The rise of progressive judges
Say It Louder
Janet Protasiewicz’s victory in the Wisconsin supreme court race on Tuesday amounted to a political earthquake in Wisconsin, one of America’s most volatile political battlegrounds.
Her victory underscores the continued political salience of abortion rights for Democrats. Her election to the court means that the Wisconsin 1849 abortion ban will be struck down (a case is already coming through the courts). Just as they did across the country in 2022, Democrats made it a central issue in the supreme court campaign and voters turned out.
“Wisconsin voters have made their voices heard. They’ve chosen to reject partisan extremism,” Protasiewicz said during remarks at her election night party in Milwaukee. “It means our democracy will always prevail.”
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The power of state supreme courts
Kent Hull is a lawyer and adjunct law professor who litigated civil rights and poverty law cases in federal and state courts for more than four decades.
In 1977, after two decades on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice William Brennan wrote a law review article summarizing three of the Court’s major achievements under Chief Justice Earl Warren. First, he highlighted the Warren Court’s groundbreaking equal protection decisions, headlined by Brown v Board of Education, which forbade racial segregation in schools, and Baker v. Carr, which imposed a “one person, one vote” standard in state legislative apportionment. Second, its due process jurisprudence, exemplified by Goldberg v. Kelly, which required state public assistance programs to provide recipients the opportunity for a hearing before termination of benefits. Lastly, Brennan lauded decisions related to the “administration of the justice system,” such as Mapp v. Ohio, which required state courts to exclude illegally seized evidence from criminal trials.
Brennan wrapped by reiterating the importance of the legal system’s role in protecting Americans from “arbitrary action” by the government. “Only if the amendments are construed to preserve their fundamental policies will they ensure the maintenance of our constitutional structure of government for a free society,” he wrote. “For the genius of our Constitution resides not in any static meaning that it had in a world that is dead and gone, but in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with the problems of a developing America.”
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We need more civil rights lawyers
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Joanna Schwartz is a law professor at UCLA and the author of Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable.
For decades, a myth about civil-rights lawyers has been spread by court decisions, legislative testimony, and popular culture. Courthouses, the story goes, are filled to the brim with plaintiffs’ attorneys desperate to make a dollar off someone else’s misery; ambulance chasers all too happy to file frivolous civil-rights cases and squeeze a few bucks out of a cash-strapped city that would otherwise spend the money on its community center or library.
In fact, the opposite is true. The cities of the Great Migration—New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia—are home to small, tight-knit communities of experienced civil-rights lawyers. Yet few practice outside those urban areas, and they are in particularly short supply in the South. As a result, many people who have suffered clear constitutional violations can’t find a lawyer to take their case. And they are unlikely to want to go it alone. Winning is hard even when you have a lawyer; you’re almost certain to lose if you don’t.
Read the story on The Atlantic
Conservative judge blocks anti-drag law
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Bella DuBalle, an ordained minister and drag queen living in Tennessee, woke up one morning and found herself trending on TikTok. Someone had recorded a video of her giving a speech in protest of Tennessee Senate Bill 3, which would place broad restrictions on drag performances.
On Saturday, the day S.B. 3 was intended to go into effect, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the law’s implementation for at least 14 days, ruling that it likely violates the First Amendment. As other states introduce similar anti-drag laws, the eventual ruling on this law has sweeping implications for LGBTQ+ rights.
S.B. 3 expands the definition of adult cabaret entertainment—originally confined to topless dancers and strippers—to include performances by “male or female impersonators” that are “harmful to minors” as defined by the state’s obscenity code. Under Tennessee’s S.B. 3, it would be a criminal offense for a person to perform adult cabaret entertainment on public property or in a location where it could be viewed by a minor. Drag queens like Bella would be viewed as “female impersonators,” and if they continue to perform in public, they risk facing a misdemeanor for a first offense and up to six years in jail thereafter.
Read the story on Slate