US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor participates in a conversation with University of California Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, credit CNN.jpg


Wednesday January 31, 2024

01.31.24Carlos Aguilar

Tired of the judiciary’s rightward shift? Become a judge and take back power

Say It Louder

Judge Gavel, credit Balls and Strikes

Jenny Hunter is a labor lawyer, consultant, and writer whose work has been published in Slate, The Washington Post, and OnLabor.

Most lawyers have a mental image of the type of person who becomes a federal judge. He’s a white man who attended an Ivy League law school, clerked for one or more “feeder” judges, and worked for a BigLaw firm and/or as a prosecutor. If he’s a Republican, he’s active in the Federalist Society, and met Leonard Leo at a party once, although he only talks about that among friends. If he’s a Democrat, he’s vague about why that is, but happy to expound at length about some tech industry case he’s working on. His primary character trait is ambition. He wouldn’t let anyone take his picture in law school if he was holding a beer because it might come up in his confirmation hearing. 

Donald Trump and Joe Biden have both done a lot to disrupt this template, in opposite directions. Trump named a historic number of judges and largely outsourced his selection process to Leo and the Federalist society, who were happy to surface trolly bloggers, ghost hunters, and various other cranks devoted to waging right-wing culture wars. On the flip side, Biden has done an impressive job of nominating more women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and lawyers who spent their careers protecting the rights of regular people rather than amassing more power for the powerful. To date, 62 percent of Biden’s nominees have been people of color. Under Trump, the number was 16 percent.

Read the rest on Balls & Strikes

Justice Sotomayor is traumatized by her conservative colleagues

Speaking Of...

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor opened up on Monday about the “frustration” she said she experiences daily as the high court’s conservative supermajority continues to move the country further to the right.

“I live in frustration. And as you heard, every loss truly traumatizes me in my stomach and in my heart. But I have to get up the next morning and keep on fighting,” Sotomayor, the court’s senior liberal member, said at an event at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

“How can you look at those people and say that you’re entitled to despair? You’re not. I’m not,” she said, responding to a question from the school’s dean about how students there increasingly feel discouraged by the current court and how it’s shaping American law. “Change never happens on its own. Change happens because people care about moving the arc of the universe toward justice, and it can take time and it can take frustration.” 

Read the rest on CNN

State judges keep issuing devastating rebukes of the Supreme Court

More Of This

Activists protest during a Bans Off Our Bodies rally in support of abortion rights in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, credit Angela Weiss:AFP via Getty Images.jpeg

The Supreme Court’s eradication of the constitutional right to abortion in 2022’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization had an immediate and devastating impact on gender equality in the United States. With a single ruling, five justices wiped out millions of women’s access to basic health care and handed control over their medical decisions to politicians and judges. It wasn’t just the court’s judgment, though, that relegated women to a lesser place in the constitutional order; it was also the court’s reasoning, which used the centurieslong oppression of women to justify an ongoing oppression of women by way of a deprivation of their rights. Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion rested largely on the views of dead white men who condoned the rape, beating, and murder of women to maintain female subjugation in every realm of life. And he dismissed his ruling’s ruinous impact on gender equality in a single conclusory paragraph asserting that abortion restrictions could not possibly discriminate against women.

This week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court responded to that conclusion: no. 

Read the rest on Slate 

Texas is defying the Supreme Court, and it SCOTUS only has itself to blame

Less Of This

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, credit Callaghan O’Hare, Reuters, Redux.jpg

Ulysses S. Grant once said that the Confederate cause, the defense of chattel slavery, was “one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.” Texas’s embrace of neo-secessionist rhetoric in defense of letting children drown in the Rio Grande belongs somewhere on that same list.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is engaged in a number of legal battleswith the Biden administration over immigration. One of them involves Abbott ordering the Texas National Guard to set up razor wire and floating barriers in an effort to deter migrants. The federal government argues that those barriers have also blocked Border Patrol from being able to arrest and process migrants in accordance with federal law. Earlier this month, a woman and two children drowned in the Rio Grande, the river that runs along the border with Mexico. A short time later, when Border Patrol was alerted to two other migrants in distress, National Guardsmen reportedly prevented federal agents from reaching them. In 2023, the Houston Chronicle reported that a Department of Public Safety trooper wrote to his supervisor that officers were told “to push small children and nursing babies back into the Rio Grande, and have been told not to give water to asylum seekers even in extreme heat.”

Read the rest on The Atlantic