Supreme Court Strikes Down Campaign Donation Caps, Favoring Elite Moneybags

Everyone knows that influence in American politics is inextricably linked to how much money a candidate can raise from his or her supporters. Campaign money goes a long way when financing everything from posters and sidewalk signs to expensive commercials attacking an opponent. Such exposure can be a key factor in rallying public support and gathering influence during election cycles.

For better or for worse, it looks like this link between money and influence just got a heck of a lot stronger. In yesterday’s Supreme Court landmark ruling on the case of McCutcheon vs the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Chief Justice Roberts struck down caps on the total amount of money an individual can donate to candidates and political action committees during a two-year election cycle.

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts spells out the issue to be one of protecting our right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment, which extends to freedom of political speech as well. The Federal Election Campaign Reform Act of 1971, which was amended by a Supreme Court ruling in 1976, established that individuals’ right to donate money to the candidates and committees they support is regulated by Congress in interest of combating corruption in the political system. Read more…

My Semester With Professor John Sexton

This past semester, I spent two hours every Tuesday night with 15 fellow freshman in President Sexton’s seminar, the Supreme Court and the Religious Clauses. With weekly 5 page papers to write and the hundreds of pages of Supreme Court opinions to read,  it wasn’t an easy class by any means. Every Monday night – or Tuesday morning, if procrastination hit exceptionally hard – I’d wonder why the hell I’d ever thought taking the class was a good idea, as I summarized an especially sassy opinion by Justice Scalia or a 60-page nap-inducing dissent by Justice Brennan.   

Every class, though, I remembered exactly why the course was worth the coffee-powered all-nighters.

Contrary to what you might think, Sexton did not enter the classroom each week wearing the money suit from the Geico commercials made from the finest NYU tuition dollars. Rather, the same deep blue Brooklyn Prep sweatshirt seemed to suffice. From the first class, it became clear that the casual attitude didn’t stop at Sexton’s wardrobe. Very quickly, everyone in the class received a hug and an invitation to call him “John”. Read more…

Supreme Court To Hear A Republican Dream Case

While you were sleeping until 4PM and raiding the fridge over Thanksgiving break, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear two religious freedom cases on the birth control mandate in Obamacare: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. Now, I’m sure by now you are completely sick of hearing about Obamacare, but the upcoming court cases are about something bigger than the Affordable Care Act: the personhood of corporations.

Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts store owned by a devout Christian family, and Conestoga Wood, a cabinet manufacturer, both claim that the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate requiring employers to supply employees with birth control coverage violates their respective companies’ religious freedoms. In order to claim rights under the religious clauses of the First Amendment, the companies must prove Mitt Romney was correct all along. Not about gay marriage, 47% of Americans, or even his magic underwear. Rather, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood look to further enshrine in law Mitt Romney’s infamous reminder: “Corporations are people, my friend.” Read more…

Obama Adminsitration Quietly Tells Supreme Court To Ignore The NSA

While the recent government shutdown caused most politicians to deviate from their usual hijinks, the Obama administration’s lawyers have been up to something interesting this past week: the Justice Department is fighting an effort to have the Supreme Court review the legality of the NSA’s call-tracking program.

In a brief filed with the Supreme Court, the Justice Department argues that the petition filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) asking the justices to review the program is “premature” and that the issue should be allowed to percolate in the lower courts. Among other defenses, the administration said Friday that only phone companies can challenge the secret orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to hand over metadata of every call made to and from the United States. And who would ever doubt that the phone companies are always fighting tooth-and-nail for our rights?

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Antonin Scalia Is “Intelligently Sexist” And Believes In The Devil

You can always count on Justice Scalia to say something completely asinine and luckily, he didn’t disappoint in his latest interview with New York Magazine’s Jennifer Senior. From casual sexism to a bit of not-so-humble bragging, Scalia came down from his ivory tower to give America a glimpse into the world of (arguably) the most controversial Supreme Court justice.

Let’s just say, we learned a lot. But, at the same time, we’re busy college students and it was an eight page interview. In an effort to make your pursuit of enlightenment (wacky quotes) a little easier, here are some of the highlights.

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[VIDEO] NYU Local Talks Politics: What’s Up With Same-Sex Marriage’s Legal Future?

As you have probably heard by now (or seen everyone’s red-and-equal-sign Facebook profile photo), same-sex marriage came to the Supreme Court last week. The Nine heard from supporters and opposers on the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8 – two cases that could have tidal-wave shifts on the state of these laws across the country. Although cable news provided their fair share of coverage on the issue, we felt that the serious constitutional implications of the issue did not get their time of day.

We [the National Section Editors, John Surico and Jeremy Unger] spoke with NYU politics professor and law school affiliate Christine Harrington – for politics majors, you know her as the professor that teaches “Civil Liberties,” “Law and Society” and a few other constitutional seminars. Also, she predicted the outcome of the Obamacare case… so here’s our conversation with her about the legal battle for same-sex marriage in America.

‘My State Did What?!’: Bizarro North Dakota/Antonin Scalia Edition

A record high number of states are now governed solely by a one-party majority – which can then pass whatever legislation it likes. People don’t typically pay attention to state legislative races, and gerrymandered districts enable less-informed voters to pull the straight ticket and vote in all members of one party. The results can be hilarious… and terrifying. This series will focus on the bipartisan foibles of state government, especially around corruption, womens’ health and reproductive rights, and LGBT issues.

This week, we learned about two stories involving gender and sexuality issues in which Republicans do not want you to know what their actual position is.

We start in North Dakota, where apparently Roe vs. Wade never happened. Governor Jack Dalrymple has just signed into law a trio of laws that effectively ban abortion.

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Supreme Court Begins Hearings On Same-Sex Marriage; Prop 8′s Future In Question

Today, the Supreme Court weighs the constitutionality of California’s infamous Proposition 8, which declares that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” If the Court rules Prop 8 unconstitutional, gay marriage could become recognized nationally. However, if Justices rule otherwise, the choice to legalize gay marriage would be left to each state to decide individually.

Pete Williams of NBC News reported from outside the Supreme Court that there seemed to be “very little eagerness” from any of the Justices to embrace a broad ruling, but it’s possible that Justices will rule Prop 8 unconstitutional specifically in California. Read more…

The Supreme Court Considers: Is The South Still Racist?

Remember all that fuss during election season about unfair voting laws effectively keeping minorities from the polls? Well the election’s over (thank you, Jesus) but the problem persists. Now our highest court is scratching it’s head as SCOTUS reconsiders part of an old bill in a ruling that might bring us one step closer or father away from our most sacred tenet; universal suffrage.

The Voting Rights Act was a piece of legislation passed in 1965 and renewed in 2006 that works to protect against a broad spectrum of voter discrimination; it acts as a safeguard particularly against state-issued last-minute, trickster changes to voting requirements that might lead to any kind of voter suppression. Congress’ renewal of the Act means it’s law for the next 25 years. Read more…

Obama Administration Urges Supreme Court To Strike Down DOMA

The Obama administration seems to be serious with this whole, new-found support of gay marriage.

On Friday, the administration filed a legal brief with the Justice Department that urges the Supreme Court to strike down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act. The brief formally asks the court to declare Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional—the part that bars recognition of same-sex marriages for purposes of federal benefits such as income taxes or federal employee benefits. The brief points out that there are more than 1,000 federal statues and programs that come into play depending on a person’s marital status.

The Obama administration notes that some of these couples are legally married so targeting them is “a harsh form of discrimination that bears no relation to their ability to contribute to society.” Moreover, the brief states it violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.

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