreme Court handed Texas a victory Monday, April 4, 2016, upholding the state's system of drawing legislative voting districts based on everyone who lives there, not just registered voters. In its Evenwel v. Abbott ruling this month, the Supreme Court rejected a conservative voting-rights challenge that could have triggered partisan redistricting fights nationwide. Advocates of “one person, one vote” cheered, but the ruling may invite further challenges, and spotlights problematic originalist impulses on the Court. Carl Klarner and Daniel Smith examine Evenwel ’s legal impact, and Scott Lemieux tackles what Justice Clarence Thomas’s originalism means for the ruling and for the Court. DANIEL A. SMITH & CARL KLARNER The Battle Over "One Person, One Vote," Has Just Begun A fter the...

Obama and the Supreme Court: Lose Today, Win Tomorrow?

In choosing a successor to Antonin Scalia, Obama would do well to play the long game and consider a nominee with strong progressive credentials.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais President Barack Obama walks speaks to reporters about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at Omni Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, California, Saturday, February 13, 2016. T he unexpected death of Antonin Scalia leaves President Barack Obama with an unusual choice. He is not, precisely, nominating someone to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Republican Senate leaders have clearly signaled that they will not consider allowing Obama to fill the seat. In a sense, Obama’s nomination is symbolic—the first shot in a war that will, if progressives are lucky, allow Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders to nominate Scalia’s replacement in 2017. When choosing among nominees, Obama would do well to consider several factors with an eye on the long game. One thing Obama is likely to try to do is to minimize substantive grounds for opposition. A sitting federal judge who attracted bipartisan support and generated little controversy during the...

5 Men on Supreme Court Impose Substantial Burden on Women in Illogical Decision

© A.M. Stan
©A.M. Stan As the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius on March 25, 2014, protesters filled the sidewalk in front of the Court. O n Monday, a bare majority of the Court held that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, employers do not have to adhere to federal regulations requiring that health insurance offered to employees cover contraceptives if the requirement conflicts with their religious beliefs. The majority opinion supporting this view, written by Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and joined by the Court's four other Republican appointees—all men—is a disaster. It is unpersuasive and illogical, and creaes a standard that is unworkable. It also reflects an instructive lack of concern for the interests of the women, whose statutory rights will be burdened by the majority's decision. As I have outlined before , the argument by Hobby Lobby and the other employers in the cases, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v...

The Implications of the Supreme Court's Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Ruling
Today, in McCullen v. Coakley , the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts statute that created a "buffer zone" enabling women to access reproductive health clinics without interference. As with the ruling on the EPA and Greenhouse gases from earlier in the week, however, the decision could have been much worse. While the Court held that the Massachusetts law was not consistent with the First Amendment, it did so in a way that should allow states to protect women who seek reproductive health care from having their clinic access blocked or impeded by protesters. There is no question that the 35-foot buffer zone around clinics created by the statute restricts speech. This does not, however, necessarily mean that a buffer zone violates the First Amendment. The state can restrict speech using "space, time, and manner" restrictions. (You have the right to express your political views, but do not necessarily have the right to express them through a megaphone in a residential neighborhood...