June 27, 2019

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Thursday that the Trump administration cannot add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The court said the administration's explanation for the addition was insufficient, though Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was within his authority when adding the question. "We are presented, in other words, with an explanation for agency action that is incongruent with what the record reveals about the agency's priorities and decisionmaking process," reads the decision. Opponents of the addition feared a question about citizenship could suppress representation and funding allocation for areas with many undocumented immigrants, who may avoid the census entirely as a result of the question.

The limited ruling was supported by the court's more liberal justices, along with Chief Justice John Roberts. "We cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made [to include the citizenship question] and the explanation given [of Voting Rights Act enforcement]," the concurring justices wrote. The dissenting justices only dissented "in part" with the ruling.

While the ruling is a win for states that sued to stop the question from being added, the court didn't close the matter entirely — it sent the case back to a lower court for further review, reports HuffPost. The Trump administration could continue to fight the case, and attempt to come back with a stronger explanation that the court might accept, though there may not be time before the census must be finalized and printed for distribution. Additionally, the court left the door open for the question to be added in future years.

Read the full opinion here. Summer Meza

May 24, 2019

The Supreme Court has blocked lower court rulings that required Ohio and Michigan's electoral maps to be immediately redrawn, NBC News reported Friday.

Previous court rulings had determined Ohio's map of congressional districts, and Michigan's map of congressional and state legislative districts, needed to be redrawn ahead of the 2020 election due to unconstitutional gerrymandering, in both cases favoring Republicans. But the Supreme Court on Friday put these orders on hold.

The justices are currently reviewing two gerrymandering cases, one concerning North Carolina and one concerning Maryland, during which they will decide whether the court has a role in such a matter. Verdicts are expected to be reached in these cases by the end of next month. Read more at The Washington Post. Brendan Morrow

July 9, 2018

President Trump said Sunday that he's "very close to making a final decision" on his nominee for the Supreme Court, adding that four people are on his final list: Federal appellate court judges Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge, Amy Coney Barrett, and Thomas Hardiman.

Trump is said to be relishing the reality TV-like rollout of his nominee, who will then face Senate confirmation to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. It's not clear how undecided Trump actually is, though the White House has prepared promotional material on all four prospective nominees. Trump has reportedly spent the weekend discussing his options with top aides and friends, including Fox News host Sean Hannity, over golf at his company's club in New Jersey. Peter Weber

July 4, 2018

President Trump continued his push to quickly interview potential Supreme Court picks, meeting with three more on Tuesday after talking to four on Monday.

"These are very talented people, brilliant people," Trump said Tuesday during an appearance in West Virginia. "We're going to give you a great one." Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) already has expressed reservations about one top contender, federal appeals judge Brett Kavanaugh, reportedly over his past decisions on health care. Republicans have a narrow 51-49 majority, so any defections could threaten the confirmation of Trump's nominee.

Trump's replacement of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, a longtime moderate conservative swing vote, could influence decisions on contentious issues, including abortion and gay marriage, for a generation. Harold Maass

June 27, 2018

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision Wednesday that public employee unions cannot charge nonmembers fees or dues, overruling a 41-year-old precedent, the Los Angeles Times reports. The decision in Janus v. AFSCME is a massive blow to public-sector unions and organized labor; it voids laws in 20 states including California and New York, in which all public employees were required to pay "fair share fees" to cover collective bargaining.

"We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion. In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the court's decision will have "large-scale consequences. Public employee unions will lose a secure source of financial support. State and local governments that thought fair-share provisions furthered their interests will need to find new ways of managing their workforces. Across the country, the relationships of public employees and employers will alter in both predictable and wholly unexpected ways."

An estimated 5 million public employees are affected by the decision. Jeva Lange

June 22, 2018

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Carpenter v. United States on Friday that law enforcement needs a warrant in order to track a person's location information from cellphone towers over an extended period of time, NBC News reports. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberals on the decision, writing in the opinion that people "compulsively carry cellphones with them at all times," making monitoring that data "near perfect surveillance" akin to attaching "an ankle monitor to the phone's user."

The government had argued unsuccessfully that "cellphone users voluntarily reveal to their providers information about their proximity to cell towers" so customers "cannot reasonably expect that the providers will not reveal that business information to the government." Jeva Lange

June 21, 2018

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday in South Dakota v. Wayfair that states can require online retailers to collect sales tax, even if the business has no physical presence in the purchaser's state. The decision was 5-4, with Justices John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan in dissent.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion, saying that "the internet's prevalence and power have changed the dynamics of the national economy." The court overruled the 1992 decision in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, which held that for a state to collect sales tax from an online retailer, the retailer would have to have a physical location of business in that state.

The decision is seen as a win for local businesses and governments. Read the decision here. Jeva Lange

June 18, 2018

The Supreme Court on Monday opted not to rule in two partisan gerrymandering cases, putting off a decision on whether state election maps can be drawn in a way that helps keep political parties in power, reports The Washington Post.

The justices decided to sidestep what would have been a landmark decision related to cases in Wisconsin and Maryland, where challengers argue the election maps are unfairly drawn with overt political animus. The cases could be reconsidered next term after they are retried in lower courts, but the Supreme Court chose not to consider a ruling yet because of procedural faults.

Justices sided with a district judge in the Maryland case, agreeing that it was not clear whether the state's electoral map violated the Constitution. They also said that it wasn't clear whether any rights had been violated in the Wisconsin case. In both cases, all Supreme Court judges ruled unanimously, reports the Post.

Gerrymandering based on factors like racial demographics has been deemed unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court has never ruled on partisan gerrymandering. Any ruling on the practice would have major implications, as many states engage in some level of gerrymandering to benefit the dominant party. The ongoing cases have been punted down the line for now, but the justices expressed interest in soon taking a closer look at what Justice Elena Kagan called a practice that "burdens" and "harms" voters everywhere. Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

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