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

Polyamory, the Right to Privacy, and Religious Freedom

Last week, a federal District Court judge in Utah struck down a law used to prosecute members of polyamorous relationships. Predictably, some conservatives immediately brought up the slippery slope to legalized adult incest and legal " teen sex cults ." However, the decision is a very rational and straightforward application of core principles of the right to privacy and religious freedom. It is crucial to understand, first of all, that Judge Clark Waddoups's decision in Brown v. Buhman did not "legalize bigamy." The lawsuit was brought by the reality television star Kody Brown, who lives in a polyamorous relationship with four women but is only legally married to one. Brown did not even contest Utah's limitation of marriage to couples, and Judge Waddoups deferred to a Supreme Court precedent dating back to the 19th century holding that bans on bigamy are constitutional. Rather, the decision concerns an unusual, extraordinarily broad provision of Utah law under which "[a] person is...

Four Takeaways from Yesterday's NSA Ruling

Flickr/passamaquoddy eagle
Flickr/Cliff Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon ruled that the National Security Agency's extensive collection of "metadata"—as revealed by Edward Snowden earlier this year—is likely to have violated the Fourth Amendment. Justice Leon stayed his ruling ordering the government to stop the warrantless surveillance of two plaintiffs pending a trial. Given the inevitable appeal, we're a long way from the end of this NSA program—even if Judge Leon rules again in favor of the plaintiffs. Not every legal challenge to the metadata program was successful. Judge Leon dismissed a challenge based on the theory that the NSA's program exceeded the statutory authority granted by Congress. The court ruled that it lacked the jurisdiction to hear the claim under the Administrative Procedures Act. Judge Leon did, however, find that he had jurisdiction to hear the constitutional claims against the program. "While Congress has great latitude to create statutory schemes...

The Year in Preview: The First Amendment Takes Center Stage

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Lots of things happened in 2013. President Obama was sworn in for a second term. We got a new pope and a new royal baby. Two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon and frightened a nation. The Supreme Court stripped power from the Defense of Marriage Act and the Voting Rights Act. But these are all stories we've heard before, and if you haven't, you certainly will in the millions of "Year in Review" pieces set to be posted between now and New Year's. Over the next two weeks, our writers will instead preview the year ahead on their beats, letting you know far in advance what the next big story about the environmental movement—or immigration reform, reproductive rights, you get the picture—will be. You're welcome in advance for not making you read a dozen more retrospectives on Ted Cruz and Twerking and fiscal cliffs and shutdowns and selfies. Today, we cover the upcoming year on the Supreme Court docket. (AP Photo/J. David Ake) 2014 will be an important year for the First...

Rewarding Reduced Crime Rates—Not Mass Incarceration

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An increasing number of people, up to and including the Attorney General of the United States, have condemned mass incarceration in the United States. The effects of having 5 percent of the world's population but nearly 25 percent of its prisoners housed within our borders are profound . It needlessly ruins countless lives, costs enormous sums of money that could go to more useful purposes, and disproportionately affects racial minorities. As the opposition to mass incarceration builds, a new report from the Brennan Center of Justice makes a valuable contribution to the question of how imprisonment rates can be reduced. Legislators on the Hill—from both parties—have made some tentative steps towards prison reform. But, it isn't clear how much these steps can help; most imprisonment in the United States happens under states' watch. The reforms suggested by the Brennan Center report—written by Inimai Chettiar, Lauren-Brooke Eisen, Nicole Fortier, and Timothy Ross...

The Affordable Care Act v. Supreme Court, Round 2

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases questioning the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate: Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc . These rulings could have potentially major implications for the rights of American women. Let's consider the issues at hand, one at a time: Does the contraceptive mandate violate religious freedom? The key question in both cases is whether the contraceptive mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This legislation requires any policy placing a "substantial burden" on religious Americans prove that said burden serves a compelling government interest. Both Conestoga Wood and Hobby Lobby contend that the Affordable Care Act's demand that they offer contraception coverage to their employees does not pass the Religious Freedom Restoriation Act's test. But, as the Prospect 's Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux asks , is the mandate actually violating the religious beliefs of these...

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