Sandra Day

On Wednesday the Supreme Court heard arguments in Fisher v. Texas, the most important affirmative action case in a decade. The Court is sharply divided on the question of the permissibility of racial preferences in university admissions, and the questions posed by the justices reinforced the possibility that Fisher will produce a 5-3 decision pitting five conservatives who want to severely restrict if not eliminate affirmative action in higher education against three liberals who want to preserve it. (Justice Elena Kagan is recused because she worked on the case as Solicitor General).

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The Butterfly Effect

It is often said that the age of the Washington hostess is dead. Gone are the days, we are told, of Katharine Graham and Pamela Harriman, who assembled Washington power players around tables where deals were struck and alliances forged. But that may not be entirely true. The name Rima Al-Sabah doesn’t ring many bells to people outside the Beltway. Inside, it rings a lot. Al-Sabah is the wife of the Kuwaiti ambassador, Salem Al-Sabah. Since the couple arrived in Washington in 2001, she has become known as the issuer of invitations one doesn’t decline.

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I enjoyed Jeff Rosen's defense of Sandra Day O'Connor, but wanted to add a bit of detail to this part at the end: O’Connor was prickly and defensive about Bush v.Gore in Aspen: “It wasn’t the end of the world,” she said impatiently. “They had recounts of the votes in four counties by the press, and it did not change the outcome at all. So forget it. It’s over!” O'Connor's recollection of the media recount is false, though understandably so. The media recount was released shortly after the September 11 attacks, at the height of George W.

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The Supreme Court term that ended this week would have looked very different if Justice Sandra Day O’Connor were still on the bench. Twenty percent of the cases were decided by a 5-4 vote, and, in many of those cases, Justice O’Connor would have voted to swing the result the other way. In two interviews this week at the Aspen Ideas Festival, O’Connor, a former Arizona state legislator, suggested to me that she disagreed with the 5-4 decision striking down Arizona’s public campaign financing system. She worried that it might call other public financing schemes into question.

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Justices and Journalists: The U.S. Supreme Court and the Media By Richard Davis (Cambridge University Press, 241 pp., $28.99) The way in which every person, every institution, relates to people is essentially, though often unconsciously, theatrical. We are experts in self-presentation, in acting a part to further our aims and interests. We have, all of us, a public relations strategy. This is true of the Supreme Court, too, and of the individual Supreme Court justices.

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The past few months have seen plenty of commentary about Elena Kagan’s status as one of only a few women ever nominated to the Supreme Court. But much of this commentary has rung hollow, consisting of platitudes about how she is a “trailblazer.” Practically no one has focused on what is perhaps a far more important aspect of her gender: Elena Kagan might very well be the first female nominee to the Supreme Court who does not define her gender as salient to her public life. Kagan has been deemed a female pioneer: the first woman to lead Harvard Law School and to serve as solicitor general.

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Tom Goldstein is a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and lecturer at Stanford and Harvard Law Schools. He is the founder of SCOTUSblog. A version of this piece was originally posted there on April 18, 2010. Supreme Court retirements inevitably produce much more coverage of process than substance. The press is dominated by political rather than legal reporters. Politics is also more familiar and therefore more accessible to the public than are court decisions. The irony is that this attention to process is not very meaningful—at least at this stage, when there is no nominee.

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Judging for Dollars

Illinois is home to the nation’s costliest judicial election ever: the 2004 contest between Lloyd Karmeier and Gordon Maag. The two candidates in Illinois's fifth judicial district together raised almost $9.4 million, nearly double the previous national record. It topped the money raised in 18 of 34 U.S. Senate races decided that year.

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The Will of the People: How Public Opinion Has Influenced the Supreme Court and Shaped the Meaning of the Constitution By Barry Friedman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 614 pp., $35)   In 1952, as the Supreme Court contemplated the set of cases that would eventually become known as Brown v. Board of Education, a law clerk named William H.

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One of the most dramatic moments in President Obama's State of the Union was his attack on the Supreme Court with the justices arrayed in front of him. "Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests--including foreign corporations--to spend without limit in our elections," Obama declared.

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