Adam Liptak

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down most of Arizona’s immigration law is a cause for celebration—not least because it’s a model of how the Court can make decisions based on judicial philosophy rather than partisanship. The bipartisan majority opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the three liberal justices (Elena Kagan was recused) was modest and nuanced in tone and in substance—and consistent with all of the justices’ previous expressions of willingness to allow federal policies to trump state ones in cases where they conflict.

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Last week, a New York Times/CBS poll found that only 44 percent of Americans approve of the Supreme Court’s job performance and 75 percent say the justices are sometimes influenced by their political views. But although the results of the poll were striking, commentators may have been too quick to suggest a direct link between the two findings.

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 How strong are American political parties? Party scholars disagree about how to go about thinking about that question. For me, the way to think about party strength is to think about how much of overall political activity goes through the parties. That is, pick an important political activity: writing laws, electing public officials, carrying out laws, political communications, civic rituals, and so on.

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John Paul Stevens, as many suspected, is retiring from the Supreme Court. As it happens, Justin Driver has an assessment of Stevens in the latest issue of TNR. The article is subscriber-only, but that's a good reason to subscribe. Driver argues that Stevens, contrary to his own claims and the claims of his admirers, has actually moved clearly leftward during his tenure: Commentators have embraced Stevens’s preferred self-image, largely portraying him as an island of stasis amid a sea of dynamism.

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The Stevens Myth

Legal circles have been abuzz for the last eight months with the news that Justice John Paul Stevens had hired only one law clerk to begin working this summer. This move, Supreme Court watchers observed, strongly suggested that Stevens’s thirty-fifth term at the Court would be his last. As journalists and scholars begin contemplating his place in history, Stevens himself has not-so-subtly attempted to burnish his judicial legacy. In a series of interviews over the last few years, Stevens has repeatedly attempted to portray his views as fundamentally unaltered since he joined the Court.

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Benched

The most-watched case of the Supreme Court's last term, which ended in June, invited the justices to hold unconstitutional a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The law required certain jurisdictions--largely in the Old South--to "pre-clear" any changes in their electoral systems with the Department of Justice. It was intended to prevent states with poor civil rights histories from changing their voting systems in ways that would keep blacks from voting.

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Sotto Voce

A tip from an informant led Detective Amando Rodriguez and Sergeant Diane Contreras to the stash house--actually a New York City apartment--which they had good reason to think contained a substantial haul of drugs. The suspicion was confirmed when they busted a man leaving the building with a kilo of cocaine in a black bag. The officers entered the building to stake out the apartment. That's when the carryout delivery woman arrived with an order for the stash house. Worried that she might inadvertently draw attention to their presence, the cops made a hasty decision to enlist her help.

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