Dorothy Samuels

Dorothy Samuels, a former member of the New York Times Editorial Board, is a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Recent Articles

Abortion Access, the Supreme Court, and a Troubling Case of Déjà Vu

Planned Parenthood’s new petition for high court review involves a state restriction on medication abortion nearly identical to one the nation’s top court ruled unconstitutional in 2016.

(Wikimedia Commons)
(Wikimedia Commons) A demonstration in front of the Supreme Court in 2016 I f you are unfamiliar with Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma v. Jegley , it is totally understandable. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America and co-counsel Jeffrey Fisher of Stanford Law School filed a petition for Supreme Court review on the last business day before the holidays, and, so far, the move has received little attention. Yet, the pending certiorari request raises compelling issues: a major threat to abortion access in Arkansas and a lower federal court’s egregious departure from binding Supreme Court precedent in addressing the case. Specifically, Planned Parenthood is asking the justices to review and correct an abortion decision last July by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (covering Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota). The panel’s ruling overturned a properly granted preliminary injunction...

The Wedding Cake Showdown in the Supreme Court

As the justices take up the Masterpiece Cakeshop case this week, a pithy amicus brief from First Amendment experts unravels the bakery owner’s free speech complaint.

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley
AP Photo/Brennan Linsley Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake inside his store in Lakewood, Colorado B ig Supreme Court cases tend to attract a large number of friend-of-court briefs from interested non-parties seeking to illuminate different aspects of the dispute. Unsurprisingly, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission , the term’s marquee tangle involving a conservative Christian baker’s refusal to prepare custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple, citing his deeply-held religious convictions, has prompted a huge outpouring, with nearly 100 amicus briefs filed, equally divided between the two sides. Perhaps the most valuable of these—and well-deserving the Supreme Court’s attention—is the strikingly concise and clarifying brief filed in support of the couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, by some of the nation’s top First Amendment lawyers and scholars. Authored primarily by Walter Dellinger, the former acting-Solicitor General under...

A Baker’s Toxic Recipe for Discrimination

A ruling for the bakery owner in the so-called “cake case” before the Supreme Court could inflict untold harm on gay people, true religious liberty, and civil rights.

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley
AP Photo/Brennan Linsley Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake inside his store, in Lakewood, Colorado T he new Supreme Court term has led to a raft of commentary suggesting that the marquee case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission poses a tough call for the nation’s highest court. The case, involving a conservative Christian baker’s defiance of his state’s nondiscrimination law in refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, is likely to be a 5-4 nail-biter, as many dedicated court-watchers predict. Hardly an isolated episode in the ongoing culture wars, Masterpiece Cakeshop is part of the current aggressive conservative drive for religious and “conscience” exemptions from neutral and generally applicable laws and policies not to their liking. The justices on the court’s farthest right flank (Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch) are expected to side with the baker, with the four...

The Trump-Sessions Leak Crackdown

The DOJ’s investigation represents a threat to leakers, whistleblowers, and robust journalism.

AP Andrew Harnik
AP Andrew Harnik Attorney General Jeff Sessions, accompanied by National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department. A fter President Trump tweeted that his Attorney General is “VERY weak” on pursuing “Intel leakers,” Jeff Sessions announced new investigations into how journalists gain access to secret information and a possible revamp of existing guidelines designed to protect reporters against government interference in newsgathering. As the leaks continue , the Justice Department seems primed to aggressively pursue its crackdown. Instead of emulating the best actions of the Obama Justice Department, such as enforcing voting rights rather than demolishing them, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears determined to mirror the worst: the over-zealous pursuit of leak cases that stained the tenure of Eric Holder, President Obama’s first Attorney General,...

No Greatness in Trump’s Call to Kill AmeriCorps

The president’s proposal to defund the nation’s flagship domestic service program is unwise and unpatriotic. Lawmakers should look elsewhere to make cuts. 

(AP/Jessica Reilly/Telegraph Herald)
(AP/Jessica Reilly/Telegraph Herald) Kathleen Elias and Eleni Kalamaris, both with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, cut and treat tree saplings at part of a prairie restoration at Mount St. Francis in Dubuque, Iowa. A s Americans celebrate the ideals of democratic participation and service this Fourth of July, it is an apt moment to decry the betrayal of those values in President Trump’s proposed elimination of all funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service. The independent federal agency, which oversees AmeriCorps and other public service programs, would only receive the money needed to shut down operations. A bit of background is in order. The 1994 launch of AmeriCorps—the nation’s premier public service program, a sort of domestic Peace Corps—was one of former President Bill Clinton’s signature achievements. The program aimed to harness the idealism and spirit of service of thousands of Americans eager to contribute time and energy to addressing...