Supreme Court Justices

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  • U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead Saturday, CBS News has confirmed. According to the San Antonio News-Express, which was first to report his death, Scalia was found dead in his room at a West Texas resort.
  • If you’re a business looking for new ways to squeeze money out of your consumers without having to worry about whether doing so is illegal, than you had a very good day in the Supreme Court on Monday. In its first divided decision of the current Supreme Court term, the Court held in DIRECTV v. Imburgia that the satellite television company DIRECTV could effectively immunize itself from many suits claiming that they charged illegal fees, despite the fact that this decision cuts against language in DIRECTV’s own contract. Only three justices, the conservative Clarence Thomas and the liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, dissented.
  • One of the members of the nation's highest court dropped by the NPR Politics Podcast last week for a wide-ranging conversation about the inner workings of the Supreme Court, and Washington, changing global realities and why he loved the musical Hamilton. It's been 16 years since I last saw Justice Stephen Breyer in person. The first time we met was under more awkward circumstances when I was a student at Stanford Law School. He came to speak, my parents attended with me, and when the event was over, my tiny Chinese mother body-blocked him in the courtyard so he would take several pictures with us. My mom never takes no for an answer, and Justice Breyer seemed to quickly intuit that. I was mortified, but struck by how gentle and congenial the man was up close.
  • Ever since the court announced on Friday—after eight years of silence on the issue—that it was going to hear a major abortion case, all eyes have been fixed on Justice Anthony Kennedy. He will certainly be the decisive vote in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole this summer. On this issue, among so many others, it’s a foregone conclusion that wherever Kennedy goes, the court will follow.
  • In a powerfully written dissent, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticized the thinking of some of her fellow justices after the court dismissed a case involving a police officer fatally shooting a fleeing suspect in Texas. According to Sotomayor, it was a case of “shoot first, think later.”
  • Justice Anthony Kennedy, a member of the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc who nevertheless has authored several important gay rights opinions, suggested during an event at Harvard Law School last Thursday that public officials who do not wish to follow the Court’s marriage equality decision should resign. Kennedy’s remarks came in response to a question from a student who described himself as someone who thinks “that rational norms guide the exercise of sexual autonomy.” The student asked whether public officials who disagree with the Court’s decisions on marriage equality or abortion have “authority to act according to her own judgment” of whether the Court’s legal reasoning was sound.
  • Kim Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, Ky., refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because she believes same-sex marriage is immoral. According to Davis, her religious convictions prevent her from issuing the license: “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience.” In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear ordered all county clerks in the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but Davis refused. A federal district court ordered her to comply and issue such licenses, and she still refused. She sought relief in federal court, and even sought relief from the Supreme Court, but to no avail.
  • On Thursday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dropped a bombshell: Sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, the EEOC ruled, is already illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This ruling—which is binding on EEOC conciliations between employers and employees, and is an extremely persuasive authority for courts—has been a long time in the making. In fact, it can be traced back to a unanimous 1997 Supreme Court opinion written by none other than Justice Antonin Scalia.
  • Dear Dahlia, Walter, Judge Posner, Kenji, and Marty, Justice Antonin Scalia may have been the worst-behaved justice in the courtroom this morning, Dahlia—but the chief was the most obnoxious on paper. The Arizona redistricting case brought out the worst in Chief Justice John Roberts, the petty jibes and scornful mockery that this usually staid justice strives to avoid.
  • Among young people today, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is seen as more than a Supreme Court Justice — she's a cultural icon. That couldn't have been clearer this past Friday, as Ginsburg look-alikes gathered outside the Supreme Court to celebrate the 5-4 decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Although she didn't pen the majority opinion, Ginsburg has been seen as the "hero" of the movement, and one of the primary reasons many more Americans can join in matrimony today. Ginsburg is currently the court's most popular justice overall, despite being the least popular among Republicans, according to a recent Public Policy Polling survey.
  • The newest gay rights icon wears a drab black robe and got his job from Ronald Reagan. Perhaps no American political figure has been more consequential in gay and lesbian Americans’ fight for equality than Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the author of Friday’s majority ruling that essentially legalized gay marriage around the United States. That decision is the latest in a string; despite officially being a member of the high court’s conservative wing, Kennedy has written every major opinion in support of LGBT Americans since 1996.
  • Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored today’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States, is sometimes made fun of for his notoriously purple prose. But today he managed to close his opinion with one of the most beautiful passages you’ll likely read in a court case. I teared up. So did a few other Slate staffers.
  • The Supreme Court handed a major victory to the Obama administration and civil rights groups on Thursday when it upheld a key tool used for more than four decades to fight housing discrimination. The justices ruled 5-4 that federal housing laws prohibit seemingly neutral practices that harm minorities, even without proof of intentional discrimination. The case involved an appeal from Texas officials accused of violating the Fair Housing Act by awarding federal tax credits in a way that kept low-income housing out of white neighborhoods.
  • Backers of the Affordable Care Act were treated to twin delights on Thursday: First, the law was upheld, so nobody will be kicked off their insurance by the Supreme Court. And second, the dissent was written by Justice Antonin Scalia who, when angry (which is always), has a penchant for literary drama. "Words no longer have meaning," Scalia wrote in the dissent he read from the bench.
  • You can read all of Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion upholding health insurance subsidies for the 34 states with federal Obamacare exchanges here. But you can also understand it by reading this one sentence:
  • As the end of the Supreme Court term nears, there's a growing anxiety surrounding the fate of the Affordable Care Act—and for good reason. If the court rules for the plaintiffs in the case of King v. Burwell, more than 6 million people could lose their health insurance subsidies, which would likely make their insurance plans unaffordable. National insurance markets could enter a death spiral that would cause many more to lose coverage.
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the more conservative members of the country's high court, sided with four liberal justices Thursday in ruling that Texas could reject a specialty license plate featuring an image of the Confederate flag. The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision on Thursday that specialty plates convey the state's endorsement of a particular message.
  • Justice Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court’s most consistently partisan Republican, will almost definitely not write the Court’s decision in a case that could gut the Affordable Care Act if its plaintiffs prevail. During the oral arguments in King v. Burwell, a lawsuit that attempts to cut off tax credits that allow millions of Americans to afford health insurance, Alito emerged as the Court’s leading advocate of a decision hobbling Obamacare.
  • Justice Anthony Kennedy was furious when a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama's healthcare law. As he read the dissenting opinion from the bench three years ago, his anger was palpable. The majority regards its opinion "as judicial modesty," he declared. "It is not. It amounts instead to a vast judicial over-reaching."
  • John Roberts has changed. Consider the chief justice’s voting record. From 2005—the year he was appointed—until 2012—the year of the first Affordable Care Act decision—Roberts was a reliable vote on the court’s staunch conservative wing. In controversies from abortion to campaign finance to guns, Roberts sided with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Anthony Kennedy. The 2012 health care case was the first time Roberts had ever voted with the liberal side of the court in a 5–4 decision. Lately, however, we’re seeing a very different Roberts. Last term Roberts surprised many by breaking left on a few major cases.