Vanita Gupta, 2021 Credit...Anna Moneymaker


Wednesday September 28, 2022

09.28.22Carlos Aguilar

The women who used the law to challenge Trump

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Vanita Gupta, 2021 Credit...Anna Moneymaker

In 1873, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that women had no constitutional right to practice law. Indeed, as Dahlia Lithwick notes in this stirring book, a justice explained that the “natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life.” But, in reaction, women mobilized to change the laws — and, ultimately, to become lawyers themselves.

“Lady Justice” focuses specifically on the women who, since the election of 2016, have mobilized against Trumpism and its threats to the rule of law. Combining biography and analysis, Lithwick — a lawyer and writer who covers legal matters for Slate — profiles several members of the profession who may not yet be household names, but who have, in her view, done real work to save American democracy. From Sally Yates and Becca Heller, who fought against the  travel ban on Muslim-majority nations in the earliest days of Trump’s presidency, to Brigitte Amiri and Vanita Gupta, two women of immigrant backgrounds who resisted, among other things,  the president’s efforts to prevent abortions and separate families at the U.S.-Mexico border, “Lady Justice” illustrates how “in a constitutional democracy, enduring power lies in the people who step into the fight.” Lithwick’s approach, interweaving interviews with legal commentary, allows her subjects to shine. She unabashedly casts them as heroines with the tenacity and courage to resist governmental pressure at crucial moments, but at the same time she rejects a simplistic, naïve narrative of social progress.

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Ginni Thomas has become unhinged

Less of This

Ginni Thomas has become a problem.

You don’t have to be a left-wing, anti-Trump minion of the deep state to think it’s a bad look for American democracy to have the wife of a Supreme Court justice implicated in a multitentacled scheme to overturn a free and fair presidential election. But that is where this political moment finds us.

A longtime conservative crusader, Ms. Thomas increasingly appears to have been chin deep in the push to keep Donald Trump in power by any means necessary. Her insurrection-tinged activities included hectoring everyone from state lawmakers to the White House chief of staff to contest the results. She also swapped emails with John Eastman, the legal brains behind a baroque plot to have Vice President Mike Pence overturn the election that may have crossed the line from sketchy into straight-up illegal. Along the way, Ms. Thomas peddled a cornucopia of batty conspiracy theories, including QAnon gibberish about watermarked ballots in Arizona.

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State judges ask SCOTUS to reject conservative legal movement

Say It Louder

“It’s the biggest federalism issue in a long time,” Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court said on the phone the other day. “Maybe ever.”

He was explaining why the Conference of Chief Justices, a group representing the top state judicial officers in the nation, had decided to file a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in a politically charged election-law case. The brief urged the court to reject a legal theory pressed by Republicans that would give state legislatures extraordinary power.

Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a law professor at Harvard, said the brief underscored how momentous the decision in the case could be. “It’s highly unusual for the Conference of Chief Justices to file an amicus brief in the Supreme Court,” he said. “It’s even rarer for the conference to do so in a controversial, ideologically charged case.”

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Get ready for a whole new level of power imbalance at the Supreme Court

Speaking Of...

An air of inevitability hangs over the US Supreme Court. Gone is the 8-foot-high fencing around the majestic building, erected to keep out protesters after an unprecedented leak in May revealed the court was poised to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion. But inside the marble walls, where the justices return on Oct. 3 for their next nine-month term, the court has an ambitious agenda—one by all appearances destined to fulfill more conservative wish-list items that will exacerbate the nation’s political and cultural divides.

Overturning Roe v. Wade with the Dobbs decision in June was merely the biggest jolt in a term that ushered in major doctrinal changes. The conservative majority created a new “history and tradition” test to strike down a century-old New York restriction on concealed-carry handgun permits. The court established the “major questions doctrine” as a powerful curb on federal regulators, using it to restrict what the Environmental Protection Agency can do to tackle climate change without clear congressional authorization. And in ruling that a public school football coach could pray at midfield after games, the justices jettisoned a 51-year-old precedent that had kept the government from promoting religion.

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