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Voting Rights Act

Supreme Court roundup

by Walter Olson on August 30, 2013

  • Now with more detailed program descriptions: reserve your seat now for Cato’s 12th annual Constitution Day Sept. 17 in Washington, D.C.;
  • White House keeps losing SCOTUS cases 9-0, and there might be a lesson in that [Ilya Somin/USA Today, more]
  • “Another big term for amicus curiae briefs at the high court” [ABA Journal] “The Chief’s dissent reads over long stretches like something from the Cato Institute” [Michael Greve, Liberty Law Blog, on the administrative law case City of Arlington v. FCC, which was in fact one of the three cases where Cato's amicus position lost last term]
  • Ilya Shapiro on misconceptions about last term’s Shelby County case on voting rights [USA Today] and on the pending Schuette affirmative action case from Michigan [Cato]
  • “I count myself an originalist too.” — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg [CAC] Evaluating Ginsburg’s claim that the present Court is unusually activist [Jonathan Adler]
  • In Bond v. U.S., the treaty power case, Solicitor General urges high court not to overrule Missouri v. Holland [Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, more, earlier]
  • Cato seeks certiorari in cy pres (class action slush fund) case involving Facebook [amicus brief filed in Marek v. Lane, Ilya Shapiro]

Dylan Matthews at the Washington Post has a relatively calm explainer on yesterday’s Court decision striking down one section of the VRA. While implicitly siding with the liberals, he takes some of the steam out of hyperbolic reactions portraying the latest decision as some horrid onslaught against the VRA, as opposed to an incremental evolution in its application. Other views: Ilya Shapiro, Cato, more, and background here and here; Trevor Burrus; Cato merits brief, PDF. More: Jonathan Adler on the Court’s rationale.

  • The 173rd, maybe? “This is not the first time [Linda] Greenhouse has misrepresented the views of her opponents” [Ilya Somin; more from ABA Journal on federalism argument against DOMA as supposed anti-federal-power "Trojan horse"] Was it improper for trial judge Vaughn Walker and appeals judge Stephen Reinhardt not to have recused themselves from Prop 8 case? Legal Ethics Forum bloggers weigh in [John Steele, Richard Painter, etc.] Funny graphic by Cato social media team about Cato’s “odd couple” joint brief with Constitutional Accountability Center [CAC] “Right and Left Continue to Change Where they Stand on Standing” [Ilya Somin] And if you’re going to be on Capitol Hill this Friday and are interested in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, be sure to attend the panel discussion at which I’ll be joined by Ilya Shapiro and Mary Bonauto;
  • On courts’ role in advancing liberty [Roger Pilon exchange with Ramesh Ponnuru] Incidentally, Cato’s “Mr. U.S. Constitution” is now on Twitter at @Roger_Pilon; and he discusses Cato’s high-profile SCOTUS amicus program [here]
  • Cook County official has creative theories about federal supremacy [Illinois Watchdog]
  • Amicus brief: Congress can’t assert perpetual jurisdiction over anyone and everyone, and that goes for ex-sex offenders too [Trevor Burrus]
  • “What are the Weirdest Constitutional Arguments Ever Asserted in Court?” [Orin Kerr and Volokh readers]
  • As Court considers voting act in Shelby County case, Chief Justice Roberts sees problem with pretending it’s still 1965 [Ilya Shapiro; more on VRA, 2010 Abigail Thernstrom backgrounder, National Affairs]

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The teacher’s union in Oregon is trying to get the legislature to repeal a voter-approved measure that warns electors in the state when a property tax hike is on the ballot. I’ve got more at Cato at Liberty (& Brian Doherty, Reason).


Supreme Court roundup

by Walter Olson on January 15, 2013


December 7 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 7, 2012

  • Georgia: “Twiggs County Landgrabber Loses, Must Pay $100K in Fees” [Lowering the Bar]
  • “Major California Rule Change For Depositions Takes Place In 2013″ [Cal Biz Lit] Discovery cost control explored at IAALS conference [Prawfs]
  • Gift idea! “Lego version of the Eighth Circle of Hell (where false counselors and perjurers suffered)” [John Steele, Legal Ethics Forum; Flavorwire]
  • “Don’t Worry About the Voting Rights Act: If the Supreme Court strikes down part of it, black and Hispanic voters will be just fine.” [Eric Posner and Nicholas Stephanopoulos, Slate, via @andrewmgrossman]
  • “Why did Congress hold hearings this week promoting crackpot [anti-vaccination] views? [Phil Plait, Slate]
  • “Debunking a Progressive Constitutional Myth; or, How Corporations Became People, Too” [John Fabian Witt, Balkinization]
  • “Federal ‘protection’ of American poker players turning into confiscation” [Point of Law]

September 17 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 17, 2012

  • Montana considers “corporations aren’t people” ballot measure with all the expectable flaws plus some others; vainly presumes to instruct state’s delegation to Congress [Bainbridge, more]
  • Dutch phone book publisher claims that “Cancel my Dutch phone book” website infringes its trademark [24 Oranges]
  • The problem with Section 5 (preclearance) provision of the Voting Rights Act, cont’d [Ilya Shapiro; SCOTUSBlog symposium with Shapiro, Abigail Thernstrom and others]
  • D.C. bans a bar’s jape at Marion Barry: “The Government Commission on Acceptable Satire” [Julian Sanchez, Cato]
  • Inquiry cost seen at £100m over alleged UK troop brutality in Iraq; defense lawyers say charges trumped up [Telegraph]
  • Banning outdoor tobacco use: “Obama administration to push for eliminating smoking on college campuses” [Caroline May, Daily Caller]
  • “And so it has come to this: Cameras that monitor speed cameras.” [Mike Rosenwald, WaPo; Prince George's County, Md.]
  • NAACP takes complaint against American election laws to U.N. Human Rights Council [PowerLine, Steyn, von Spakovsky, Ku]
  • Also at Opinio Juris: David Landau, Mark Tushnet on judicial/constitutional enforcement of “social rights”; getting international law enforced in U.S. courts is hot topic in legal academia [Oona Hathaway, Sabria McElroy and Sara Aronchick Solow and Steve Vladeck]
  • Too many strings in Toronto: “York University Faculty Torpedo $60 Million International Law Donation” [Ku/OJ]
  • What UNESCO is up to: “Empowering the Poor Through Human Rights Litigation” [long PDF]
  • “Taming Globalization,” new Yoo-and-Ku book on international law [Liberty and Law: about, interview, more]
  • Baby thrown out with bathwater: courts now coping with grossly overbroad state enactments barring reception of foreign law [WSJ Law Blog, earlier here, etc.]

March 15 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 15, 2012

  • Part III of Radley Balko series on painkiller access [HuffPo]
  • “Note: Add ‘Judge’s Nameplate’ to List of Things Not to Steal” [Lowering the Bar]
  • California’s business-hostile climate: if the ADA mills don’t get you, other suits might [CACALA]
  • Bottom story of the month: ABA president backs higher legal services budget [ABA Journal]
  • After string of courtroom defeats, Teva pays to settle Nevada propofol cases [Oliver, earlier]
  • Voting Rights Act has outstayed its constitutional welcome [Ilya Shapiro/Cato] More: Stuart Taylor, Jr./The Atlantic.
  • Huge bust of what NY authorities say was $279 million crash-fraud ring NY Post, NYLJ, Business Insider, Turkewitz (go after dishonest docs on both sides)]

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January 6 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 6, 2012


July 25 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 25, 2011


July 8 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 8, 2010


February 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 18, 2010

Civil rights suits are causing a stir in California local government: “The downsides weigh heavily in landmark lawsuits against Modesto and Stanislaus County, which have cost taxpayers $8.3 million and counting, and have not produced more minority office holders or new sidewalks or better storm drains.” [Modesto Bee]

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By reader acclaim, this report from AP’s Michael Blood in Los Angeles:

Every lawsuit filed or even threatened under a California law aimed at electing more minorities to local offices – and all of the roughly $4.3 million from settlements so far – can be traced to just two people: a pair of attorneys who worked together writing the statute, The Associated Press has found.

The law makes it easier for lawyers to sue and win financial judgments in cases arising from claims that minorities effectively were shut out of local elections, while shielding attorneys from liability if the claims are tossed out.

The law was drafted mainly by Seattle law professor Joaquin Avila, with advice from lawyers including Robert Rubin, legal director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. Avila, Rubin’s committee and lawyers working with them have collected or billed local governments about $4.3 million in three cases that settled, and could reap more from two pending lawsuits.

Dozens of other California jurisdictions have been threatened with suits over at-large (undistricted) elections, and officials in many communities say they heard no complaints from voters until lawyers came around.

“It’s a money grab,” charged John Stafford, superintendent of the Madera Unified School District that was slapped with a $1.2 million attorneys’ bill even though it never contested a lawsuit. … A judge is reviewing the bill submitted to Madera. To pay, Stafford said the district would have to slash money for books and lunches for its mostly Hispanic students, an odd consequence for a law intended to aid Hispanics.

If you’re wondering about Prof. Avila of Seattle U., who agrees to being the law’s principal drafter, his biographical page is here, and it’s replete with elite law school connections. Excerpts:

…Professor Avila has taught courses at the University of California/Berkeley, University of Texas, and UCLA schools of law. Professor Avila has received numerous awards in recognition of his work in the voting rights area. He received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1996 for his voting rights work. In the same year, he received the Vanguard Public Foundation’s Social Justice Sabbatical for his work in providing political access to minority communities. In 2001 he received the State Bar of California’s Loren Miller Legal Services Award for providing outstanding legal services to disadvantaged and underserved communities. …


October 23 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 23, 2009


…is guestblogging this week at