FROM Robert Barnes
Do police need a warrant to monitor your cell phone? The Supreme Court heard arguments in a major case over what’s become an elemental part of American life: the cell phone. Specifically, it’s considering whether the police need a warrant to get cell tower records to track your whereabouts.
'Conservative' courts and judicial activism Our first topic on this program was the national crisis over Bush v. Gore, when the US Supreme Court decided the 2000 presidential election. Florida's state courts were summarily over-ridden — by Supreme Court justices who'd promised to uphold states' rights and by a 5-to-4 decision declared George W. Bush the winner. One dissenter called the majority "crudely partisan." On this last week before To the Point turns to podcasting only, we hear what's happening now. From the Supreme Court on down, President Trump has promised to choose judges from lists of conservative activists.
Justice John Roberts' best writing: A 9th grade commencement speech In June, Chief Justice John Roberts’ son, Jack, graduated from the Cardigan Mountain School — an elite boys’ junior high in New Hampshire. Justice Roberts delivered the commencement address. He said he would depart from tradition and not wish the graduating class “good luck." Robert Barnes, who covers the Supreme Court for the Washington Post , has more on the best thing the Chief Justice wrote this term.
Can President Trump 'pack' the federal court system? Judge Neil Gorsuch is likely to be confirmed to the US Supreme Court, and there may be other vacancies in the next four years. In addition, 124 judicial benches are open in federal appellate and district courts all over the country, and more retirements are inevitable. As long as Republicans dominate the Senate, there's a real chance that Mr. Trump could push the system to the Right for generations. That's been the goal of so-called "dark money" spent by shadowy billionaires to make American institutions more to their liking.
Trump denounces judge's ruling over travel ban President Trump took a shot at the federal judiciary today in a speech to the police chiefs of major cities . He addressed threats of crime -- and Judge James Robart's temporary restraining order against his ban on refugees and immigrants from seven mostly-Muslim countries. "I don't ever want to call a court biased so I won't call him biased and we haven't had a decision yet but courts seem to be so political and it would be so great if our justice system would be able to read a statement and do what's right and that has to do with the security of our country which is so important." A three-judge appellate panel is now considering Trump's appeal of Judge Robert's restraining order. Robert Barnes, Supreme Court reporter for the Washington Post , has more on trump's reaction and his speech today to law enforcement.
Will the US Supreme Court Shift into Neutral? Blockbuster decisions expected this year could end up instead with opinions divided between four conservatives and four liberals. Since Congress hasn't replaced the late Antonin Scalia, majorities have already been hard to come by, and some predict deadlock for as much as another year, although a decision that came down today may be an exception to what's on the agenda between now and next Monday. We hear about the possible options for race-based college admissions , deportation of undocumented immigrants and unwanted pregnancies .
Undocumented Parents and the Supreme Court Today the Supreme Court heard a case that could determine the fate of President Obama's most sweeping executive action on deportation. It would also drastically change the lives of some four million undocumented immigrants in the US. The President's 2014 plan would delay the deportation of parents of children who are US citizens or permanent legal residents, and offer them temporary work permits. But it's been on hold since it was announced 18 months ago because of court challenges, leaving immigrants across the nation in limbo -- the majority of whom have been in the country for ten years or more. The case lands in a presidential campaign already swirling with talk of a wall on the Mexican border. Will the shorthanded high court end in a 44 deadlock?
North Carolina’s Election Law Tests Voting Rights in a New Era In a federal court in North Carolina, arguments are wrapping up in a case with potential significance for the voting rights of minorities and young people. Two years ago, the US Supreme Court freed mainly Southern states from having to get federal approval before changing their voting laws. Photo: David Sachs/SEIU North Carolina Republicans immediately passed limits on some voting procedures. The NAACP and the ACLU are among those suing to restore federal oversight under the Voting Rights Act — and they’re joined by the Obama Administration. Robert Barnes is Supreme Court reporter for the Washington Post .
Four Words and Seven Million Americans The Supreme Court found Obamacare to be constitutional two years ago. Today it was asked to decide a legal challenge . Does the law provide that subsidies for low-income people apply only where health insurance markets have been "established by the state?" The Court's interpretation of those four words could determine if subsidies are valid for seven million people who signed up where the federal government established the markets. It's a case deeply rooted in partisan politics. Four liberal court members and two conservatives made clear what they think. Chief Justice John Roberts could be the decider — but he was hardly heard from.
The Cases that Could Settle Gay Marriage at the Supreme Court When the US Supreme Court declined to hear same-sex marriage cases earlier this year, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said there was no rush — because there was no disagreement among the lower courts. Now there is. In Cincinnati yesterday, the 6 th federal Circuit Court of Appeals upheld bans on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky. Robert Barnes covers the Supreme Court for the Washington Post .
Nearing an End-Game on Same-Sex Marriage? It's been almost a year since the Supreme Court tossed the issue of same-sex marriage back to state legislatures and lower courts. Now lawsuits are pending in all but five states. This month, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard cases regarding same-sex marriage in Utah and Oklahoma, both of which struck down bans. Next month a circuit court in Virginia will consider the constitutionality of that state's ban. Michigan and Texas also have appeals in the works. Polls show that support for gay marriage is at an all time-high. The fight over Prop 8, California's ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage, has played a large role in accelerating this shift in attitudes. Why are people changing their minds? How will appellate judges rule on the welter of challenges to gay marriage bans? Might the Supreme Court make a final call next year?
Supreme Court Upholds Michigan's Ban on Affirmative Action By a vote of six to two, the US Supreme Court today upheld the voters of Michigan, who banned the use of race as a factor in admission to public colleges and universities. In dissent, read aloud from the bench, Justice Sonya Sotomayor said her colleagues, "ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society." Bob Barnes covers the court for the Washington Post .
Corporations, the Right to Religion and Gender Discrimination Corporations have long been considered "persons" under American law, to protect their shareholders from liability when things go wrong. The US Supreme court has ruled they can spend money on politics because "personhood" includes the right to free speech. Do corporations also have the right to religion? That was one of the questions before the court today in the case of a chain of craft stores. Hobby Lobby's owners want to deny female employees coverage for some kinds of contraception — as required by the Affordable Care Act -- claiming religious objections. ( Conestoga Wood Specialties , a corporation owned by Mennonites is also a party.) Do corporations have religious rights? Could other companies refuse coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations or psychiatric care on religious grounds? Is Hobby Lobby asking to discriminate against female employees? We hear today's arguments and what the justices wanted to know.
Another Split Decision, Another Political Firestorm The President says he is "deeply disappointed" with today's decision by a divided US Supreme Court, this time over the voting rights of blacks and other minority citizens. Writing for a 5-to-4 majority of the court, Chief Justice John Roberts declared that Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act -- a major achievement of the civil rights movement -- is out of date and therefore, unconstitutional. Roberts said federal guidelines for oversight of minority voting don't reflect present reality. Nine mostly Southern states and parts of others will no longer have to ask Washington to approve changes in their voting laws. Is voting discrimination against blacks and other minorities a thing of the past? We hear the dispute that's already raging.
The Voting Rights Act Gets Another Day in Court Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act covers all of nine states and localities in seven others whose histories of racial discrimination in voting led Congress to require them to get federal permission whenever they change voting laws. First passed in 1965, after voting-rights marchers were attacked by sheriff's deputies in Selma, Alabama, it's been extended several times, most recently in 2006 , with huge majorities in the House and the Senate and the signature of President George W. Bush. Today it was lawyers for Shelby County, Alabama whose lawyers told the court the Act is not just out of date, but unconstitutional. During arguments today, the US Supreme Court was sharply divided. Justice Scalia called Section 5 a "racial entitlement." Supporters called it as relevant now as when it was enacted. We hear about the arguments, how they were received and the prospects for a decision in June.
Health Care Reform Will Go to the Supreme Court President Obama's Affordable Health Care Act has received mixed reviews from appellate courts, and the US Supreme Court has agreed to pass judgment by June of next year. That's before either Republicans or Democrats will have nominated their presidential candidates, and two individual Supreme Court justices are now the subjects of political scrutiny. What are the possible consequences for the White House, Congress and insurance coverage for tens of millions of Americans? We look at the range of potential options.
White House budget proposal slashes and burns President Trump's first budget request is considered dead on arrival in Congress — a familiar development in Capitol Hill. We hear what it reveals about the priorities of the new administration. What's likely to die… and what might survive?
Human Rights in the era of Donald Trump President Trump’s UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, said today the US might pull out of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. Serious violators of human rights are members of the Council itself–and a US resignation could make things worse. Later on today’s show, now that he’s into his second term, comedian turned US Senator Al Franken is telling jokes again.
Janesville and the American Dream Janesville, Wisconsin is the hometown of Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. But he couldn’t prevent the closing of the General Motors factory after 100 years. On this Memorial Day rebroadcast of To the Point, we hear what’s happened to what once was a model of American middle-class unity.