Playground Case Could Breach Barrier Between Tax Coffers, Religious Schools Nina Totenberg – April 19, 20175:07 AM ET


Children play on a swing set at the Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center playground in Columbia, Mo. Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom

The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday in a Missouri case with the potential to open grant programs to parochial schools.

Monday’s showdown pitting school choice and religious liberty advocates against taxpayer groups and civil libertarians has been long in coming. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley Pauley being the director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources at the time — in January 2016.

A month later, Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly, leaving an eight-justice court that was deeply divided on questions concerning the separation of church and state. For nearly a year and a half, the justices punted, declining to hear oral arguments in the case until the court was back up to full strength.

Now that day has come — sort of. A funny thing happened on the way to the Supreme Court that’s explained in detail below.

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How to fix the Supreme Court – Ezra Klein Apr 14, 2017, 11:10am EDT


The way we choose Supreme Court nominees is broken. Here’s how to fix it.

(Shutterstock)

It’s worth taking a step back to realize just how broken the process for selecting Supreme Court justices now is.

In 2016, Senate Republicans responded to Antonin Scalia’s death by inventing and establishing the absurd faux principle that open seats on the Supreme Court cannot be filled in an election year. Given that America hosts national elections one out of every two years, that means, in theory, that Supreme Court seats should remain unfilled fully 50 percent of the time.

But it gets worse. Democrats, infuriated by the GOP’s treatment of President Obama and Merrick Garland, filibustered Neil Gorsuch — the kind of broadly qualified nominee who would’ve passed easily in previous eras. In response, Senate Republicans eliminated the filibuster on Supreme Court nominations.

What we are seeing here is a case of what the political scientist Steven Smith calls “Senate syndrome”: One side breaks a norm or rule, then the other side breaks another in response, and the tit-for-tat escalates until the underlying process is in ruins. That’s now happened with Supreme Court nominations.

Here, in truth, is where the past few years have left us. The minority party no longer holds a scintilla of power over Supreme Court picks. The majority party can and will jam whomever they want onto the Court, where that person will serve for life. But in times when the Senate and the White House are controlled by different parties — which happens fairly often — there’s almost no chance that any seat on the Court will be filled.

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Anthony Kennedy Is Not Stupid – By Dahlia Lithwick and Neil S. Siegel – FEB. 5 2017


He’s not going to step down just because one decent conservative judge was nominated to the Supreme Court.

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy arrives for the funeral of Antonin Scalia on Feb. 20, 2016, in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

There has been a lot of chatter in the media about the strategic considerations behind the selection of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Was it a move made at least in part to mollify Justice Anthony Kennedy about the direction of the court on Donald Trump’s watch and thus to coax him into retirement? As Peter Baker reported this week in the New York Times, “The idea is to show Justice Kennedy, 80, that should he step down at some point, Mr. Trump would select as his replacement a nominee similar to Judge Gorsuch, and not one so inflammatory or outside the mainstream as to be unacceptable to Justice Kennedy.”

The question then becomes whether the selection of Gorsuch, by all accounts a bright, likable, and temperate jurist, is going to reassure Kennedy that he can safely leave the court, and his judicial legacy, in the hands of a Justice Gorsuch and a President Trump.

That’s doubtful. Here’s a question you might find useful in pondering this problem: What does Gorsuch think about Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), Lawrence v. Texas (2003), U.S. v. Windsor (2013), and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)?

These are the cases in which Kennedy, in his role as “swing voter,” respectively preserved the core of the abortion right protected in Roe v. Wade; struck down Texas’ ban on same-sex intimacy; rejected the Defense of Marriage Act’s discriminatory definition of marriage as limited to opposite-sex couples; and held that the fundamental right to marry that the court has long protected includes same-sex marriage. Gorsuch almost certainly believes that all of Kennedy’s opinions in these cases were deeply misguided.

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The Supreme Court Just Agreed to Hear a Case that Could Destroy Roe v. Wade – —By Hannah Levintova | Fri Nov. 13, 2015 2:39 PM EST


This will be the high court’s first abortion case in nine years.

Steve Petteway/ Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

On Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear its first abortion case in nine years. At issue in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole is HB 2, an omnibus Texas abortion law that made national headlines in 2013 after Texas Sen. Wendy Davis spent 11-hours filibustering the bill that eventually passed anyway.

Since 1992, the court has ruled on three abortion cases, each time affirming further abortion restrictions. In 1992, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a divided court upheld the right to abortion, but left it to the states to set abortion restrictions, saying that these regulations can’t put an “undue burden” on abortion access. This broad ruling opened the door for the hundreds of so-called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers or TRAP laws that states have passed in recent years—onerous regulations placed on abortion providers, often purporting to protect women’s health. In its last ruling in 2007, the court upheld a law outlawing dilation-and-extraction second-trimester abortions. If the court continues its pattern of voting against abortion rights and rules to allow Texas to move forward with several burdensome abortion restrictions, it will open the door for other states to do the same, dealing a serious blow to the right to legal abortion guaranteed by Roe v. Wade.

“The Court now has the opportunity to decide whether we will continue to allow elected officials to play politics with women’s health.”

“The Court now has the opportunity to decide whether we will continue to allow elected officials to play politics with women’s health,” wrote Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a statement. “This case represents the greatest threat to women’s reproductive freedom since the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade over 40 years ago. Laws like the ones being challenged in Texas are designed to subvert the Constitution and end the right to a safe and legal abortion.”

In this case, the justices are expected to focus on two of the Texas law’s most onerous requirements: that abortions be performed in ambulatory surgical centers, hospital-like facilities that specialize in outpatient surgery, and the requirement that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Many medical professionals argue that these restrictions put unnecessary burdens on abortion providers: Building and maintaining an ASC is expensive, given the strict requirements regarding features like hallway width and ventilation. Nor do ASCs enhance the standard of care for abortion; the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical groups have repeatedly noted that the procedure can be safely performed in a typical doctor’s office. The admitting privileges’ provision gives hospitals in conservative communities or with a religious affiliation the power to effectively stop abortions by denying the necessary admission privileges to doctors.

“The common-sense measures Texas has put in place elevate the standard of care and protect the health of Texas women,” wrote Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a statement released following Friday’s Supreme Court’s announcement. “We look forward to demonstrating the validity of these important health and safety requirements in Court.”

The number of abortion clinics in Texas has already been cut by more than half, as elements of HB 2, such as restrictions on medication abortion, a 20 week abortion ban, and the admitting privileges requirement, have gone into effect over the last two years. Before the law, there were 41 clinics in Texas. Today, there are 18. As my colleague Molly Redden reported in September, this has created large swathes of the state where women must travel hundreds of miles to get abortion care. If the Supreme Court upholds HB2 in full, including the ambulatory surgical center requirement, the number of abortion clinics in Texas could fall to ten.

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