SCOTUS News

From time to time SCOTUS does make the news….the nightly news that is and this session has made the news on two fronts…..the news is both good and bad…..

The Good…….

There is no guarantee that conserv judges will vote conservatively…..

The Supreme Court on Monday delivered a major victory to supporters of gay rights, reports the AP. In a 6-3 ruling, the justices decided that Title VII, a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protects LGBTQ workers from being fired because of their sexual orientation. Coverage:

  • The law: Title VII bars discrimination at work based on “sex” and other factors, and for the last 50 years or so, “sex” has gotten a narrow definition—basically that women and men can’t be treated differently at work, per the Washington Post. Monday’s ruling expands that definition to the LGBT community.
  • The ruling: “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
  • The surprise: Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts, who usually side with the court’s conservative majority, instead joined the court’s four more liberal members, notes Politico.
  • The legal question: “The decisions in this case highlight a tension with textualism,” writes Jonathan Adler at Reason. That is, in regard to the 1964 law, “do we focus on the discrete meaning of the words, or do we focus on the words as they would have been understood and applied at the time they were adopted.” He adds that law schools will be poring over the opinions in the coming year.
  • Gorsuch’s view: His ruling acknowledges that Congress surely didn’t intend to protect LGBT workers when it passed the legislation, but he said that’s irrelevant. “Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result,” he wrote. “Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees.”
  • Dissent: Justice Samuel Alito, in a dissent joined by Clarence Thomas, says the court went too far. “There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation,” the dissent begins. “The document that the Court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive.”
  • The cases: The ruling centers on multiple cases, and the New York Times has the details. They included a pair of lawsuits by gay men who say they were fired because of their sexual orientation, and another from a transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, who says she got fired when she announced she would start embracing her female identity at work. Stephens died last month.

And now the Bad….and it is taken from the headlines of today……

The Supreme Court is for now declining to get involved in an ongoing debate by citizens and in Congress over policing, rejecting cases Monday that would have allowed the justices to revisit when police can be held financially responsible for wrongdoing, per the AP. With protests over racism and police brutality continuing nationwide, the justices turned away more than half a dozen cases involving the legal doctrine known as qualified immunity, which the high court created more than 50 years ago. It shields officials, including police, from lawsuits for money as a result of things they do in the course of their job. As is usual, the court didn’t comment in turning away the cases, but Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a 6-page dissent saying he would have agreed to hear one of the cases.

“I have previously expressed my doubts about our qualified immunity jurisprudence,” he wrote, explaining he believes the court’s “qualified immunity doctrine appears to stray from the statutory text.” As a result of qualified immunity, even when a court finds that an official or officer has violated someone’s constitutional rights, they can still be protected from civil lawsuits seeking money. The Supreme Court has said that qualified immunity protects officials as long as their actions don’t violate clearly established law or constitutional rights which they should have known about. The push for the court to reexamine qualified immunity has come both from the left and right, including Thomas, a conservative, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a liberal.

Here was a chance to make a difference…..but I am sure that the issue is not dead.

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

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