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 FORCED PREGNANCY...

THE FORCED PREGNANCY JUSTIFICATION THAT DARES NOT SPEAK ITS NAME : Jill Filipovic finds noted crank Bill Napoli arguing that "[i]f you vote to repeal [South Dakota's unconstitutional abortion ban], you'll be voting for the death of 800 babies that didn't have anything to do with rape or incest" and "[i]f you love babies, and see those cute little babies in the park, grocery store, mall, or cafe, think very carefully about your vote to repeal." Napoli (of " sodomized virgins " fame) is trying to argue that -- while he supports a rape or incest exemption -- a draconian ban is better than no ban. But his defense of these positions is rife with the kind of gross illogic and internal inconsistency that are endemic to the American anti-choice movement . First of all, in terms of moral standing no fetuses (or "babies") have anything to do with "rape or incest" -- their mothers may be victims of these acts, but that's a different issue. (Which is reflected in the fact that nobody thinks that...

SYMPATHY FOR THE...

SYMPATHY FOR THE SCALIA . The New York Times is running a superb multi-part series about the increasing number of legal privileges and breaks being given to religious institutions, which has generated some attention and commentary . Today's article about the tax breaks given to religious institutions -- even when they involve clearly secular functions like retirement communities -- is also a must-read. What's striking in reading the series so far is the extent to which these special privileges have nothing to do with anything that could be plausibly called "religious freedom"--it's not clear how providing basic legal protections to administrators at religious colleges, for example, threatens the core expression of religious belief. (And the story about the aspiring nun who was fired because she contracted a serious illness, in addition to illustrating the abuses of religious freedom exemptions, should also remind us that the American system of tying healthcare to employment is awful...

Judged Dred

Dred Scott v. Sandford is the ultimate trump card in constitutional arguments. This infamous case -- in which the Supreme Court held that Congress could not regulate slavery in the territories and that African Americans had “no rights the white man is bound to respect” -- provides such rhetorically compelling ammunition because everyone today considers the outcome to have been grossly immoral. (And make no mistake, the legitimacy of Supreme Court decisions over time rests on their substantive outcomes.) Dred Scott has served an all-purpose function in political and legal debates for years. In a typical case, George W. Bush -- demonstrating the forthright advocacy of conservative jurisprudence for which Republicans are famous -- went out of his way to assure the public during one of the 2004 presidential debates that he would not, in fact, appoint Supreme Court justices who would interfere with the ability of Congress to ban slavery in Puerto Rico. Bush's strange remarks were widely...

Courts Dismissed

Not long ago, the New York Court of Appeals intervened in a dispute over a hotly contested social issue: It struck down legislation that had been passed by the democratically accountable legislators of the New York State Assembly, legislation that was also a crucial part of the governor's first election campaign. Despite this, the court usurped the prerogatives of the more democratic branches and arrogantly ruled the legislation unconstitutional. I'm referring, of course, to the 2004 decision of the New York courts to rule New York's death penalty statute unconstitutional. The above characterization of the actions of the judiciary is not mine but rather reflects the way that many of the armchair legal scholars that grace the nation's op-ed pages tend to describe judicial decisions on contested social issues. These pundits routinely assure us that such judicial interventions -- ones that undermine policies favored by elected officials -- anger the public and create a backlash far...

Men Overboard

The confirmation of two conservative Supreme Court justices and the passage of a draconian abortion ban in South Dakota have again thrown the precarious state of reproductive rights in the United States into sharp relief. It's a serious moment -- which makes the continued preference for clever counter-intuition and abstract debates shared by many of the nation's prominent, avowedly pro-choice pundits all the more troubling. It is difficult to know when a contrarian idea has been repeated so much as to become the new conventional wisdom. At least in prominent liberal media outlets, however, the argument that pro-choicers would be better off abandoning Roe v. Wade has probably crossed the line. In The Atlantic Monthly , Bejamin Wittes' 2005 article asserting that Roe v. Wade has been deeply unhealthy for abortion rights was followed up by a similar (although more detailed and nuanced) article in the June Atlantic by Jeffrey Rosen, also a prominent Roe critic in The New York Times and...

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