SCOTUS: A Term In Review (Part 2 of 2) – RantAWeek

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SCOTUS: A Term In Review (Part 2 of 2)

Posted by mjdudak on July 3, 2013 at 11:53 pm
Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States (or SCOTUS) wrapped up. The 9 men and women that make up the highest court in the land ended their session with several landmark cases. RantAWeek breaks down four of them, these are the last two.
Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin
This case, in a surprising turn of SCOTUS-fate, broke down 7-1 (Kagan recused herself). The majority had both liberals (Sotomayer and Breyer) and conservatives (Kennedy, Alito, Thomas, Roberts and Scalia) leaving Ginsburg as the sole dissenter. The case began when Abigail Fisher, a young Texan woman, sued the University of Texas at Austin (therein referred to as UT) for admitting other students with lesser credentials because of their race allowing them to fit into an affirmative action plan. The lower courts that the case had gone through had sided with UT, meaning Fisher continued appealing until the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ultimately took a fairly moderate approach (something Congress cannot seem to do well), deciding that Affirmative Action is constitutional and legal, but it must follow a tighter set of standards. The Court established a test, called “strict scrutiny.” Essentially, courts must establish that use of race to develop a diverse student body is absolutely necessary. That is to say that all other methods have or absolutely would fail. In all, the Court determined that affirmative action is almost a last ditch effort to develop diversity in universities.
Shelby County v. Holder
In this case, the Court went back to good-ole party lines. The majority was the conservatives (Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts) and the swing (Kennedy), while the dissenters were the liberals (Ginsburg, Sotomayer, Kagan and Breyer). The case started with Shelby County, Alabama suing the Department of Justice for the Voting Rights Act (VRA), seeking a permanent injunction on the enforcement of that law. The district court sided with the DOJ, and it was appealed, where the appellate court affirmed the district court’s decision. As a bit of background, the VRA requires all state and local government with a history of discriminatory voting practices to get approval from the federal government before instituting any voting changes. The Supreme Court kept Section 5 of the VRA, which sets out the approval process, but struck down Section 4, which establishes which state and local government must follow Section 5. This effectively left that aspect of the VRA dead, but not impossible to resurrect. However, the key move was that the Court handed the job of determining which state and local governments apply over to Congress, which will pretty much kill it given that Congress will be very unlikely to agree on anything. Meaning that, without directly killing it, the Court killed it.
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  • On July 4, 2013 at 10:30 pm Anonymous said

    Do past Supreme Courts have a history of being as political as this one?


    • On August 19, 2013 at 11:56 pm Matthew Dudak said

      Not as political. Many SCOTUS followers continually cite this court as the most polarized in history.


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