Supreme Court
April 22, 2019

The Supreme Court on Monday announced it has accepted three cases involving gay and transgender employees, and will deliver rulings on whether federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit employers from firing workers due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The cases — Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda; and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC — will be decided during the court's term that will start in October. The justices will be tasked with deciding whether the protections granted by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, and sex, also applies to people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda will be consolidated, as both involve employees who say they were fired for being gay. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC involves a transgender woman who was fired from a Michigan funeral home because of her gender identity. In Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, lower courts sided with the plaintiffs, NPR reports, but in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, it was decided that Gerald Bostock was not fired from his job as a child welfare service coordinator because he is gay. Catherine Garcia

September 16, 2018

The previously unidentified woman who alleged in a confidential letter sent to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in July that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school in the 1980s came forward in a Washington Post story Sunday.

Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University, alleges Kavanaugh held her down on a bed and groped her, attempting to forcibly undress her. She says she was worried he might "inadvertently kill" her as he allegedly covered her mouth with his hand to stop her from screaming. The alleged assault was interrupted by another teenage boy, which enabled her to escape.

Ford did not tell anyone about the incident until she was in couple's therapy in 2012. The Post reviewed her therapist's notes from the time, and they describe her attacker as someone "from an elitist boys' school" who is now among "highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington." Ford's husband, Russell Ford, says he remembers hearing Kavanaugh's name in the therapy sessions.

In addition to contacting Feinstein in July, Ford also reached out to the Post . However, the paper reports, she declined to comment on the record at that time. Ford decided to reveal her identity after news of her letter to Feinstein leaked. Reports included inaccurate or incomplete information, she says, and reporters attempted to contact her. "These are all the ills that I was trying to avoid," she said. "Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation."

Kavanaugh has denied all accusations. "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time," he said when the story first broke. Neither Kavanaugh nor the White House offered the Post further comment.

Read the full story here. Bonnie Kristian

June 29, 2018

The upcoming NATO summit starts July 11, and before he leaves for Brussels, President Trump plans on announcing his pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Democrats worry that Trump's nominee will scale back reproductive rights, while Republicans are hoping to fast track the confirmation process, with hearings in mid-August and a full Senate vote ahead of the November midterm elections. The GOP is in control of only 51 of the Senate's seats, and the White House announced late Thursday that Trump spent the evening meeting with three Democratic senators from red states who voted to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch — Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

They were joined by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Collins and Murkowski have stated they agree with Roe v. Wade, and Collins on Thursday gave some insight into the type of person she would like to replace Kennedy. "I do not apply ideological litmus tests to nominees, but I want to see integrity, intellect, a respect for precedent, and an adherence to the rule of law," she said. In her view, Kennedy was an "ideal justice." Catherine Garcia

May 22, 2017

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the gerrymandering of two North Carolina congressional district maps was done on racial grounds to yield a Republican advantage and was thus unconstitutional. The court ruled 8-0 to strike down the District 1 map and 5-3 to strike down the District 12 map, with Justices Samuel Alito, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justice Anthony Kennedy dissenting from the latter ruling, CNN reports. Justice Clarence Thomas joined the court's liberals on District 12 while Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate, as the case was argued before he was confirmed to the court, Bloomberg reports.

Republicans have been accused of drawing districts to illegally concentrate black voters, who are typically liberal, and consequently make the surrounding districts more conservative, USA Today reports. The unconstitutional North Carolina congressional maps were used until the 2014 election, and the Supreme Court rulings uphold a new map that was ordered for 2016. Jeva Lange

June 26, 2016

The Supreme Court is due to render judgment Monday on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a major abortion case involving a Texas law which holds independent abortion clinics to state standards for "ambulatory surgical centers" (small facilities that host a limited range of surgeries) and requires the clinics' doctors to have admitting privileges at a full hospital no more than 30 miles away.

Supporters of the law say it is a necessary regulatory protection for women seeking abortions, while opponents note that in practice it has caused most Texan abortion clinics, which failed to meet these standards, to close. This, they say — and the Supreme Court will evaluate — places an "undue burden" on women per the standards of SCOTUS's 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Now, right before the ruling is expected to appear, a state employee has accused the Texas Department of Health Services of intentionally suppressing data relevant to the case and "instructing staff members to mislead people who ask for it." The information in question is the official annual data on abortions performed in Texas in 2014, the first full year the law under review was in effect.

The department has released a provisional data set which does not include the detail the final report will contain. "The data is not final," said spokeswoman Carrie Williams. "If the data were final, we would release it. We hope to have it finalized soon." Bonnie Kristian

June 23, 2016

President Obama lamented the Supreme Court's Thursday ruling on immigration as "unfortunate," "frustrating," and "heartbreaking" during a speech following the announcement of the court's 4-4 deadlock. The tied vote over Obama's executive action to suspend immigrant deportations essentially blocks the effort, which, Obama said, "sets the system back further."

"Our founders conceived this country as [a] refuge for the world. Welcoming wave after wave of immigrants kept us youthful and dynamic and entrepreneurial," Obama said. "It has shaped our character and it has made us stronger. But for more than two decades now, our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken. And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn't able to issue a decision today doesn't just set the system back further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be."

Obama called the split vote yet another reminder of "why it's so important for the Supreme Court to have a full bench," referencing the tie-breaking seat that has been vacant since Antonin Scalia died in February. "I promise you this, though: Sooner or later, immigration reform is going to get done," Obama said. "Congress will not be able to ignore America forever." Becca Stanek

March 24, 2016

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine.) still hasn't reached a decision on President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, but she really hopes her party gives her the chance to.

"The only way that the Senate can reach reasonable and informed decisions on nominees to the highest court in the land is for us to follow the regular process," Collins said Wednesday in an interview with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. "That means having these individual one-on-one meetings and then also the Judiciary Committee, in my view, should hold the kind of in-depth hearings that it has traditionally held."

Thus far, the GOP has adamantly refused to hold hearings for Garland in favor of waiting for the next president to pick a nominee, a move Collins says she thinks is unjust. "I think it's simply not fair and not right to say that no matter who the president was going to nominate, that we should not look at this person the way that we normally would," Collins said.

Right now, she's trying to get that point across to colleagues — though she admits she hasn't had much success so far. "I wouldn't say I've been overwhelmingly successful in convincing the chairman of the Judiciary Committee to hold hearings," Collins said, "but I hope that as time goes on, and as people sit down with Judge Garland and talk to him one-on-one, that perhaps there will be a shift in the position of the chairman of the Judiciary Committee." Becca Stanek

March 22, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court hit its first deadlocked opinion since Justice Antonin Scalia's death Tuesday, splitting 4-4 on a Missouri case over whether two wives could be held responsible for their husbands' failed real estate endeavors under a federal equal-credit law. The split opinion means that while the lower court ruling will be upheld, a nationwide precedent will not be set, Bloomberg reports.

The ruling hands a victory to the Community Bank of Raymore, affirming that the wives were not discriminated against by the bank when it also demanded payment from the women after their husbands defaulted on loans, which the bank had required the women to guarantee. The women claimed the bank only required the guarantees because they were married, which they said violated the U.S. Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

However, the deadlocked opinion also means that the Supreme Court did not resolve conflicting lower court rulings on the issue and leaves the question of whether the Equal Credit Opportunity Act can be applied to those who are required to guarantee loans but who don't apply for them. Politico reports that, as a result, "Americans in some states have the protection of the rule the Federal Reserve Bank issued decades ago, imposing such a requirement, those in others don't, and in still others the Fed's authority to enforce the rule is unclear."

The possibility of a split opinion is one of the reasons Democrats have been pushing for Scalia's replacement to be nominated as quickly as possible. Republicans have vowed to deny any President Obama nominee in favor of allowing the next president to make the pick. Becca Stanek

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