The Latest Roberts Court Atrocity

The Supreme Court rules to return to prison a grandmother who poses no danger to society.

Emily Bazelon has a terrific piece about a recent Supreme Court order that has received very little attention. The case concerned Shirley Ree Smith, a grandmother given 15 years to life for the death of her granddaughter. The conviction was based on "shaken baby syndrome," although the most current evidence suggests that it's extremely unlikely that Smith caused her granddaughter's death. Taking this evidence into account, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals freed Smith in 2006.

Republican Dream Map Dashed

Texas congressional hopefuls will begin filing the paper work for their House campaigns today after an eventful holiday weekend. On Saturday, a federal court in San Antonio court approved a new congressional map that overturned the one drawn up by the state's Republican legislature earlier this year, granting Democrats and the state's burgeoning Hispanic population a significantly better chance of picking up seats next year.

Republicans Deep-Six the NLRB

Doing filibustering Senate Republicans one better, the one Republican member on the (currently) three-member National Labor Relations Board appears to have decided to bring the board to a screeching halt by refusing to vote and thus denying it a quorum.

Stare Indecisis

The Supreme Court won't likely rule on the Affordable Care Act based on precedent.

Unfortunately, I haven't yet had the chance to read Michael Bailey and Forrest Maltzman's new book, but given that Maltzman's previous is probably the strongest example of a new wave of political science modeling of Supreme Court decision-making, I'm certainly looking forward to it.

Busted in 'Bama

Last Wednesday night, a cop in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, pulled over a rental car that didn’t have the right tag on it. He asked the driver for his license, and the driver instead produced his German identification card. Before Alabama’s new immigration law took effect this fall, the driver would have been ticketed, but under the terms of the new law, the cop arrested the driver and hauled him off to the police station for the crime of lacking proper identification.

In fairly short order, a colleague of the arrestee showed up with the driver’s passport, visa, and German driver’s license. At that point, the driver was released—but the story had just begun.

DNA, Massachusetts, and the Question: Why Exonerate the Innocent?

Why exonerate the innocent? For some of us, the answer is obvious: justice. It's immoral to keep a person behind bars for someone else's crime. But not everyone believes that's enough of a reason. Here's how they think: Is it really worth overwhelming the underfunded criminal justice system (in Massachusetts, the vast majority of assistant district attorneys, the workhorses of the system, make between $40,000 and $80,000 a year, plus death threats) to process DNA requests for the few outliers who think they're innocent?

Will the Supreme Court Overturn Obamacare?

The Supreme Court has reinserted itself in the heart of domestic politics by agreeing to review the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  How is the Court likely to rule?  Consider two scenarios.

The first scenario relies on a prominent theory of judicial decision-making called the attitudinal model.  It holds that justices are unconstrained policymakers.  To predict and explain Court actions we simply need to figure out the policy implications of the legislation and justices policy preferences.  The vote takes care of itself from that point.

One Small Step for Climate Scientists

Researcher gains legal standing to sue for privacy against global-warming skeptics.

In a small victory for global-warming advocates, the case against climate scientist Michael Mann has hit some rough ground. Mann, a climate scientist who has been fighting a battle against the American Traditions Institute (ATI) since January, received his first piece of good news in the case on November 1 when a Virginia judge ruled that Mann did, in fact, have standing to join the case over the release of his e-mails from his time at the University of Virginia (UVA). The judge also decided to reopen the consent decree between UVA and ATI concerning exempted e-mails.

Roe v. World

It's a myth that the Supreme Court got ahead of public opinion when it legalized abortion in 1973.

As the Prospect's Gabriel Arana correctly noted yesterday, the litigation challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8—the voter referendum that banned same-sex marriage in California—has become the high-stakes battle it was originally intended to be. The Supreme Court is almost certain to hear the case, which means either the biggest progressive legal victory in many years or a terrible precedent like Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld a Georgia ban on sodomy in 1986.

Fixing the Courts

Rick Perry introduced a disastrous congressional reform plan earlier this week that has been rightfully ripped to shreds. Perry's plan would rewrite the constitution to turn Congress into a part-time body, opening the path to far more corruption, increasing the influence of lobbyists and money.

DOMA, DOMA, DOMA: 1, Judicial challenges

Last week, while men in power were getting called out for behaving badly (see under: Cain, Herman; Penn State football), the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) behaved well—by voting out of commmittee a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. As I mentioned last week, no one expects the repeal bill, called the Respect for Marriage Act, to actually come to the Senate floor this year.

But that’s not really the point of the SJC’s action.

Maine GOP Doesn't Know When to Quit

After voters reject restrictive early voting restrictions, Republicans turn to photo ID

The Republican's national voter suppression strategy took its first hit last week when Maine voters opted to keep their same-day registration laws. The day after that election, I wondered whether the state's Republican majority would show greater hesitance before pursuing other restrictive voter laws. A photo ID law was considered last year, and had come close to becoming law; it passed the state House and was supported by Republican Governor Paul LePage, but lacked the votes to clear the Senate.

Health Care Supreme

The Supreme Court, as expected, has decided to take up the question of whether the Affordable Care Act violates the Constitution, and has allotted five and a half hours for oral argument. This is far longer than the typical 30 minutes lawyers get to argue before the Court, but it represents the magnitude of the case. Supreme Court opinions striking down acts of Congress are rare.

Putting Marriage Rights to a Vote

The country's gradual movement toward marriage equality took a step further last week. Democrats in Iowa won a closely contested special election, which allowed the party to maintain their senate majority and essentially assured that no amendment to overturn same-sex marriage will be put to a vote until 2015 at the absolute earliest. That followed a New Jersey court's decision to hear a case that might replace the state's civil unions provision with full marriage rights.

The Court Will Rule—and Then?

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The Supreme Court’s decision today to take up the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care reform in this session—they’ll hear oral arguments in March and rule by session’s end in June— means that the issue will be revived for voters just a few month before next November’s presidential election. This is probably good for Republicans no matter which way the justices rule. And, no matter which way the justices rule, I can’t see how this helps the Democrats.