By Ned Resnikoff
A top House Democrat is going after one of the Supreme Court’s most conservative justices and trying to enlist the Chief Justice in her cause.
On Wednesday, New York Rep. Louise Slaughter wrote to Chief Justice John Roberts asking that heformally reprimand his colleague Justice Clarence Thomas for participating in the conservative Federalist Society’s annual fundraiser. Thomas’ appearance at the event, writes Slaughter, is a “clear violation of the ethical standards embodied in the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges.”
Her letter was co-signed by representatives from two progressive advocacy groups: Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, and Arn H. Pearson, vice president for policy and litigation for Common Cause.
Canon 4(c) of the Code of Conduct forbids judges from personally participating in fundraising events. Although it is not legally binding upon Supreme Court justices, Roberts has previously written that it provides “a current and uniform source of guidance” for the members of the Court.
“Justice Thomas is among several members of the high court who’ve made a habit of flouting judicial ethics by headlining Federalist Society fundraisers,” said Pearson in a statement. “He gets away with it because the Court has exempted itself from the Code, but that doesn’t make it right.”
“Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act, paves way for gay marriage to resume in California”
By Pete Williams and Erin McClam, NBC News
In a pair of landmark decisions, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the 1996 law blocking federal recognition of gay marriage, and it allowed gay marriage to resume in California by declining to decide a separate case.
The court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to gay couples who are legally married in their states, including Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights and family leave.
“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal,” he wrote.
In the second case, the court said that it could not rule on a challenge to Proposition 8, a ban on gay marriage in California passed by voters there in 2008, because supporters of the ban lacked the legal standing to appeal a lower court’s decision against it.
The court did not rule on the constitutionality of gay marriage, but the effect of the decision will be to allow same-sex marriage to resume in California. That decision was also 5-4, written by Chief Justice John Roberts.
It was not clear when same-sex marriages would resume in California. Los Angeles County said in a statement that it was waiting for a technical step by lower courts — the lifting of a stay that stopped gay marriage in California — but was prepared to begin issuing marriage licenses and performing ceremonies for gay couples.
The two rulings, released minutes apart, were greeted by jubilant cheers outside the Supreme Court, where crowds of gay-marriage supporters waved rainbow banners and flags bearing symbols of equality, and at City Hall in San Francisco.
“The underlying message, I think, is that these are marriages, these are relationships, that are worthy of equal respect,” said Tom Goldstein, the publisher of SCOTUSblog and a Supreme Court analyst for NBC News. “It really does send a powerful message to the country that this is something that deserves fair treatment.
President Barack Obama placed a phone call from Air Force One to the two gay couples who had challenged Proposition 8. He told them, “We’re proud of you guys.” Paul Katami, one of the challengers, invited the president to his wedding to his partner, Jeff Zarrillo.
David Boies, a lawyer who argued against Proposition 8, said that the rulings took the country closer to realizing the Declaration of Independence’s guarantee that all men are created equal.
“It’s a wonderful day for America,” he said.
The decisions were handed down 10 years to the day after the court decided Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down anti-sodomy laws across the country. They also came just ahead of the weekend when many large cities celebrate gay pride by observing the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, considered the beginning of the gay rights movement.
CALIFORNIA’S GOV. GERRY BROWN ORDERS SAME-SEX MARRIAGE TO RESUME AS SOON AS APPEALS COURT BAN IS LIFTED
HOW COULD CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS FORGET THE LONG LINES IN 2012 ELECTION? OH, HE DOESN’T LIVE IN THE DEEP SOUTH :(
SCOTUS GUT VOTING RIGHTS ACT
“The law had applied to nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states, including Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote that Congress remained free to try to impose federal oversight on states where voting rights were at risk, but must do so based on contemporary data. But the chances that the current Congress could reach agreement on where federal oversight is required are small, most analysts say.
Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority opinion. Justice Ginsburg was joined in dissent by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.”
By Ian Reifowitz
I’ll leave the legal analysis to others who are far more expert than I on that matter.
My point is this: for all those who may have temporarily, let’s say, forgotten or even denied that there is any substantive difference between the Democratic and Republican parties, this decision should remind you exactly what those differences are.
The decision was 5-4. The justices who voted to declare parts of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional were all appointed by Republican presidents, including two by George W. Bush, who took in office in 2001.
Do you still think there’s no difference between Republicans and Democrats?
Look, this has not been a good couple of weeks for our government, and a lot of liberals have been rightly agonizing over just how much they support the Democratic Party.
To those people, I say this: Criticize President Obama all you like, and criticize the Democratic Party or various figures for whatever you think needs criticizing. It’s important to speak out, as speaking out can help move our party and the President in the right direction.
But don’t forget that there are real, substantive differences between the two parties. They are not the same. The Democratic Party is better than the Republican Party for our country, for our economy, for justice, for equality, and yes, for liberty. Barack Obama is better than Mitt Romney or John McCain would have been on all those counts as well.
To deny those facts is to deny reality. Furthermore, denying those facts makes it more difficult to motivate progressives to do what needs to be done to achieve the broad, progressive goals we share.
The two parties are not the same. And that matters. [Full Quote]
By Bill Mears, CNN
What do you think? Sound off in a video on CNN iReport.
Washington (CNN) — A federal civil rights law that has stood for generations will be tougher to enforce after Tuesday’s ruling by the Supreme Court.
The court struck down a part of the law that uses a federal formula to determine which states and counties must undergo U.S. oversight of their voting procedures to prevent voter discrimination.
The ruling will make it tougher for the Obama administration to enforce the law, at least until Congress changes it.
Describing the ruling as a “setback,” President Obama said in a statement that his “administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.”
Voting discrimination, he said, still exists, and the decision “upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair.” And he called on Congress to “pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls.”
The ruling said it’s now up to Congress to revise the law to meet constitutional scrutiny.
“Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to the current conditions,” said Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the court’s decision for the majority.
After Tuesday’s ruling, Attorney General Eric Holder shared examples of how the law prevented “discriminatory voting changes.” Specifically, he mentioned how it blocked Texas from adopting a new congressional redistricting map that would have “discriminated against Latino voters.”
Holder also said the Voting Rights Act changed how South Carolina will implement a law requiring photo identification before being allowed to vote. Those changes, he said, protected black voters who would have been “disproportionately” affected.