Thursday, February 3, 2022

Explaining Justice Ginsburg's Divergence from Strict Scrutiny in her Decision in US v. Virginia

Earl Maltz, The Road to United States v. Virginia: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Battle Over Strict Scrutiny, Rutgers Women's Rights L. Reporter (forthcoming)  

Throughout her long career as both a litigator and a member of the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a champion of women’s rights who insisted that the Constitution outlawed legal distinctions that were based on sexist stereotypes. However, in one important respect, the arguments that Ginsburg made as a litigator in the 1970s differed significantly from those that were embodied in her signature opinion in United States v. Virginia. During the 1970s, Ginsburg often contended that laws that treated women differently than men should be subject to strict scrutiny because sex discrimination was analogous to race discrimination. By contrast, in Virginia, although she spoke for the Court in holding that women could not be excluded from Virginia Military Institute, her opinion emphasized the differences between distinctions based on race and distinctions based on sex for constitutional purposes. This article is the first to focus on this aspect of Ginsburg’s opinion in Virginia and to provide an explanation for her change in course.

February 3, 2022 in Constitutional, Education, Judges, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why Biden's Commitment to a Black Woman Supreme Court Justice Was Necessary

Why President Biden's Commitment to a Black Woman Supreme Court Justice Was Necessary

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement announcement is not even one week old, yet Republican senators and prominent conservatives are already attacking Biden’s unnamed nominee. Instead of celebrating the president’s historic commitment to picking the nation’s first Black woman justice, conservatives have already made up their minds that Biden’s choice of a Black woman makes her automatically unqualified.***

The answer has little to do with Black women’s qualifications to serve on the highest court in the land. For the first 100 years of our country’s history, women and people of color couldn’t even attend law school. The first female federal judge was only appointed in 1928. The first Black federal judge was only appointed in 1949. The first Black woman federal judge was only appointed in 1966. And by 2020, there had still only ever been eight Black women to serve on the courts of appeals—a traditional prerequisite for a seat on the Supreme Court.

That systematic exclusion of Black women lawyers from the judiciary has clearly conditioned many conservatives to believe that there are no Black women good enough to be a Supreme Court justice. The nation is about to learn just how wrong they are.

 

February 3, 2022 in Judges, Race, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Strict Scrutiny Team and "A Podcast of One's Own"

 

Leah Litman, Melissa Murray, and Katherine Shaw, A Podcast of One's Own, 28 Mich. J. Gender & L. 51 (2021).

In this short Essay, we discuss the lack of racial and gender diversity on and around the Supreme Court. As we note, the ranks of the Court’s Justices and its clerks historically have been dominated by white men. But this homogeneity is not limited to the Court’s members or its clerks. As we explain, much of the Court’s broader ecosystem suffers from this same lack of diversity. The advocates who argue before the Court are primarily white men; the experts cited in the Court’s opinions, as well as the experts on whom Court commentators rely in interpreting those opinions, are often white men; and the commentators who translate the Court’s work for the public are also largely white men. We suggest this lack of diversity has consequences both for the Court’s work and for the public’s understanding of the Court. We also identify some of the factors that contribute to the lack of diversity in the Court’s ecosystem, including unduly narrow conceptions of expertise and a rigid insistence on particular notions of neutrality. We also note and discuss our own modest efforts to disrupt these dynamics with Strict Scrutiny, our podcast about the Supreme Court and the legal culture that surrounds it. To be sure, a podcast, by itself, will not dismantle the institutional factors that we have identified in this Essay. Nevertheless, we maintain that our efforts to use the podcast as a platform for surfacing these institutional dynamics, while simultaneously cultivating a more diverse cadre of Supreme Court experts and commentators, is a step in the right direction.

With the title derived from British feminist writer Virginia Woolf's famous essay, A Room of One's Own (1929).

All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point--a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.

January 26, 2022 in Books, Constitutional, SCOTUS, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Do Reason-Based Abortion Bans Prevent Eugenics?

Do Reason-Based Abortion Bans Prevent Eugenics?

By: Sital Kalantry

Published in: Cornell Law Review, Vol. 107, No. 1, 2021

Two judges of the U.S. Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett and Clarence Thomas, as well as several other U.S. Federal Court of Appeals judges have argued that reason‑based abortion bans are designed to prevent eugenics. Eleven states currently prohibit doctors from performing an abortion if they know that the reason the patient is seeking one is because of the predicted gender, race, and/or disability of the fetus. These prohibitions apply from the moment the biological sex and genetic defects of the fetus can be identified, which is well before viability.

Many are closely watching to see whether the new composition of the Court will impact its abortion jurisprudence. The Court’s refusal to prevent the Texas law that allows private actors to enforce a pre‑viability prohibition on abortion has recently gained national attention.3 Another case that is being closely watched is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which could permit states to enact prohibitions on pre‑viability abortions. This Essay discusses a lesser‑known case through which Roe v. Wade could be gutted—by declaring reason‑based bans constitutional. If the Court finds that one reason‑based abortion ban is constitutionally permissible, it will open the door for states to destroy the fundamental right to abortion by enacting many more reasons for why abortion is impermissible.

January 4, 2022 in Abortion, Constitutional, Courts, Family, Gender, Healthcare, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Overturning Roe Threatens the Loss of More Fundamental Rights

My thoughts on "The End of Roe and More," JURIST.

The Supreme Court will overturn the law recognizing a woman’s fundamental right to choose an abortion. The only question is whether it will go even further and jeopardize women’s equality, reproductive rights, and family privacy rights for all. 

 

Pending in the Court is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the question of the constitutionality of Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks. The Court’s most recent abortion decision, June Medical Services v. Russo (2020), regarding physician admitting privileges for providers, held on to abortion rights by a thread, tied together by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vote and Chief Justice John Roberts’ adherence to precedent. But we now have the next generation of the Supreme Court, reconstituted after the passing of Justice Ginsburg and the additions of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. There are now six conservatives who have all indicated disapproval of Roe v. Wade and its ruling on reproductive choice–and these Justices were nominated for this very purpose. The math is simple: there is a solid majority to overturn Roe.***

 

The only remaining question then is how far the Court will go in overturning abortion rights. One possible outcome is that the Court will also recognize a fundamental right of personhood protecting potential fetal life—a holding that would block state or federal legislation to guarantee reproductive choice.***

 

A second possible result is that the Court’s abortion ruling might also encroach on other reproductive rights such as contraception or pregnancy. The Court has shown its willingness to dilute this reproductive right of women by balancing it against the religious viewpoint interests of others, as it did in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores (2014). Such a holding would have negative implications for procreation rights, pregnancy discrimination, and assisted reproduction rights including the frozen embryo cases which have supported the right not to procreate.***

 

A third possibility is that the Court might go so far as to disembowel all constitutional privacy rights of the family. Justice Thomas argued for this, dissenting in June Medical. The right to abortion and reproductive autonomy recognized in Roe was derived from the text of the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of “liberty.”  In Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Court overruled a law banning contraception for married couples, finding that the Constitution protected privacy rights of the home including marriage, sex, and contraception. It located these rights in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Subsequently, the Fourteenth Amendment became the consensus foundation for privacy in its protection of “liberty” against arbitrary government interference. Decades before Griswold, the Court recognized fundamental privacy rights of parenting and procreation. Years after, privacy supported extended familymedical autonomymarriage equality, and sexual conduct

 

Justice Thomas attacked this longstanding recognition of privacy in June Medical. He argued that the broader constitutional right to privacy was baseless. The Griswold Court had been “grasping at straws” and “turning somersaults in history,” he said, to find such a right, thus demonstrating its illegitimacy.

 

Yet, to the contrary, the many constitutional bases for family privacy establish its ubiquity, not its aberration. Griswold’s “penumbra” casting a broad shadow around the Constitution.***

 

Finally, it is possible that the Court will foreclose future arguments for abortion rights under equality theory. In Dobbs, attorneys advocating for women’s right argued the availability of abortion was critical to women’s full and equal participation in society. . . . Justice Amy Coney Barrett seems focused on eliminating this legal avenue of equality.

December 29, 2021 in Abortion, Constitutional, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Recap of SCOTUS Oral Argument in Dobbs Abortion Case

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Gender and the Law Prof Blog Coverage of Dobbs and the Right of Reproductive Autonomy

For all of the past coverage of the abortion issue on Gender & the Law Prof Blog, go to Blog / Categories / Abortion.

Some of the recent posts specifically on Dobbs include:

Gender & the Law Prof Blog (8/21), featuring Marc Spindelman's Justice Gorsuch's Choice: From Bostock v. Clayton County to Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, 13 ConLawNOW 11 (2021).

Gender & the Law Prof Blog (9/15/21), featuring Aaron Tang, The Originalist Case for an Abortion Middle Ground.

Gender & the Law Prof Blog (11/17/21) featuring David Gans, No, Really, the Right to an Abortion is Supported by the Text and History of the Constitution, The Atlantic

December 1, 2021 in Abortion, Constitutional, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, regarding Mississippi abortion law, to be heard by SCOTUS on December 1

Explainer: Abortion At the Supreme Court

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case out of Mississippi that could eliminate a pregnant person’s constitutional right to an abortion. The law in question bans abortion at 15 weeks gestation, significantly before viability. With this case as a vehicle, the Mississippi attorney general has explicitly called on the high court to strike down Roe v. Wade

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, turns on the issue of viability. Supreme Court precedent protects the right to abortion before a fetus can survive outside of the womb, usually around 24 weeks; states can’t pass laws that present an “undue burden” for someone seeking an abortion before that point. While a total ban before viability would undermine Roe, many experts think the Supreme Court might allow it anyway. Because the one clinic in Mississippi only performs abortions up to 16 weeks, lawyers may argue, a 15-week ban does not constitute an undue burden.

. . .

Between the Texas and Mississippi cases, this is an unprecedented term for abortion on the Supreme Court.

November 30, 2021 in Abortion, Constitutional, Family, Gender, Healthcare, Legislation, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

An Excerpt from Anita Hill's “Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence”

“This Is Not That Bad” An Excerpt from Anita Hill's “Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence”

Excerpted from Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence by Anita Hill, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Anita Hill.

“Not that bad” reflects the attitude that survivors often internalize; that our abusers’ behaviors “were not the worst thing that ever happened to us” serves as a coping mechanism that is problematic. In her anthology Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, the writer, public intellectual, and cultural critic Roxane Gay writes with painful eloquence about how for a long time she minimized the gang rape she survived as a teenager. And the heartrending stories in her book from other women who experienced gender‑based violence include scores who remained friendly or intimate with harassers and abusers. Not That Bad poignantly reminds us of the way we deny our pain to keep living. Convincing herself that her experience was not as bad as others’ was Gay’s way of managing her trauma “instead of allowing the magnitude of it to destroy” her. But as Gay points out, this defense mechanism comes at a cost. In her case, as with countless other victims, it numbed her to the pain of her other bad experiences, as well as the trauma others suffered. “The surface of my empathy became callous,” she writes.

Looking back at how the Senate exchange went, I wonder, was Specter gaslighting me and the public, or was he mansplaining? I’ve concluded that he was doing both. If gaslighting was his intent, he was manipulating me (and the public) into questioning the reality and my perception of my own experiences. Given his condescending tone, Specter was also mansplaining—trying to convince us all that he knows better than me how a woman experiences sexual harassment. Mansplaining was the technique, and gaslighting was the goal. Both are forms of denial employed to discount claims of abuse, and they deserve to be called out because they prevent women from being heard and believed when they testify about abuse. Both tactics foster self‑doubt, coaxing victims into thinking that coming forward is pointless, that no one will care.

. . .

How do three simple words, “not that bad,” become so powerful? They gain steam when they are absorbed in all of our social systems, permeating survivors’ minds. The hold that those three little words have comes from hearing them repeated multiple times over the course of a lifetime. The exact language may change, as do the circumstances, but the message that your hurt is of no consequence, so back off, remains the same. Schools deny and neglect gender violence, undermining survivors’ confidence and secure identity even as small children. The same attitude exists in the workplace, which can lead survivors to feel self‑doubt. Individual denial breeds institutional denial, and survivors pay the price. Specter’s words were aimed at persuading me to doubt my significance. His strategy was to convince other potential witnesses and the American public that the stories survivors seek to share and the people who want to hear them are of no importance. Specter’s belittlement of my pain had one clear beneficiary, Clarence Thomas. To abusers, harassers, and rapists, “not so bad” is an absolution and, in Thomas’s case, an assurance that the Senate confirmation process would protect him. To survivors, these words are like a dagger.

November 16, 2021 in Courts, Gender, Judges, Legal History, SCOTUS, Violence Against Women, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Britney Spears, Carrie Buck, and the Awful History of Controlling "Unfit" Women

Wash Post, Britney Spears, Carrie Buck, and the Awful History of Controlling "Unfit" Women

In a June hearing, Spears said that her conservatorship was “abusive,” and that her father forced her to work and to keep a birth-control device in her body so that she could not become pregnant. The claims shocked the public, including many celebrities, who have increasingly voiced their support for her.

But to historians of eugenics, Spears’s ordeal sounds very familiar. It’s a story of control — control of a woman’s labor, civil rights, parental custody, legal representation and even her reproductive system.***

In the early 20th century, a lot of states were “chasing the white whale” of a eugenics law that would pass constitutional scrutiny, said Elizabeth Catte, a public historian and author of the scorching book “Pure America: Eugenics and the Making of Modern Virginia.” Indiana passed a eugenics-based law allowing forced sterilization in 1907, but it was overturned in court, as was California’s in 1909.

Then Virginia gave it a try with its own law in 1924, and went looking for a test case to legitimize it.

Carrie Buck was born into poverty in Charlottesville in 1906. Her father abandoned the family, and her mother was soon accused of “immorality” and committed to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded — essentially a work camp for White people the state didn’t like. Buck was separated from her siblings and sent to live with a wealthy foster family, who forced her to leave school during sixth grade and serve as a housekeeper in their home.

When Buck was 17, she was raped by the nephew of her foster mother and became pregnant. Probably to save face, the family accused her of promiscuity and feeblemindedness, and in 1924, she was committed to the same colony as her mother. Her infant daughter was given to her foster mother.

In an 8-to-1 decision, the Supreme Court agreed, with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously declaring, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” (Many words now used as mild insults, such as “moron,” “imbecile,” and “idiot,” have a long history of being used as clinical diagnoses.)

Buck, along with her mother and her sister, was subsequently sterilized by having her fallopian tubes cut and cauterized. Buck’s daughter died when she was 8.

All told, Virginia robbed 8,000 people of their ability to have children.

Spears’s situation has made Catte “think a lot about women that I write about, even though they are incredibly poor women,” and Spears is not.

“The choice to deprive them of their reproductive freedom through sterilization was only one half of the state’s control over their lives,” she said. “The second half is control over their labor.”

October 6, 2021 in Legal History, Poverty, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

LGBTQ Youth and the Promise of the SCOTUS Quartet of Cases by Justice Kennedy

Michael Higdon, LGBTQ Youth and the Promise of the Kennedy Quartet, Cardozo Law Review (forthcoming)

The Supreme Court has only issued four opinions endorsing the constitutional rights of sexual minorities, each of them authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy. These four cases, which this article refers to collectively as “the Kennedy Quartet,” have done much to advance the equality of LGBTQ adults in the United States. The question remains, however, as to what extent those cases likewise protect LGBTQ children. Far from simply being an academic question, this issue has taken on increased urgency as legislators in a number of states—thwarted by the Kennedy Quartet in their ability to target LGBTQ adults—have turned their attentions to those sexual minorities who are still children. In so doing, they have passed laws that, among other things, punish adolescent sexual activity more harshly when it involves two people of the same sex, prohibit discussions in public schools that portray homosexuality in anything other than a negative light, and deny transgender youth the ability to compete in school athletics or use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. These laws are harmful enough in their own right but are particularly pernicious in light of the harms those children already face simply by virtue of being a sexual minority in a homophobic society. Looking at the Kennedy Quartet in conjunction with the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence regarding the constitutional rights of children, this Article argues that such laws are unconstitutional. It does so by, first, challenging the argument that the Kennedy Quartet pertains only to adults. Second, and more importantly, this Article then distills from those cases three key protections applicable to the entire LGBTQ community—children included—that these current laws violate. The hope is that this analysis will assist judges, legislators, and policy makers alike as they look for ways to put an end to this wave of discriminatory laws and, in their place, lobby for more inclusive legislation.

October 6, 2021 in Gender, LGBT, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Obergefell, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Fulton, and Public-Private Partnerships: Unleashing v. Harnessing 'Armies of Compassion' 2.0?

Obergefell, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Fulton, and Public-Private Partnerships: Unleashing v. Harnessing 'Armies of Compassion' 2.0?

By: Linda C. McClain

Published in: Family Court Review (Forthcoming)

Fulton v. City of Philadelphia presented a by-now familiar constitutional claim: recognizing civil marriage equality—the right of persons to marry regardless of gender—inevitably and sharply conflicts with the religious liberty of persons and religious institutions who sincerely believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. While the Supreme Court’s 9-0 unanimous judgment in favor of Catholic Social Services (CSS) surprised Court-watchers, Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion did not signal consensus on the Court over how best to resolve the evident conflicts raised by the contract between CSS and the City of Philadelphia. This article argues that it is productive and illuminating to compare such conflicts over public-private partnerships and the best understanding of pluralism in a constitutional democracy with controversies arising twenty years ago over the faith-based initiative launched by President George W. Bush with the blueprint, Rallying the Armies of Compassion. That initiative also rested on premises about the place of religion in the public square and the role of civil society in carrying out governmental purposes. In both contexts, concerns over “discrimination” took two forms: first, that religious entities who contract with government might be subject to governmental discrimination in not receiving funding and, second, that religious entities who contract with government might themselves engage in discrimination. This article evaluates how the parties and their amici in Fulton argued over these forms of discrimination.

. . .

This article focuses on other unaddressed, significant questions in Fulton, including the precedential force and implications of the Court’s earlier decisions in Obergefell v. Hodges and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission on a post-Kennedy and post-Ginsburg Court with a 6-3 conservative majority. As elaborated below, those cases addressed earlier iterations of the evident conflict between marriage equality—and LBGTQ equality more broadly—and First Amendment claims. I will argue that the Court’s opinion in Fulton also did not engage with analogies that were powerful, pervasive, and contested in those earlier cases: the analogy between discrimination on the basis of race and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and the analogy between religious opposition to interracial marriage, on the one hand, and, on the other, to same-sex marriage. Even so, those analogies featured in the Fulton briefs and in the justices’ questioning during the oral argument. Notably, a rejection of that analogy appeared in Justice Alito’s Fulton concurrence, where he argued that “lumping those [like CSS] who hold traditional beliefs about marriage together with racial bigots is insulting to those who retain such beliefs,” as well as contrary both to the majority’s “commitment” in Obergefell and to Masterpiece Cakeshop. Strikingly, Justice Alito’s rhetoric of racial bigotry echoes his earlier dissents in those very cases he now enlists. This article illustrates the different ways in which the parties and their amici enlisted or rejected the race analogy.

 

 

September 28, 2021 in Constitutional, Courts, Family, Gender, Legislation, LGBT, Race, Same-sex marriage, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 2, 2021

SCOTUS Denies Stay of Texas Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban

By a vote of 5-4, the US Supreme Court denied abortion providers' request to stay the operation of a new Texas law banning abortion after six weeks.  The split was Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett in the majority and Sotomayor, Breyer, Kagan, and Roberts in the dissent.

Here is the opinion:   Whole Women's Health v. Jackson

    The majority highlight the unique procedures established by the Texas law requiring private citizen enforcement.

The applicants now before us have raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law at issue. But their application also presents complex and novel antecedent procedural questions on which they have not carried their burden. For example, federal courts enjoy the power to enjoin individuals tasked with enforcing laws, not the laws themselves. And it is unclear whether the named defendants in this lawsuit can or will seek to enforce the Texas law against the applicants in a manner that might permit our intervention

In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in
no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts.

For a blog post on Justice Kavanaugh's prior thinking in a stay of an abortion case, somewhat following his assent to the majority here while also seeming to follow Roberts' approach, see Supreme Court Temporarily Block Louisiana Abortion Law Requiring Doctors Admitting Privileges

All dissenting Justices wrote separate opinions.  

    Roberts focused on the standards of stays and temporary injunctions and maintaining the status quo.

 I would grant preliminary relief to preserve the status quo ante—before the law went into effect—so that the courts may consider whether a state can avoid responsibility for its laws in such a manner.

    Breyer disagreeing that the procedural posture is relevant, and focused on the imminent harm to the plaintiffs, one of the traditional factors in granting temporary relief:

I recognize that Texas’s law delegates the State’s power to prevent abortions not to one person (such as a district
attorney) or to a few persons (such as a group of government officials or private citizens) but to any person. But I do not see why that fact should make a critical legal difference. That delegation still threatens to invade a constitutional right, and the coming into effect of that delegation still threatens imminent harm. Normally, where a legal right is “‘invaded,’” the law provides “‘a legal remedy by suit or action at law.’” Marbury v. Madison. 

    Sotomayor blatantly calls out the Court for its decision on the merits and procedurally.  

The Court’s order is stunning. Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand. Last night, the Court silently acquiesced in a State’s enactment of a law that flouts nearly 50 years of federal precedents. Today, the Court belatedly explains that it declined to grant relief because of procedural complexities of the State’s own invention. Ante, at 1. Because the Court’s failure to act rewards tactics designed to avoid judicial review and inflicts significant harm on the applicants and on women seeking abortions in Texas, I dissent....

Taken together, the Act is a breathtaking act of defiance—of the Constitution, of this Court’s precedents, and of
the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas....

Today, the Court finally tells the Nation that it declined to act because, in short, the State’s gambit worked. The structure of the State’s scheme, the Court reasons, raises “complex and novel antecedent procedural questions” that counsel against granting the application, ante, at 1, just as the State intended. This is untenable. It cannot be the case that a State can evade federal judicial scrutiny by outsourcing the enforcement of unconstitutional laws to its citizenry....

The Court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.

    Kagan takes on the shadow docket and the shadowy state procedure:

The Court thus rewards Texas’s scheme to insulate its law from judicial review by deputizing private parties to
carry out unconstitutional restrictions on the State’s behalf. As of last night, and because of this Court’s ruling, Texas law prohibits abortions for the vast majority of women who seek them—in clear, and indeed undisputed, conflict with Roe and Casey. Today’s ruling illustrates just how far the Court’s “shadow-docket” decisions may depart from the usual principles of appellate process. That ruling, as everyone must agree, is of great consequence.

September 2, 2021 in Abortion, Constitutional, Judges, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Viewing Justice Gorsuch's Opinion in the LGBT Decision in Bostock as Support for--not Against--Abortion Rights in the Upcoming Dobbs Case

Marc Spindelman, Justice Gorsuch's Choice: From Bostock v. Clayton County to Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, 13 ConLawNOW 11 (2021).

Informed speculation holds that the Supreme Court’s decision to hear and decide Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization spells bad news for constitutional abortion rights. Recognizing both the stakes and the odds, this brief commentary engages Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County and the prospects that it opens up in Dobbs for a future for—not against—abortion rights. Bostock’s pro-gay and pro-trans sex discrimination rulings are built atop—and go out of their way to reaffirm—women’s statutorily-grounded economic and social rights, and hence women’s equal citizenship stature. Moreover, the final decision in the case emerges after judicial wrestling with rule of law concerns involving legal and social stability. In both of these respects, Bostock aligns with the controlling opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a decision that Justice Gorsuch, like other justices in Dobbs, might yet in principle reaffirm. After exploring some of Casey’s doctrinal implications and its example of judicial moderation, discussion turns to Casey’s often overlooked spiritual dimensions. Not only does Casey’s spiritual pluralism on the abortion right and its limits converge with important features of Bostock, but it also actively counsels a decision in Dobbs giving Casey and what it preserves of Roe a new lease on life as part of a larger effort to preserve the American public’s shared faith in a constitutional republic that everyone in Dobbs wishes to keep.

August 26, 2021 in Abortion, Constitutional, Judges, LGBT, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 30, 2021

New Book: The Woman Behind the Supreme Court's Decision in West Coast Hotel v. Parrish

Helen Knowles, Making Minimum Wage: Elsie Parrish v. West Coast Hotel Company

The US Supreme Court’s 1937 decision in West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, upholding the constitutionality of Washington State’s minimum wage law for women, had monumental consequences for all American workers. It also marked a major shift in the Court’s response to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda. In Making Minimum Wage, Helen J. Knowles tells the human story behind this historic case.

West Coast Hotel v. Parrish pitted a Washington State hotel against a chambermaid, Elsie Parrish, who claimed that she was owed the state’s minimum wage. The hotel argued that under the concept of “freedom of contract,” the US Constitution allowed it to pay its female workers whatever low wages they were willing to accept. Knowles unpacks the legal complexities of the case while telling the litigants’ stories. Drawing on archival and private materials, including the unpublished memoir of Elsie’s lawyer, C. B. Conner, Knowles exposes the profound courage and resolve of the former chambermaid. Her book reveals why Elsie—who, in her mid-thirties was already a grandmother—was fired from her job at the Cascadian Hotel in Wenatchee, and why she undertook the outsized risk of suing the hotel for back wages.

Minimum wage laws are “not an academic question or even a legal one,” Elinore Morehouse Herrick, the New York director of the National Labor Relations Board, said in 1936. Rather, they are “a human problem.” A pioneering analysis that illuminates the life stories behind West Coast Hotel v. Parrish as well as the case’s impact on local, state, and national levels, Making Minimum Wage vividly demonstrates the fundamental truth of Morehouse Herrick’s statement.

July 30, 2021 in Books, Equal Employment, Legal History, SCOTUS, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Copyright Jurisprudence

Ryan Vacca & Ann Bartow, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Copyright Jurisprudence,  22 Nevada L.J. (forthcoming 2022)

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18, 2020, the world lost a trailblazer for gender equality, a pop culture icon, a feisty liberal luminary who fought on behalf of the disenfranchised in the areas of civil rights and social justice, and an inspiration to millions of people. She will long be remembered for the social changes she helped effectuate as an advocate, scholar, and jurist.

Her amazing civil rights legacy overshadows other areas where Justice Ginsburg’s contributions have been substantial. This article discusses one of the most interesting: copyright law. During her time as a jurist on the Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit, she authored sixteen opinions in copyright cases and joined her colleagues’ opinions in eleven others. But unlike her gender equality and social justice opinions, in which she predictably sided with rock-slinging Davids, Justice Ginsburg tended to favor Goliath content owners in copyright cases. This article offers possible explanations for why this was so, by holistically evaluating Justice Ginsburg’s copyright writings. It identifies several themes running through her copyright opinions: incrementalism, intergovernmental deference, a preference for alternative mechanisms for relief, and stoicism, and juxtaposes her copyright jurisprudence with her approaches to gender equality and reproductive rights.

July 13, 2021 in Courts, Judges, Science, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 12, 2021

"We Have Been Here Before": SCOTUS and the Demise of Abortion Rights in Casey

Earl Maltz, We Have Been Here Before: Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and the Survival of Abortion Rights 

Nearly half a century after the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, recent events have given supporters of the pro-choice position good reason to fear that the Supreme Court is likely to soon abandon its support for abortion rights. Although the Court recently struck down an anti-abortion statute in June Medical Services v. Russo, the balance of power in that case was held by Chief Justice John Roberts, whose opinion indicated that, in the future, he was likely to allow states to impose a wide variety of restrictions on access to abortions. Moreover, the pro-choice forces recently lost one of their staunchest allies when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and was replaced by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whose nomination was roundly cheered by those who argue that Roe should be overruled. Thus, many observers believe that the Court is likely to use Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization as a vehicle to eliminate or significantly undermine constitutional constraints on the ability of state governments to limit access to abortions.

However, we have been here before. In the decade between 1981 and 1991, Republican presidents who were openly critical of the decision in Roe had the opportunity to nominate five of the nine members of the Supreme Court. Moreover, during this period, the issue of abortion played an increasingly important role in the selection of those justices. Thus, by the early 1990s, most commentators believed that the anti-abortion forces were on the verge of claiming near-total victory in their campaign against Roe and its progeny. But despite the expectations of most commentators, in the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, a majority of the justices reaffirmed their support for the view that the Constitution protects the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy without undue interference from the government, and thereby created a regime that has endured for almost three decades. This article will describe the sequence of events that led to the decision in Casey and culminated in the failure of the assault on abortion rights.

July 12, 2021 in Abortion, Constitutional, Judges, Legal History, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The All-Women SCOTUS Dissent in an Environmental Case -- What Does it Mean?

In a rare occurrence, all women joined the dissent in last week's SCOTUS decision in HollyFrontier and all men joined the majority, cutting across all the usual jurisprudential lines.  But why?

The decision is HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining v. Renewable Fuels Association (June 25, 2021). The majority written by Justice Gorsuch interpreted an EPA rule to allow an extension of a prior exemption for small refiners to not have to use renewable fuels.  The dissent of all women written by Justice Barrett read the text differently, to deny the extension, and thus enforce the renewable fuels EPA rule.  Both Gorsuch and Barrett are textualists, and reasoned their different opinions on mostly text based grounds and some concern about the impact on businesses.

What other motivation might Barrett have for joining the dissent? (And Breyer, why is he joining the majority??).  The only slight clue is that Barrett notes the impact of her conclusion, finding it consistent with Congress's intent to "funnel all refineries into eventual compliance" and that such compliance had happened up until 2014, with some backtracking in 2017 and 2018.

It is sometimes argued that women are concerned more for the environment.  Whether that is due to a feminist ethic of care, ecofeminism, or cultural feminism of a maternal concern with care for families and their environment, these different gendered arguments suggest that women might see these issues differently.

See generally Cynthia Grant Bowman, Path from Feminist Legal Theory to Environmental Law & Policy, 22 Cornell J. Law & Public Policy 641 (2013); Cinnamon Pinon Carlarne, , Environmental Law & Feminism, forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Feminism and Law in the United States.

July 1, 2021 in Science, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

SCOTUS Denies Cert in Challenge to Male Only Draft, but 3 Justices Write Separately

National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System, Denial of Cert (June 7, 2021)

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

 

Statement of JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, with whom JUSTICE BREYER and JUSTICE KAVANAUGH join, respecting the denial of certiorari.

 

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the Federal Government from discriminating on the basis of sex absent an “‘exceedingly persuasive justification.’” Sessions v. Morales-Santana (quoting United States v. Virginia); see Califano v. Westcott; Califano v. Goldfarb; Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld; Frontiero v. Richardson. Cf. Bolling v. Sharpe. The Military Selective Service Act requires men, and only men, however, to register for the draft upon turning 18. See 85 Stat. 353, 50 U. S. C. §3802(a). In Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U. S. 57 (1981), this Court upheld the Act’s gender-based registration requirement against an equal protection challenge, citing the fact that women were “excluded from combat” roles and hence “would not be needed in the event of a draft.” 

 

The role of women in the military has changed dramatically since then. Beginning in 1991, thousands of women have served with distinction in a wide range of combat roles, from operating military aircraft and naval vessels to participating in boots-on-the-ground infantry missions. Women have passed the military’s demanding tests to become U. S. Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, and Green Berets.  As of 2015, there are no longer any positions in the United States Armed Forces closed to women. Petitioners ask the Court to overrule Rostker in light of these developments.

 

Petitioners, however, are not the only ones asking whether a male-only registration requirement can be reconciled with the role women can, and already do, play in the modern military. In 2016, Congress created the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS) and tasked it with studying whether Selective Service registration should be conducted “regardless of sex.” 

 

On March 25, 2020, the Commission released its final report, in which it recommended “eliminat[ing] male-only
registration.” Inspired to Serve: The Final Report of the [NCMNPS] 111. Among other things, the Commission
found that “[m]ale-only registration sends a message to women not only that they are not vital to the defense of the country but also that they are not expected to participate in defending it.” Just a few months ago, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the report, where Chairman Jack Reed expressed his “hope” that
a gender-neutral registration requirement will be “incorporated into the next national defense bill.”

 

It remains to be seen, of course, whether Congress will end gender-based registration under the Military SelectiveService Act. But at least for now, the Court’s longstanding deference to Congress on matters of national defense and military affairs cautions against granting review while Congress actively weighs the issue. I agree with the Court’s decision to deny the petition for a writ of certiorari.

Vox, Justice Kavanaugh Hands Down Some Surprisingly Good News for Women's Equality

Justice Brett Kavanaugh just handed down a subtle but potentially very significant signal that he will protect at least some of the feminist victories won by Ruth Bader Ginsburg two decades before she joined the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh’s move does not mean that he is likely to tack left on questions like abortion, but it does suggest there are some limits to this Court’s willingness to toss out earlier victories by liberals.***

 

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it will not hear National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System, a lawsuit challenging a federal law that requires men — and not women — to register for the draft when they turn 18.

 

That might seem like bad news to anyone hoping the court would apply gender nondiscrimination precedents to a new area. But the good news comes in a brief opinion that Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote.

 

In it, she suggests that she believes that gender discrimination in the selective service program is unconstitutional — the main reason she’s not interested in taking up the case, she seems to say, is that Congress is considering legislation that could expand selective service registration to women.

 

Kavanaugh joined the opinion in full. And that opinion begins with a quote summarizing many of the Court’s gender equality decisions — the Constitution “prohibits the Federal Government from discriminating on the basis of sex absent an ‘exceedingly persuasive justification,’” Justice Sotomayor wrote in her opinion — followed by a long list of citations to the Court’s gender equality decisions.

 

So, in joining this opinion, Kavanaugh signaled that he agrees with Sotomayor, and with the gender equality decisions that Sotomayor cites.

 

That does not mean that these decisions are completely safe — on a 6-3 Court, Kavanaugh could be outvoted by the other five Republican appointees — but it is a hopeful sign for feminism. Kavanaugh is the Court’s median vote in most contentious cases, so it is unlikely that the Court will overrule a major line of precedents without his approval.

June 15, 2021 in Constitutional, Equal Employment, Judges, Legislation, Masculinities, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 17, 2021

SCOTUS Agrees to Hear Abortion Case that May Overrule Roe by Challenging Viability as the Basis for Regulation

Bloomberg, Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case that May Slash Abortion Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider gutting the constitutional right to abortion, agreeing to hear Mississippi’s bid to ban the procedure in almost all cases after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The move suggests the court’s strengthened conservative wing may be ready to roll back, if not overturn, the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. The clash, which the court will hear in the nine-month term that starts in October, will be its first abortion case since Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed.

Mississippi’s appeal seeks to let states outlaw abortion even before a fetus becomes viable. That would eviscerate the core holding of the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling, which said states can’t impose significant restrictions before viability. The court in Casey didn’t pinpoint when viability occurs but suggested it was around 23 or 24 weeks at the time of the ruling.

In its appeal, Mississippi argued that viability is “not an appropriate standard for assessing the constitutionality of a law regulating abortion.” The state says its ban was designed to protect maternal health as well as the life of the fetus....

“In an unbroken line of decisions over the last fifty years, this court has held that the Constitution guarantees each person the right to decide whether to continue a pre-viability pregnancy,” the clinic argued in a brief that urged rejection of the appeal.

The Mississippi ban makes exceptions only in cases of severe fetal abnormality or major health risk to the woman. A federal district judge and then a federal appeals court said the ban was unconstitutional.

The case is Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Center  (SCOTUSblog)

May 17, 2021 in Abortion, Constitutional, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)