Law

Listen to Harold Meyerson Analyze the Supreme Court's Big Anti-Union Decision on 'To the Point'

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Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect 's editor at large, appeared on the June 30th edition of Public Radio International's To the Point , analyzing the Supreme Court decision in Harris v. Quinn , which allows home health-care workers in Illinois to opt out of paying their union dues. Listen here . Read Meyerson's essay on the Harris case here: Supreme Court Rules Disadvantaged Workers Should Be Disadvantaged Some More

Supreme Court Rules Disadvantaged Workers Should Be Disadvantaged Some More

DVA.gov
DVA.gov The United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. T he conservative majority on the Supreme Court today took up the case of some of America’s most disadvantaged workers, and ruled that they should be disadvantaged some more. The five-to-four ruling in Harris v. Quinn goes a long way to crippling the efforts that unions have made to help these workers get out of poverty. The case concerned some 28,000 home care aides in Illinois whose paychecks come from Medicaid. Before the state agreed in 2003 that they could form a union, they made the minimum wage. (It’s the state that sets their wage rate, since their pay comes entirely from Medicaid.) Currently, as a result of their union contract, they make $11.85 an hour rather than the minimum of $7.25. Tomorrow, by the terms of their contract, their hourly rate is raised to $12.25, and on December 1 st to $13. The right to hire and fire these workers remains solely, of course, that of their home-bound patients and their...

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...

Why the Fight Over Executive Authority Will Define the Rest of Barack Obama's Presidency

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza President Barack Obama returns to the Oval Office after giving interviews in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 6, 2014. I t's axiomatic to the point of cliché that in their second terms, presidents turn their attention to foreign affairs, where they have latitude to do what they want without having to get Congress's permission. By the time they've been in office for five or six years, they're so fed up with wrangling 535 ornery legislators that they barely bother anymore, and without an election looming (and with approval ratings often sliding down), they concentrate on what they can do on their own. But faced with an opposition of unusual orneriness—perhaps more so than any in American history— Barack Obama has made clear that he won't just be concentrating on foreign policy. He'll be doing whatever he can to achieve domestic goals as well, even if Republicans have made legislating impossible. The conflict over the actions he has taken...

The Implications of the Supreme Court's Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Ruling

CaliFaces.com
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...

Important 4th Amendment Victory on Warrants and Smart Phones

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Last year, there was a split between state and federal appellate courts on the question of whether the mobile phones of people being arrested can be searched without a warrant. The California Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment did not require a warrant for searches of mobile phones incident to a lawful arrest. In another case, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Today, the Supreme Court sided clearly and convincingly with the latter: "Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is ...simple—get a warrant." This is a significant victory for the Fourth Amendment. Warrantless searches are presumptively considered "unreasonable" under the Fourth Amendment, but there are some exceptions to this general rule. One of these excpetions pertains to arrests. Typically, the police are permitted to conduct a warrantless search of a suspect's person during an arrest. As I argued earlier this year , however, there is...

How a Bad Interpretation of a 1976 SCOTUS Case Set the Stage for Citizens United

The Buckley v. Valeo decision was more complicated and subtle than the “money equals speech” slogan for which it’s misremembered.

AP Photo/Susan Walsh
AP Photo/Susan Walsh Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, as the court heard arguments on campaign finance in the case McCutcheon v. FEC . The Supreme Court issued its decision in April 2014 on the case's challenge to limits on contributions by the biggest individual donors to political campaigns. W hen it comes to campaign finance, the Roberts Court and the American public have settled into a grim routine. Every few years, the Court—usually in the voice of Chief Justice John Roberts—strikes down another restriction on campaign expenditures or contributions. With each decision, a disappointed majority of Americans puzzle over the notion, apparently embraced by the Court’s conservatives, that “money equals speech.” That idea is usually attributed to Buckley v. Valeo, the landmark 1976 case in which the Supreme Court for the first time considered the constitutionality of campaign finance restrictions. But the Court never said money is...

Supreme Court Hampers EPA on Greenhouse Gases But It Could Have Been Worse

Photograph by Joseph E.B. Elliot/Library of Congress
Today, the Supreme Court failed to release almost all of the term's outstanding opinions for another day (or two, or three.) But it did issue an opinion dealing with the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to deal with one the most pressing problems facing the world: climate change. Justice Scalia's opinion unnecessarily restricts the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases, but the opinion could have been much worse. Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency does deal with a real issue in the Clean Air Act. The act calls for the EPA to require permits from stationary sources that emitted between 100 and 250 tons or more per year of a pollutant covered by the act. In the context of carbon emissions, however, the quantities produced are much greater than for the typical pollutant, which would turn a statutory provision intended to exclude minor sources of pollution into a requirement to regulate these relatively small sources. Sensibly, the EPA...

Dear Thom Tillis: How Long Does It Take For a Black Person to Become a Traditional North Carolinian?

An open letter to the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, who is currently running for U.S. Senate, is prompted by his comments about the Republican Party's demographics.

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
AP Photo/Chuck Burton In this May 6, 2014, photo Thom Tillis speaks to supporters at a election night rally in Charlotte, N.C., after winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate Tuesday, May 6, 2014. D ear Thom: I hope I can call you Thom; you may certainly call me Cynthia. Given the circumstances—given how far the policies you've supported since becoming Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives have reached into my home and even my vagina —I feel we are on intimate terms that make surnames superfluous. In your 2012 comments to Carolina Business Review , unearthed by TPM last week, you talked about how Republicans need to reach out to communities of color, the type of GOP hand-wringing we've heard since Mitt Romney went down in flames. I believe your specific comment was this: The traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable. It’s not growing. The African American population is roughly growing but the Hispanic population...

How Many Gun Deaths Are There In Your State?

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Since Washington is a fetid swamp of moral compromise and soul-sucking humidity, my family and I sometimes debate where we might go if we decided to move elsewhere. One of the possibilities that comes up is Colorado, since we have friends there and the state features lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation. But I'm given pause by the fact that Colorado seems to have more than its share of gun massacres, and even if statistically speaking they aren't something to spend too much time worrying about, it's natural to have it weigh on your mind. Americans increasingly want to live around people who think like them , and that can extend beyond political beliefs to politically-tinged behaviors, particularly those meant to terrify people who have opinions different from yours. Like many a bleeding-heart liberal, I'd prefer to be able to stop in at my local Target and not have to share my shopping experience with a bunch of nutballs toting AR-15s . Call me crazy. If you're considering a...

Weak Weakling Continues Weak Policies of Weakness

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Conservatives are struggling to get over their disappointment that the Obama administration captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged leader of the 2012 attack on our consulate in Benghazi, but don't think they can't come up with another way to argue that Barack Obama is screwing everything up. If there's one thing they're certain of, it's that Obama is weak, and while until this weekend he was too weak to nab Khattala, now he's too weak to do what needs to be done with him. I'm pretty sure many on the right really wish we could torture Khattala, even if you can't say that in polite company anymore. In the absence of that, they'll demand that we take Khattala to Guantanamo, where presumably he will spill what he knows forthwith. Marco Rubio demanded that we "immediately" transfer him to Guantanamo. " In order to locate all individuals associated with the attacks that led to the deaths of four Americans, we need intelligence," said the senator, apparently under the impression that...

The Road to Marriage Equality: Boies and Olson’s Wedding March

AP Photo/Adam Lau
AP Photo/Adam Lau David Boies kisses fellow lawyer Theodore Olson on the cheek at a public rally on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010 in West Hollywood, Calif. Gay rights supporters turned out in droves to celebrate a federal judge's overturning of California's Proposition 8, a same-sex marriage ban, a landmark case which could eventually land before the U.S. Supreme Court to decide if gays have a constitutional right to marry in America. T he history of civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans took a dramatic turn on June 26, 2013. On that date, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which since 1996 had defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. The Court also let stand a lower ruling that declared Proposition 8—the 2008 voter referendum outlawing same-sex marriage in California—unconstitutional. The two legal victories rode momentum that had revved and sputtered ever since the early hours of June 28, 1969, when...

Why The California Tenure Decision Is Wrong and Will Hurt Disadvantaged Students

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of Students Matter David Welch makes comments on the Vergara v. California lawsuit verdict in Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California's public school teachers as unconstitutional Tuesday, saying such laws harm students, especially poor and minority ones, by saddling them with bad teachers. In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education. E arlier this week, California Superior Court Judge Rolf Michael Treu held that California's teacher tenure system violated the state constitution. Treu's June 10 decision in Vergara v. California has been widely praised by education "reformers," up to and including President Barack Obama's worst cabinet...

Maureen Dowd Gets Way Too High

Do NOT let Maureen near that—she'll eat the whole thing! (Flickr/animakitty)
While I usually try to abstain from writing posts about how something an op-ed columnist wrote was stupid—not an unworthy endeavor, but if I don't do it many other people will be there to pick up the slack—today I'm going to make an exception for Maureen Dowd. That's not only because her column in today's New York Times is particularly inane , but because there's a lesson hidden there, really there is. So stick with me. But first, on to Dowd's glorious tale. Seems she was in Denver and decided to sample some of this "marijuana" she's been hearing so much about. Like any sensible person trying a drug for the first time, she made no attempt whatsoever to determine how much of it she should consume to reach her desired state of consciousness. Instead, she bought a cannabis candy bar and ate the whole thing. The results were unsurprising: But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state...

The Supreme Court and the Power to Make Treaties

Website of the Supreme Court of the United States
Given the ongoing Republican assault on essential federal powers, It is generally not good news when the Supreme Court narrowly construes a federal statute in deference to state authority. Monday's ruling in Bond v. U.S. , however, is an exception. A majority of the Court refused to accept conservative arguments that would severely limit the power of Congress to enforce treaties signed by the United States. The dissents by Justices Scalia and Thomas, conversely, show that this case could have been a vehicle for a major new limitation on federal power. The facts in Bond , summarized in an excellent story by Newsweek 's Pema Levy, are the stuff of soap opera. Carol Bond, a microbiologist, put highly toxic chemicals on various surfaces at the home of Myrlinda Haynes, her erstwhile best friend and husband's lover. Haynes escaped the dangerous trap set for her with only minor burns. Nonetheless, Bond was prosecuted under Section 229 of the federal Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation...

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