Judiciary

Supreme Court Upholds Michigan Affirmative Action Ban

Politico: “The Supreme Court delivered another setback to affirmative action Tuesday, easing the way for states to bar public colleges from considering race in admissions.”

“The 6-2 decision upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans preferential treatment based on race, gender, ethnicity or national origin. The ban on affirmative action applies not only to admissions decisions at public colleges, but also to state hiring and contracting practices.”

“Opponents argued that the ban imposed an unfair and unreasonable burden on minorities. When it came to college admissions, for instance, other interest groups — rural students, say, or low-income students — could petition public universities to grant them special consideration. But women, African-Americans and others covered by the ban could not ask for similar treatment without first amending the state constitution.”

“Supporters, led by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, argued that banning discrimination by race could not possibly be considered a discriminatory act.”

Chief Justice Roberts: A Deft Politician

John Cassidy observes that Chief Justice Roberts is a “deft politician” for navigating his way through support of Obamacare to arrive at a justifiable reason for striking down the cap on aggregate campaign contributions.

“Roberts evidently feels confident enough to continue the Court’s assault on the campaign-finance laws, which is fast emerging as the signature contribution of his tenure.”

“Wednesday’s decision, once again a five-to-four ruling, represented another significant step away from the antiquated principle of ‘one person, one vote’ toward the more modern, and utilitarian, notion of ‘one dollar, one vote.’”

Adam Liptak sees Wednesday’s ruling as a sign that more campaign finance dominoes could fall.

“According to experts in election law, there is no reason to think that the march toward deregulating election spending will stop with the ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.

“’My fear is that the court’s next target is the most revered pillar of campaign finance: public financing,’ [Yale Law] Professor Gerken said. ‘The lines are in the water, and we’ll see if the Roberts court bites.’”

Supreme Court Yields to Loudest Voice in Politics

The New York Times Editorial Board comments on Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision to eliminate caps on aggregate campaign contributions.

“Make no mistake, like other rulings by the Roberts court that have chipped away at campaign-finance regulations in recent years, the McCutcheon decision is less about free speech than about giving those few people with the most money the loudest voice in politics.”

“The real losers in the McCutcheon case are the vast majority of average Americans without barrels of cash to dump on elections. Even the now-invalidated aggregate caps were extremely high, and only very few contributors ever reached them.”

“Thanks to Wednesday’s decision, the interests of the very few wealthiest Americans — which differ significantly from those of most Americans — will now get even more outsize consideration by legislators.”

Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban on Aggregate Campaign Donations

New York Times: “The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a major campaign finance decision, striking down limits on federal campaign contributions for the first time. The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will change and most likely increase the role money plays in American politics.”

“The decision, by a 5-to-4 vote along ideological lines, … said that overall limits of $48,600 every two years for contributions to all federal candidates violated the First Amendment, as did separate aggregate limits on contributions to political party committees, currently $74,600.”

“The decision chipped away at the central distinction drawn by the Supreme Court in its seminal 1976 campaign finance decision, Buckley v. Valeo.”

Federal law continues to ban contributions by corporations and unions.”

“Wednesday’s decision may increase overall campaign spending, but it may also rechannel some of it away from “super PACs” and toward candidates and parties.”

Deciphiring ‘Patent Trolls’

Susan Decker explains that “nobody likes ‘patent trolls,’ even if they’re not quite sure what they are.”

“It’s a term without clear definition and yet it’s being used to push Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court right now to curb abusive litigation without damaging a centuries-old system designed to promote advances in science and industry.”

The [Internet Association] group cites studies putting litigation expenses at $29 billion a year and estimating that complaints from non-manufacturers make up two-thirds of complaints filed. It included litigation from all ‘non-practicing entities.'”

“By contrast, a U.S. Government Accountability Office report last year only counted ‘patent monetization entities,’ companies buying patents to profit from royalties or lawsuits. Such suits made up 19 percent of the complaints filed between 2007 and 2011, GAO said.”

“Some lawmakers are getting wise to the distinctions, and say legislation should target behavior and not ownership.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy is working on a bill that “would require more disclosure of patent ownership, expand the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s review process for issued patents and have losers pay some of the winner’s fees.”

“The House in December approved legislation requiring patent owners to provide more data on their inventions and limiting pre-trial information that can be sought from accused patent violators.”

Federal Judge Will Not Block Arizona’s Abortion Drug Rule

New York Times: “A federal judge in Tucson has refused to block some of the strictest rules in the nation on the use of abortion drugs.”

“The rules, which were approved by the Arizona Legislature in 2012 and will take effect on Tuesday, restrict the use of a medication to induce abortions during the early stages of pregnancy to the first seven weeks.”

“The rules also restrict the use of the drug, mifepristone, to protocols approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000.”

Judge David C. Bury of United States District Court “wrote that Arizona’s rules will not unduly burden a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, since the alternative of surgical abortions remains available. The fact that some women may have to travel hundreds of miles to clinics, twice, under the restrictions, and that the process will cost more, he wrote, ‘do not qualify as irreparable harm.’”

Senate Blocks Obama Civil Rights Nominee

Politico: “Several Senate Democrats joined with Republicans on Wednesday to block President Barack Obama’s controversial nominee to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division.”

“The rejection of Debo Adegbile in a 47-52 vote marks the first time that one of Obama’s nominees was thwarted since Senate Democrats changed filibuster rules in November.”

“Adegbile drew opposition and scrutiny from national law enforcement organizations as well as Senate Republicans for his work representing Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981.”

“A group of 86 organizations, including the AFL-CIO and NAACP, wrote to senators this week urging them to support Adegbile.”