Finally Friday Reads: Time to Celebrate instead of Despair! We have a Worthy Justice!

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I just finished watching Judge Brown Jackson’s speech at the White House. It’s such a joy to be excited about a new appointment to the Supreme Court.  Her speech was amazing!  After weeks of Republican disrespect of this phenomenal woman culminated by all Republican Senators but Romney leaving the floor of the Senate upon her approval to the country’s highest bench.  This is hot-off-presses from The New York Times which is linked in the first link of this paragraph.

Flanked by Judge Jackson and Vice President Kamala Harris — the first Black woman to hold her role and whom he called the first “smart” decision of his presidency — Mr. Biden said the judge’s confirmation had changed not only his own trajectory but the course of American life itself.

“This is going to let so much sunshine on so many young women, so many young Black women, so many minorities,” the president said in remarks on the White House South Lawn. “That is real.”

In her remarks, Judge Jackson called her confirmation “the greatest honor of my life.” She recalled substantive meetings with 97 senators and thanked them for their role in the nomination process, providing a graceful coda to hours of televised interactions with senators who had often acted emotionally as they questioned her.

Judge Jackson again pledged judicial independence. “I’ve also spent the better time of the past decade hearing thousands of cases and writing hundreds of opinions,” she said. “At every instance, I have done my level best to stay in my lane and to reach a result that is consistent with my understanding of the law and with the obligation to rule independently, without fear or favor.”

White House officials said that they had invited the judge’s family, all current and former Supreme Court justices and three Republicans — Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — who voted with Democrats on Thursday to confirm Judge Jackson, lending a modicum of bipartisanship to an otherwise bitterly polarized process. The Republican senators were not in attendance at the event on Friday.

Not even Romney was moved to come to today’s event.  I can only imagine what stewpot Lady Lindsey is cooking in with pearls clutched.  Nearly everyone I talked to yesterday joined me in goosebumps yesterday when Vice President Harris announced the result. The crowd at the White House could not contain their joy.

This is a win for democracy. This is a  win for our country on the road to a more perfect union.  Our institutions need to look like all of our citizens. This was a big step.  As the soon-to-be minted new Associate Justice reminded us, this was a one-generation step from her parents who attended segregated schools to the next Supreme Court Justice.

Judge Jackson, painted by Melanie Humble.

MS Magazine‘s Cynthia Richie Terrell wrote this about a month ago: “What Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Nomination Means for Representation and Justice: Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation” It’s a trip through the times of women in government shattering glass ceilings.

Washington Post columnist Michele Norris wrote a powerful piece about the need to move more quickly to a society where everyone has opportunities to succeed and lead regardless of their race, gender or socio-economic status:

When I learned that President Biden had asked Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court, my first instinct was to cheer this historic appointment. But what soon followed was an instinct to dream of the moment when the elevation of such a supremely talented person would be more routine than remarkable.

I hope to see a world where we can stop tossing confetti when 232-year-old institutions include women, people with brown skin, those who are differently abled, those who are LGBTQ or those who have been locked out for centuries.

I hope to see a world where braids and passion twists or kinky, curly, fuzzy, nappy, “grow as God gave me” hairstyles are as common as side-part, soft-fade, executive haircuts in CEO suites and anywhere people exert influence over life, learning, longevity and the engines of our economies.

I hope to see a world where names like Ketanji and Kamala and Kizzmekia roll off the tongue as easily as Ashok, Xiomara or Eun-Woo. A world where more National Football League coaches have names such as Kwame and Francisco. A world where college students do not feel like they must Anglicize their names so their résumés don’t go straight to the piles labeled “not ready” or “not sure” or “not now.”

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson from the MS article.

Can we do this again?  Hopefully, soon (giving the side-eye to Just Clarence Thomas whose time has come and gone)! The midterms are coming.  Elena Schneider–writing for Politico–reports on the strategy of the Democratic party going forward. “‘If we do this right …’: The new Dem organizing strategy catching fire ahead of the midterms.  Operatives who helped elect Sen. Jon Ossoff are exporting their voter contact program to more states for the midterm elections.

A group of Democratic strategists is trying to spread a novel organizing tactic in this year’s election. Technically, it’s called “paid relational organizing,” but it boils down to this: paying people to talk to their friends about politics.

Democrats think it helped them win the Senate in 2020 — and are hoping the get-out-the-vote strategy will help limit the pain of a brutal 2022 election environment.

Conversations with friends, family members or neighbors are more likely to earn a voter’s support than chats with a stranger at their front door, which is the traditional way campaigns have run paid canvassing programs in the past. And an important test case for deploying the strategy at scale came out of the Georgia Senate runoffs in 2021 when now-Sen. Jon Ossoff’s (D-Ga.) campaign, flush with nearly unlimited cash but only two months to spend it, used a paid and volunteer relational program to get people talking to acquaintances instead of strangers about the election.

In particular, the Ossoff team hired 2,800 Georgians, specifically targeting those with little or no voting history themselves to do this outreach to their own networks. The campaign was making a bet that many of the friends and family of their highly political volunteers were already engaged in the runoff election, but that this group could expand the electorate with relational outreach into their networks — which were likely to include more irregular voters or non-voters like them. The campaign folded this data into their vast field program, tracking conversations and whether those contacted had voted. They could even notify organizers, based on their own network, which voters were tagged as “only reachable by you.”

post-election analysis found their efforts boosted turnout by an estimated 3.8 percent among the 160,000 voters targeted through their relational program. Ossoff and now-Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) won by 1.2 points and 2.1 points respectively, flipping the state and the Senate to Democrats.

Now, the two women behind that effort — Davis Leonard and Zoe Stein, who are partnering with Greta Carnes, the former national organizing director for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign — are working together to export relational organizing, both paid and volunteer versions, to a host of Democratic campaigns and groups ahead of the 2022 midterms.

This should be interesting.  It should go pretty well if this is the best The Federalist can do these days.

In other good news, “Federal appeals court upholds Biden vaccine mandate for federal workers” via The Hill.

A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled to uphold the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal workers, ordering that a preliminary injunction issued against the requirement be eliminated.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’s 2-1 ruling reversed an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, a Trump appointee in Texas, who in January blocked the mandate for federal workers. The 5th Circuit Court further ordered that the district court dismiss the case.

Judge Carl Stewart, writing for the majority opinion, said plaintiffs in the case could have challenged the vaccine mandate through the federal government’s internal process for federal workers.

“The plaintiffs could have challenged an agency’s proposed action against them before filing this suit and certainly before getting vaccinated,” the judge wrote.

Biden implemented the mandate for federal workers in September, with religious and medical exemptions allowed. Under the order, non-exempt employees must get vaccinated or they could face disciplinary procedures, including termination.

A group called Feds for Medical Freedom, a 6,000-member organization, sued in December, challenging the order on the grounds that it exceeds the president’s authority. The federal judge in Texas agreed and blocked the mandate in January, but the government appealed to the 5th Circuit.

At issue in the case is whether federal workers can seek relief from discipline through the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA), which protects employees from unfair or unwanted practices. However, the government argues the plaintiffs are trying to circumvent the process, to which Stewart agreed.

HANDOUT PHOTO: Ketanji Brown Jackson in a photo from the 1988 Miami Palmetto Senior High School when she was Class President.
(Courtesy of Miami Palmetto Senior High School)

This is important given the uptick in Covid-19 in our nation’s Capitol. From the DCist and Amanda Michelle Gomez: “With Mayor Bowser And Others Testing Positive, How Prevalent Is COVID-19 In D.C. These Days?

Various public officials, including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, announced they tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. While the named lawmakers both reported mild symptoms, the high-profile cases had some locals wondering how widespread COVID-19 is these days.

The impact COVID-19 has on personal health and healthcare systems in D.C. is currently low, according to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention. The same is true of the Maryland and Virginia suburbs in the D.C. region. However, the CDC has reworked metrics to deemphasize case counts, as the Biden Administration seeks to usher in a new phase of the pandemic, one that’s potentially less disruptive.

However, case counts in D.C. are starting to climb, although not dramatically. DC Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt told reporters on Thursday that D.C. has seen a “small uptick” in cases the last two weeks. Her department’s website reports that the weekly case rate roughly doubled between March 13 and 27. She said the District is seeing more cases on a weekly basis, but most do not appear to require medical treatment. “We still have very low rates of hospitalizations due to COVID-19,” she said in a press call.

There have been cases in the White House via NBC.

Those new cases include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was with Biden in the days before she tested positive for the virus. On Friday afternoon, the White House said Biden had again tested negative for Covid.

Earlier Friday, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield had acknowledged it remained possible the president could still contract the disease at some point.

“We take every precaution to ensure that we keep him safe, the vice president safe, the first lady, second gentleman, our staff here. But, you know, it is certainly possible that he will test positive for Covid, and he is vaccinated, boosted and protected from the most severe strains of the virus,” Bedingfield said in an interview on CNN.

Still, the White House held an event Friday to mark the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. While it took place outdoors, only those expected to be in close contact with the president were tested, and masks were not required on the White House campus.

Jackson watched the vote with Biden at the White House on Thursday, where she and Biden, without masks, embraced and held hands as the Senate voted on her nomination.

There’s a lot of news coming from Ukraine which I’ll post down the thread.  I’d just like to bask in joy for at least one post.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: The Honorable Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson gets the Nod!

Mariia Pryimachenko: Animals Visiting the Lion (1963).

It’s Friday Sky Dancers!

We need to recognize every step to inclusion in our and other democracies around the world today as every democratic government has experienced increasing threats from a radical and violent right-wing insurgency. I’m continuing BB’s sharing the work of Ukrainian artists today with more offerings. The majority of the world stands with Ukraine and its nascent democracy as Russian forces invade its borders.

First things first!  We now have Biden’s first nomination to the Supreme Court!  It’s the Honorable Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson who was always the clear favorite.  It will be so exciting to see a Black woman bring her experience and knowledge to this bench.  Let’s hope the Republicans on the Judiciary don’t continue to harass nominations that don’t represent their idea of proper demographics.

Nykyfor: Church in Mushyna.

This is from The Washington Post and includes live updates: “Biden calls Jackson ‘one of our nation’s brightest legal minds’ as he announces intent to nominate her to Supreme Court.”

Here’s what to know

Nykyfor: Portrait of a Man.

This is from Katie Rogers writing for The New York Times: “Biden Chooses Ketanji Brown Jackson for Supreme Court.”

President Biden has selected Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to the Supreme Court, the administration said Friday, choosing a well-regarded federal appeals court judge who if confirmed would make history by becoming the first Black woman to serve as a justice.

Mr. Biden’s decision, made after a monthlong search, fulfilled a campaign vow to nominate a Black woman to the bench, and set into motion a confirmation battle that will play out in an evenly divided Senate.

One of several statements sent by the Republican National Committee this morning seeks to paint Judge Jackson as an elitist. The group said her past as a director of the Harvard Alumni Association raised “questions about her judgment,” in part because of a trip the group had planned to make to North Korea that was canceled during her tenure on the group’s board. Prospective participants were advised to “show respect” to Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader at the time, if they made the trip. It’s not clear whether Judge Jackson was involved in any way in planning the trip. Even so, it is a curious line of criticism, given the effusive public comments former President Donald J. Trump has frequently made about Kim Jong Un, the current North Korean leader and son of Kim Jong Il: “We fell in love,” Mr. Trump said of the younger Mr. Kim in 2018.

Kateryna Bilokur: Field on Collective Farm (1948-49).

The worst of the Republican trolling appears to come from Lady Lindsey who is pearl-clutching at her Harvard Credentials.  He didn’t seem to mind her the last time she was up for her current position  He also didn’t complain about Kavanaugh or Gorsuch’s Ivy League credentials when they were quickly shuffled to the High Court.  But, here he is!  This is from the New Civil Rights Movement:” ‘Absolute BS’: ‘Gaslighting’ Lindsey Graham Blasted for Denouncing Biden SCOTUS Pick as Proof ‘Radical Left Has Won’. It’s written by David Badash.

Judge Jackson has more experience on the bench than the combined experience of Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Elena Kagan, and Clarence Thomas when they were confirmed, as University of Texas Law law professor Steve Vladeck noted.

Regardless of Judge Jackson’s excellent qualifications (the White House has already published a microsite on her background) Senator Graham was furious – and is being roundly condemned for that outrage.

Many social media users noted Graham voted to confirm Judge Jackson twice, including as recently as June, so his outrage seems highly suspect.

Give them hell Your Honor!

Mariia Pryimachenko: The Autumn Riding on a Horse (1984).

Here are some of the latest headlines from the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.

Council of Europe suspends Russia’s rights of representation  —  In line with the Statute of the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers has today decided to suspend the Russian Federation from its rights of representation in the Committee of Ministers and in the Parliamentary Assembly

From Philip Pullella at Reuters:Departing from protocol, pope goes to Russian embassy over Ukraine … Pope Francis went to the Russian embassy to the Holy See on Friday to relay his concern over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to Moscow’s ambassador, in an unprecedented departure from diplomatic protocol.

From Barak Ravid at Axios: Zelensky to EU leaders: “This might be the last time you see me alive”  —  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told EU leaders “this might be the last time you see me alive” during a video conference on Thursday night, two European sources briefed on the call tell Axios.

Another great mid- 20th century actress has passed on.

The last few years have made me feel quite old.  I feel like the Post World War 1 and 2 eras have gone full cycle.

Take care of yourselves and each other!   We love you here and are glad we, as a community, can share all of this.

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: With Justices for All

Federal Appeals Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Happy Friday Sky Dancers!

I am sorry to be so late today but I had a lot of errands to run this morning!  I even had the topic I wanted to cover today by last night but just couldn’t get to it until this afternoon! I’d like to introduce you to all the wonderful black women Judges that are potential Supreme Court Nominees.

The First on the list is Federal Appeals Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson who replaced Merrick Garland when he became AG. This is an excerpt from an NPR interview with her by Nina Totenberg last June.

BROWN JACKSON: I am a federal judge, which means people generally treat me with respect. But in the evenings, when I leave the courthouse and go home, all of my wisdom and knowledge and authority evaporates. My daughters make it very clear that as far as they’re concerned, I know nothing. I should not tell them anything, much less give them any orders, that is if they talk to me at all.

She’s got all the receipts and still gets “oh mother!” from her daughters!

From WaPo today:

Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She was born in Washington, the daughter of two graduates of historically Black colleges and universities who instilled in her a sense that she could do or be anything she set her mind to, she recalled in a speech in March.

In June, Biden nominated Jackson to fill Merrick Garland’s seat on the D.C. Circuit after Garland was confirmed as attorney general. This fueled speculation that she was on the president’s shortlist for potential justices because the D.C. court is considered the second-most powerful in the country and because high court nominees are traditionally chosen from the federal appeals bench.

Jackson has clerked for Breyer and for two other federal judges. She attended Harvard University as an undergraduate and a law student, serving as an editor for the Harvard Law Review. And her experience as a public defender has endeared her to the more liberal base of the Democratic Party.

From Business Insider:

The US Senate confirmed Jackson in 2013 to the federal trial court in Washington, DC, where she served for eight years before Biden put her on the powerful US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, a court that has served as a launch pad to the Supreme Court.

Jackson’s tenure as a federal district court judge was highlighted by an opinion in which she ordered former Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn to comply with a House Judiciary Committee subpoena to testify as part of the first impeachment inquiry into the former president. In a more than 100-page opinion, she forcefully rejected the Trump administration’s claims that a president’s close advisers are absolutely immune to demands for testimony before Congress.

The decision made waves with a single line: “Presidents are not kings.”

Jackson brings not just experience on the federal bench but a background that the Biden administration has sought out in its push to fill judicial vacancies.

Before she served on the US Sentencing Commission and on the federal bench, Jackson— a Harvard Law School graduate — worked as an assistant federal public defender in the District of Columbia.

“There could not be a better choice than her. She’s extremely intelligent, very hard-working, and — most importantly in my line of work — she’s compassionate and truly cares about the individuals who come before her,” said Jon Jeffress, who worked with Jackson in the federal public defender’s office in Washington, DC.

Next on the list is Leondra Kruger. This is from the WaPo link above too.

Leondra Kruger, 45, is a California Supreme Court justice. At the U.S. Department of Justice, she served as deputy solicitor general, the federal government’s second-ranking representative in arguments at the Supreme Court, before becoming one of the youngest people ever nominated to the high court in California, taking her seat in 2015.

During her tenure in the Office of the Solicitor General, Kruger argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court, according to her court biography.

She has previously rebuffed offers from the White House to take a job in the administration.

This is from the Reuters Tweet above.

Before she turned to law and became one of the youngest justices ever appointed to the California Supreme Court, Leondra Kruger had journalism in her blood.

Kruger, considered a potential U.S. Supreme Court nominee for President Joe Biden to replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, was editor-in-chief of her high school’s newspaper. Later, at Harvard University, she wrote for the daily student paper, the Crimson. While attending Yale Law School, she became editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal.

The reputation she gained as a young journalist for being thoughtful and careful has followed her to the judiciary, where the 45-year-old jurist has become known for her incremental approach to deciding cases.

Her moderate approach might help her win confirmation in a U.S. Senate evenly split between Democrats and Republicans if Biden chooses her to replace Breyer. Kruger would make history as the first Black woman to serve on the top U.S. judicial body.

Vox has a deep list of impressive black women serving as judges that make for a very long and deep bench. Vox is looking strictly at women younger than 55 which automatically means Lawyer Sharon Ifill — the former President and Director of NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund–did not make their cutoff.

Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi

Here are the justices proposed by VOX.

Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi — whom Biden appointed to the Seventh Circuit, which oversees federal litigation in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin — is a Yale law graduate who clerked for a federal circuit judge before entering practice. Although she was a partner at a large law firm immediately before her elevation to the bench, she spent 10 years as a public defender.

Judge Eunice Lee of the Second Circuit,

Similarly, Judge Eunice Lee, a Biden nominee to the Second Circuit, also graduated from Yale Law School and clerked for a federal appellate judge (Lee clerked for Judge Eric Clay of the Sixth Circuit, who I also clerked for). She has more than two decades of experience arguing appeals for indigent criminal defendants.

Here’s more on Judge Lee from News One.

Christina Swarns, executive director of The Innocence Project, tweeted in support of Lee’s confirmation. Swarns called Lee “absolutely brilliant” and “an exceptional addition” to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Lee and Swarns previously served together at the Office of the Appellate Defender in New York.

 Judge J. Michelle Childs, a federal district judge in South Carolina.

Judge Michelle Childs is getting a lot of attention for being from South Carolina and championed by Representative James Clyburn. She is still considered a long shot.

 Judge J. Michelle Childs, a federal district judge in South Carolina. Appointed to the bench by President Obama in 2009, Childs was the first Black woman to become a partner in one of South Carolina’s major law firms, according to the New York Times. She also held various positions in state government. Biden recently nominated her to a seat on the DC Circuit.

Childs’s best shot at a Supreme Court nomination stems from the fact that she has a powerful advocate. Rep. Jim Clyburn, a senior House Democrat who played a significant role in helping Biden win the presidential primary in South Carolina that reinvigorated his 2020 campaign, reportedly floated Childs as a potential Supreme Court justice.

The same New York Times article that reported Clyburn’s interest in Childs also mentioned two other names that “have caught the eye of lawmakers” — Danielle Holley-Walker, the young dean of Howard University’s law school, and Leslie Abrams Gardner, a federal district judge who is also the younger sister of Georgia politician and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams.

And, of course, there’s the Fox News Wipipo Outrage from their Talking Dickheads.

This is from the Huffpost link in the above Tweet. It’s written by Lee Moran.

“The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah on Thursday pointed out the basic flaw in an argument Fox News personalities are pressing against President Joe Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson have led the chorus of criticism on the conservative network, claiming Biden’s pledge is “beyond extremely divisive.”

But being a Black woman isn’t the sole qualification for the job, Noah noted.

“Biden is going to pick a Black woman who is also qualified,” he said. “These people act like Biden is just going to show up to the mall and be like, ‘Yo, Shaniqua, come with me.’”

“And why not try to make the Supreme Court a little more representative of the country it represents?” the comedian asked. “I mean, their rulings impact the lives of every person in the country.”

From Chait at New York Magazine:

President Biden has not named his choice to fill Stephen Breyer’s vacancy on the Supreme Court, but the first major talking point against her has already emerged: She is the unqualified product of affirmative action.

“Biden has unwisely limited his options by preemptively declaring during the 2020 campaign that his first Supreme Court nominee would be a black woman,” editorializes National Review. “In a stroke, he disqualified dozens of liberal and progressive jurists for no reason other than their race and gender. This is not a great start in selecting someone sworn to provide equal justice under the law.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial page clucks, “Mr. Biden’s campaign promise that he’d appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court is unfortunate because it elevates skin color over qualifications.” Cato’s Ilya Shapiro complained, before deleting the tweet, “Because Biden said he’s only consider black women for SCOTUS, his nominee will always have an asterisk attached.” Even grosser versions of the same basic idea are already emanating from the likes of Tucker Carlson.

Somehow the idea has taken hold that, before Biden came along and junked the standards, nominations to the Supreme Court used to be awarded solely on the basis of merit. The pick would go to the finest and most accomplished jurist in the land, like a law review editorship for the entire court system.

But when exactly did this era exist? Was it before 1967, when the most qualified judges were all white men? No, there was widely held to be a “Jewish seat” and a “Catholic seat” on the Court for decades during that time.

The basis for identity representation on the Court widened after the 1960s. Ronald Reagan promised during his 1980 campaign to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. George H.W. Bush did not openly say he needed a Black jurist to replace Thurgood Marshall, but it would take heroic levels of delusion to believe Clarence Thomas was selected on the basis of his career accomplishments.

Their hypocrisy and ability to lie know no boundaries.

Meanwhile, I’ll be looking forward to hearing a lot more about these fantastic judges!

Have a great weekend!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads

Robert Motherwell

Happy Monday Sky Dancers!

The Supreme Court continues to be the nightmare that right-wing Republicans intended it to be. Nearly all civil rights advances made in the last half of the century in this country are under attack.  The latest is affirmative action in higher education. Frankly, I think that white nationalists should be careful what they wish for on this topic because being one of those who just show up white guys and get rewarded is going to backfire on them.  I’ve been teaching graduate school for quite a while in math-heavy, tech-heavy finance, and economics. Few of them even get to the ABD stage. There are a huge number of American students that are a product of last century’s diasporas from Asia and the Middle East that can blow right past them with their math chops.  The lawsuit was filed by a group of Asian-American students.

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a challenge to the use of race in college admissions decisions, teeing up a potentially landmark showdown over affirmative action in higher education.

The case arose after a conservative-backed group, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), sued Harvard and the University of North Carolina, alleging the schools illegally discriminate against Asian American applicants.

The court’s announcement came in a brief order without noted comment or dissent. The cases, which have been consolidated, are expected to be heard during the court’s next term, which begins next fall.

The move rebuffed the Biden administration, which last month had asked the justices to turn away the challenge to Harvard University, arguing that the school’s admissions practices were lawful.

Harvard, in court papers, denied that its policy is discriminatory. The school accused SFFA of a brazen attempt to upend decades of precedent allowing schools to promote on-campus diversity by considering the racial makeup of their student bodies.

“Having failed to make the case that Harvard’s admissions practices contravene the court’s precedents governing the use of race in admissions, SFFA asks the court to overthrow them,” Harvard wrote in a filing last May. “But SFFA offers no legitimate justification for such an extraordinary step.”

SFFA alleges that Asian American applicants are held to a higher academic standard than other students. The group argues that Asian Americans are disadvantaged in the application process due to receiving lower “personal ratings” and are admitted at a lower rate than white applicants despite having higher test scores on average.

SFFA has asked the court to overturn Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 decision in which the Supreme Court upheld the right of college admissions boards to factor in applicants’ race in order to benefit minority groups and enhance diversity.

“Grutter’s core holding — that universities can use race in admissions to pursue student-body diversity — is plainly wrong,” the group wrote in its petition for appeal. The challengers say their case against Harvard’s policy gives the court an “ideal vehicle” for reevaluating its stance on affirmative action given the school’s outsize role in past rulings.

 

The suit is considered the most serious threat to affirmative action in decades according to NBC.

Despite similar challenges, the court has repeatedly upheld affirmative action in the past. But two liberal justices who were key to those decisions are gone — Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Their replacements, Trump appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, are conservative and considered less likely to find the practice constitutional.

In the latest case, groups backed by a longtime opponent of affirmative action, Edward Blum of Maine, sued Harvard and UNC in federal court, claiming that Harvard’s undergraduate admissions system discriminated against Asian American students and that UNC’s discriminated against both Asian American and white students. Lower courts ruled that the schools’ limited consideration of race was a legitimate effort to achieve a more diverse student body.

The lawsuits were targeted to challenge the admissions process at both a private and a public university.

The Supreme Court has long barred racial quotas in admissions. But it has allowed schools to consider a student’s race to be one “plus factor” among many other qualities, provided the admissions process looks at the overall qualifications of applicants and uses race no more than necessary to achieve a level of diversity.

The challengers in both cases, Students for Fair Admissions, urged the justices to overrule the court’s 2003 decision on affirmative action, which upheld the University of Michigan’s use of race as a plus factor and served as a model for similar admissions programs nationwide.

That decision “endorsed racial objectives that are amorphous and unmeasurable,” the challengers said in asking the Supreme Court to take their appeal. The Constitution requires equal protection and contains no exceptions, they said, contending that Harvard admits Asian Americans at lower rates than whites and values Black or Hispanic ethnicity more highly.

“If a university wants to admit students with certain experiences (say, overcoming discrimination), then it can evaluate whether individual applicants have that experience,” their brief said. “It cannot simply use race as a proxy for certain experiences or views.”

Munch: Brann på Grønland
Edvard Munch: “Brann på Grønland” (Fire at Grønland, a borough in Oslo), 1919-20.

Universities have long considered diverse student bodies–reflective of the country in its entirety–to be a good thing for higher education all around.  Geographic location is frequently used also to give all students a chance to see what life is like outside the vacuum where they were raised. Grades and tests scores are no longer considered the sole indicator of success at university and in life.

The Jane Mayer article at The New Yorker that I posted over the weekend on Ginnie Lamp Thomas and Clarence Thomas has become the center of controversy. It obviously put the couple in a bad light and frankly, I will argue they deserve it. But, I’ll leave that to Michael Tomasky writing for The New Republic. “The Case for Impeaching Clarence Thomas. The Supreme Court justice refuses to recuse himself from cases in which his right-wing activist wife, Ginni, has a clear interest. The Democrats should punish him for it.”

In a sane world, Jane Mayer’s excellent piece on Ginni Thomas in The New Yorker would set off a series of events that would lead to her husband Clarence Thomas’s impeachment and removal from the Supreme Court. Ginni is involved with numerous far-right organizations and schemes that take very public positions on court decisions across a range of social and political issues, such as last week’s 8–1 holding that Donald Trump could not block the release of documents related to the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

Thomas was the lone dissenter in that case. His wife sat on the advisory board of a group that sent busloads of insurrectionists to Washington on January 6. In addition, she cheered the insurrection on Facebook. It’s just the most recent example where she has been involved in activities that directly or indirectly place her activism before the court, and her husband does not care how corrupt it looks.

They’ve been doing this for years. This first occasion was back in 2000, in a case Mayer doesn’t even go into, when it was revealed after that election that as a Heritage Foundation staffer, Ginni was screening résumés for the incoming Bush administration while the nation awaited a ruling from the court on the Florida recount. There was pressure then on Thomas to recuse himself.

A decade later, when the first major Obamacare case came before the court, it was widely noted that Ginni’s group, Liberty Central, called the law a “disaster” and urged repeal. Again, there were calls for Thomas to recuse.

He didn’t do so in either case. And in the first one, he was part of the 5–4 majority in Bush v. Gore, one of the most self-discrediting decisions in the court’s history.

So for 20 years, Ginni Thomas has been operating in the white-hot center of far-right activist circles, involved in everything from Obamacare to abortion rights to same-sex marriage to you name it—all issues that have come before her husband. A more honorable man would recuse himself from all such cases or indeed quietly ask his spouse to find another, less incendiary line of work that has no impact on the appearance of her husband’s ethical standards.

Dr Rosa Schapire 1919 Karl Schmidt-Rottluff 1884-1976 Presented by the executors of Dr Rosa Shapire 1954 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N06248

The article continues to point out what the Democratic party has done which is nothing and to point out what the Republicans would’ve done if it were a wife a Democratic supreme court justice doing this instead.  It’s a good long read.

There was one good finding from SCOTUS. “Supreme Court turns away Rep. Kevin McCarthy challenge to House proxy voting during COVID-19”  This is from USA Today and John Fritze.

The Supreme Court on Monday turned away a GOP lawsuit challenging proxy voting rules set up by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in response to the pandemic.

The decision to not hear the case lets stand a federal appeals court ruling that said courts are barred from reviewing the internal rules of the House of Representatives.

Weeks after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the House approved a measure allowing lawmakers unable to come to Capitol Hill to designate another member as their “proxy” to cast floor votes on their behalf.

Republicans, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., sued Pelosi, contending that the Constitution does not allow proxy votes. That argument rests in part on the quorum clause, which requires a majority of the House to be present in order to conduct the chamber’s business. That clause also says a group smaller than a quorum may be authorized to “compel” the attendance of “absent members.”

The power to compel absent members to attend would make little sense, McCarthy told the court, if the framers of the Constitution did not expect lawmakers to vote in person.

And, if you want to see angry white male in action try this one:

I feel for this man’s son whose peanut allegery was triggered by something in his smoothy but wow, this is no way to handle a complaint to a small business.

I’m not sure how far behind the Rolling Stone paywall you’ll get but this is another one of those things that is shocking about the insurrection. This was reported by Andy Kroll: Start the Steal: New MAGA Emails Reveal Plot to Hand Arizona to Trump

The technology was complicated, but the plan was simple: Scan mail-in and absentee ballots in populous Maricopa County, remove the “invalid votes,” and recertify the state’s 2020 election count, surely declaring then-President Donald Trump the rightful winner.

This scheme to subvert the election outcome in Arizona is laid out in newly released emails obtained by Rolling Stone. Sent in early December 2020, the emails cover a critical moment when the post-election push by Trump and Republican allies to find fraud and overturn the presidential election was in full swing.

The emails show how a group of fringe election sleuths pressed state legislators on a plan to disrupt the 2020 election certification and potentially change the vote count in a battleground state that helped deliver Joe Biden the presidency. The emails also reveal that several Trump advisers, including campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis and legal adviser Bernie Kerik, were included in the discussion.

You also can read more at NBC News from  Jane C. Timm: Arizona Republicans propose major changes to elections after GOP review finds no fraud.

Arizona Republicans have put forth two dozen bills this month that would significantly change the state’s electoral processes after the GOP’s unorthodox review of millions of ballots affirmed President Joe Biden’s victory and turned up no proof of fraud.

Proposals introduced in the state House or the Senate would add an additional layer to the state’s voter ID requirement, such as fingerprints, and stipulate the hand counting of all ballots by default. Other legislation would require that paper ballots be printed with holograms and watermarks.

Republican legislators argue that the proposals, part an ongoing surge of GOP-led election changes enacted or under consideration across the country, are necessary to enhance election security and prevent fraud.

Official counts, audits and accuracy tests have confirmed the election results in Arizona and elsewhere without finding evidence of widespread fraud, and states with Republican and Democratic leaders have certified the results as accurate. Former President Donald Trump, who continues to promote the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, was unable to prove any of the claims in court. A coalition of federal agencies involved in election security, alongside representatives of election officials from each state, said the election was “the most secure in American history.”

The Legislature began its 2022 session on Jan. 12, and many of the bills have already been referred to committees for consideration. They face uncertain fates, as Republicans hold narrow majorities in the Senate, and a Republican, state Sen. Paul Boyer, said he would block bills he saw as unnecessary or problematic.

Some of the bills appear to be tied to conspiracy theories about the 2020 election that were elevated in the widely criticized ballot review state Senate Republicans orchestrated last year. Election experts said Cyber Ninjas, the company the legislators hired to examine millions of ballots in Maricopa County, had little to no experience with handling ballots, appeared to be looking for proof of conspiracy theories and misrepresented normal election processes in its final report as suggestive of fraud. Cyber Ninjas is accruing $50,000 a day in fines for refusing to respond to a court order requiring it to turn over documents related to its work.

Other bills, like one that would ban automatic voter registration from being implemented, appear to be designed to pre-empt provisions in national Democrats’ election overhaul legislation, which has stalled in the Senate.

Arizon is serious about disenfranching voters.

Anyway, I have to prepare for a Derivatives Class for Wednesday night where I get to work with a diverse number of students from all over. It’s always enlightening for me and it’s good to see the number of graduate students come with all kinds of different skills and input.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: SCOTUS=American Taliban

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American Taliban

Good Day, Sky Dancers.

As far as I’m concerned, the most important story today is that the corrupt U.S. Supreme Court is signaling the approaching death of reproductive rights for American women. I was so angry that I couldn’t sleep last night, and I’m not thinking too clearly this morning. As I’m sure you know, the Court allowed the insane Texas abortion ban to take effect around midnight on Tuesday, without explanation or comment. Late Wednesday night, the court released the justices’ opinions. The New York Times summarized all of them: Supreme Court, Breaking Silence, Won’t Block Texas Abortion Law.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s three liberal members in dissent.

The majority opinion was unsigned and consisted of a single long paragraph. It said the abortion providers who had challenged the law in an emergency application to the court had not made their case in the face of “complex and novel” procedural questions. The majority stressed that it was not ruling on the constitutionality of the Texas law and did not mean to limit “procedurally proper challenges” to it.

But the ruling was certain to fuel the hopes of abortion opponents and fears of abortion rights advocates as the court takes up a separate case in its new term this fall to decide whether Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to the procedure, should be overruled. It also left Texas abortion providers turning away patients as they scrambled to comply with the law, which prohibits abortions after roughly six weeks.

The “conservatives” were too cowardly to explain their votes, but the other four justices filed dissenting opinions

“The court’s order is stunning,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “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.”

“The court has rewarded the state’s effort to delay federal review of a plainly unconstitutional statute, enacted in disregard of the court’s precedents, through procedural entanglements of the state’s own creation,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “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.”

Chief Justice Roberts wrote that he would have blocked the law while appeals moved forward.

54c8b036fb764f80403fcfd33e35bd8bec-texas-abortion-ban.rsquare.w1200“The statutory scheme before the court is not only unusual, but unprecedented,” he wrote. “The legislature has imposed a prohibition on abortions after roughly six weeks, and then essentially delegated enforcement of that prohibition to the populace at large. The desired consequence appears to be to insulate the state from responsibility for implementing and enforcing the regulatory regime.”

The chief justice underscored the tentative nature of the majority’s ruling. “Although the court denies the applicants’ request for emergency relief today,” he wrote, “the court’s order is emphatic in making clear that it cannot be understood as sustaining the constitutionality of the law at issue.”

Justice Elena Kagan criticized the court’s practice of deciding important issues in rushed decisions without full briefing or oral argument — on what Supreme Court specialists call its “shadow docket.”

“Today’s ruling illustrates just how far the court’s ‘shadow-docket’ decisions may depart from the usual principles of appellate process,” she wrote. “That ruling, as everyone must agree, is of great consequence.”

“Yet the majority has acted without any guidance from the court of appeals — which is right now considering the same issues,” she wrote. “It has reviewed only the most cursory party submissions, and then only hastily. And it barely bothers to explain its conclusion — that a challenge to an obviously unconstitutional abortion regulation backed by a wholly unprecedented enforcement scheme is unlikely to prevail.”

“In all these ways,” Justice Kagan wrote, “the majority’s decision is emblematic of too much of this court’s shadow-docket decision making — which every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent and impossible to defend.”

“Today’s ruling illustrates just how far the court’s ‘shadow-docket’ decisions may depart from the usual principles of appellate process,” she wrote. “That ruling, as everyone must agree, is of great consequence.”

“Yet the majority has acted without any guidance from the court of appeals — which is right now considering the same issues,” she wrote. “It has reviewed only the most cursory party submissions, and then only hastily. And it barely bothers to explain its conclusion — that a challenge to an obviously unconstitutional abortion regulation backed by a wholly unprecedented enforcement scheme is unlikely to prevail.”

“In all these ways,” Justice Kagan wrote, “the majority’s decision is emblematic of too much of this court’s shadow-docket decision making — which every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent and impossible to defend.”

d9d58583-0b79-4b7c-a049-b373e5393510-RBB_Texas_rally_for_life_65707Justices Breyer and Kagan joined Roberts’ dissent, and Breyer also wrote his own dissent. Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: 

Breyer — who has spent the past year fending off calls from the left to step aside and let President Joe Biden appoint a successor while he has a Democratic majority in the Senate — wrote that it was true that the lawsuit raised difficult threshold questions about how this type of case could be handled by the courts. But he wrote that there had to be a way for courts to deal with an imminent violation of a party’s legal rights.

“There may be other not-very-new procedural bottles that can also adequately hold what is, in essence, very old and very important legal wine: The ability to ask the Judiciary to protect an individual from the invasion of a constitutional right — an invasion that threatens immediate and serious injury,” Breyer wrote.

Amber Phillips at The Washington Post: What to know about the Texas abortion law.

The law, which was passed in May and went into effect Wednesday, says that any pregnancy in which a heartbeat is detected cannot be aborted. That effectively means if you’re six weeks pregnant, you cannot have an abortion in the state of Texas, because that is around when most fetal cardiac activity can be detected. (Doctors opposed to this legislation say that is misleading language, and that the fluttering detected isn’t always necessarily a heartbeat so early in a pregnancy.)

The law makes no exceptions for rape, sexual abuse or incest.

The law does something else novel: It effectively incentivizes the public to police abortions. It allows people — anyone living in the state of Texas — to sue an abortion provider or anyone else they suspect is “aiding and abetting” abortions after that six-week mark. And the law sets a $10,000 award for any successful lawsuit to stop an abortion.

Taken together, those decisions allowed Texas lawmakers to essentially end abortions in their state, abortion rights activists say.

210831-MJF-texas-abortion-tase_jigpixOn the SCOTUS decision:

The court announced that a five-person conservative majority had decided to let the ban stand. The court’s most conservative justices, including the three President Donald Trump nominated, such as Amy Coney Barrett, decided to let the law stand. In a one-paragraph statement, these justices said there are “serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law,” but indicated that the way the law was set up, the court is unsure how to stop if from going into effect.

The three liberal justices, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., dissented. Roberts said he would stop the law from going into effect because it is so novel and far-reaching.

The justices didn’t say anything about whether the statute is constitutional. They just said it will stay in place while that question is litigated.

That was an unexpected move that could signal the court is ready to strike down Supreme Court precedent created nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade that guarantees a woman access to abortion services in the first half of her pregnancy before the fetus would be viable outside the womb,said Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, which supports municipalities in cases before the Supreme Court.

“The justices know that this Texas law violates Roe v. Wade. They all know that,” she said. To keep the law in place, “that still doesn’t overturn Roe v. Wade, it just makes a really big statement about what they think of it.”

Phillips notes that other Republican-controlled states are likely to quickly pass similar laws effectively banning abortion. Read about it at the WaPo link.

Joan Biscupic at CNN: In the shadows: Why the Supreme Court’s lack of transparency may cost it in the long run.

Supreme Court justices tout judicial integrity and the importance of public confidence in their decisions, but the court’s midnight silence Tuesday while letting a Texas law that curtails abortion rights take effect — followed by a midnight order Wednesday — offers the latest and most compelling example of its lack of transparency and the cost.

The justices’ secretive patterns have gained new attention as confidence in all government institutions has waned. Witnesses before a bipartisan commission set up by President Joe Biden to consider court revisions — most visibly, the options of term limits and the addition of more seats — have targeted the justices’ secrecy and how it contributes to public distrust of the high court, along with the lopsided advantage the court gives to some litigants.

Such lack of transparency is only part of the context behind the Supreme Court’s silence in the closely watched Texas case. The emboldened conservative majority already is poised to reverse or at least undercut Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that declared women’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy. The court announced last spring that it would take up in the 2021-22 session a dispute over Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. The Texas law goes much further, making it illegal to terminate a pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which may be typically around six weeks.

Both laws sharply conflict with Roe v. Wade, which forbade states from interfering with a woman’s abortion decision before the fetus would be viable, that is, able to live outside the womb, at about 22-24 weeks.

The justices have made plain their concerns regarding public mistrust and misunderstanding of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts regularly declares that judges differ from elected lawmakers, and Justice Stephen Breyer protested in a speech at Harvard last spring that they should not be regarded as “junior-varsity politicians.” Breyer cited the court’s long-standing preservation of abortion rights as evidence of its nonpartisan, nonideological character.

Separately last spring, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch emphasized in a joint appearance, advocating civics education, the deep reasoning that underlies their opinions. They criticized those who would look only for a bottom-line judgment.

Yet no judgment — or word of any sort — came late Tuesday night, with the clock ticking, anxiety rising among both sides in Texas and a national audience watching.

Read the rest at CNN.

More opinions:

Gail Collins at The New York Times: Texas Is Trying to Overturn Roe v. Wade All by Itself.

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Supreme Court Overturned Roe v. Wade in the Most Cowardly Manner Imaginable.

Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Opinion: Texas shows us what post-democracy America would look like.

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Republicans Are Giving Abortion Opponents Power Over the Rest of Us.

Any man who expresses “concerns” about women in Afghanistan needs to explain why they aren’t concerned about women in Texas and ultimately the entire U.S. Or they need to STFU!

Hang in there Sky Dancers!!