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Fourteenth Amendment

Williams v. Pennsylvania - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 6-15-16 featuring Cassandra Burke Robertson
Cassandra Burke Robertson June 15, 2016

On June 9, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Williams v. Pennsylvania. Terrance Williams was convicted and sentenced to death for the robbery and murder of Amos Norwood. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed Williams’ conviction and sentence, and his initial attempts to obtain state postconviction relief failed. His subsequent petition for federal habeas relief also failed. He again sought post-conviction penalty-related relief in state court and prevailed in the Court of Common Pleas on a claim of unlawful evidence suppression. On appeal, however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the grant of relief and lifted the stay of execution (though a temporary reprieve was later granted by the governor for other reasons). The Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Ronald Castille, who had joined the opinion reversing the grant of relief to Williams, had also been the District Attorney for Philadelphia during Williams’ trial, sentencing, and appeal. In that capacity, Castille had authorized his office to seek the death penalty for Williams. Williams had moved to have Chief Justice Castille recuse himself from hearing the appeal of post-conviction relief, but Castille declined to do so.

The central question before the U.S. Supreme Court was whether Justice Castille’s denial of the recusal motion and his subsequent judicial participation violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. By a vote of 5-3, the Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and remanded the case. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court, which held that under the Due Process Clause, where a judge has had an earlier significant, personal involvement as a prosecutor in a critical decision in the defendant’s case, the risk of actual bias in the judicial proceeding rises to an unconstitutional level. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Alito joined. Justice Thomas also filed a dissenting opinion.

To discuss the case, we have Cassandra Burke Robertson, who is Professor of Law, Laura B. Chisolm Distinguished Research Scholar, and Director, Center for Professional Ethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Evenwel v. Abbott - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 5-16-16 featuring Andrew Grossman
Andrew Grossman May 16, 2016

On April 4, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Evenwel v. Abbott. As required by the Texas Constitution, the Texas legislature reapportioned its senate districts after the publication of the 2010 census, formally adopting an interim plan that had been put in place for the 2012 primaries. Plaintiffs, who are registered Texas voters, sued the Texas governor and secretary of state, asserting that the redistricting plan violated the one-person, one-vote principle of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, by failing to apportion districts to equalize both total population and voter population. A three-judge district court ruled in favor of the state officials.

On appeal, the question before the Supreme Court was whether the three-judge district court correctly held that the “one-person, one-vote” principle under the Equal Protection Clause allows States to use total population, and does not require States to use voter population when apportioning state legislative districts.

By a vote of 8-0, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the three-judge district court. Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court, holding that constitutional history, precedent, and longstanding practice demonstrate that a state may draw its legislative districts based on total population. The Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Justice GInsburg’s opinion for the Court. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justice Alito also filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, which Justice Thomas joined except as to Part III-B.

To discuss the case, we have Andrew Grossman, who is Partner at Baker & Hostetler, LLP.

Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission - Post-Argument SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 2-11-16 featuring Mark F. Hearne II
Mark F. Hearne February 11, 2016

On December 8, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. In 2012, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission redrew the map for the state legislative districts based on the results of the 2010 census. Wesley Harris and other individual voters sued the Commission and alleged that the newly redrawn districts were underpopulated in Democratic-leaning districts and over-populated in Republican-leaning ones, and that the Commission had, therefore, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Commission countered that the population deviations were the result of attempts to comply with the Voting Rights Act. A three-judge district court ruled in favor of the Commission.
  
There are two questions before the Supreme Court on appeal: (1) Whether the desire to gain partisan advantage for one political party justifies creating over-populated legislative districts that result in the devaluation of individual votes, violating the one-person, one-vote principle; and (2) whether the desire to obtain favorable preclearance review by the Justice Department permits the creation of legislative districts that deviate from the one-person, one-vote principle, and--even if creating unequal districts to obtain preclearance approval was once justified--whether this remains a legitimate justification after the Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder.

To discuss the case, we have Mark F. Hearne, II, who is Partner at Arent Fox LLP.

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin - Post-Argument SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 2-11-16 featuring Joshua P. Thompson
Joshua P. Thompson February 11, 2016

On December 9, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.  This is the second time the case has come before the high court.

Abigail Fisher, a white female, applied for admission to the University of Texas but was denied. Fisher sued the University and argued that the use of race as a consideration in the admissions process violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court held that the University’s admissions process was constitutional, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. The case went to the Supreme Court (Fisher I), which held that the appellate court erred in how it applied the strict scrutiny standard, improperly deferring to the University’s good faith in its use of racial classifications. On remand the Fifth Circuit again ruled in favor of the University, deeming its use of race in the admissions process narrowly tailored to a legitimate interest in achieving “the rich diversity that contributes to its academic mission.”

The question in this case is whether the Fifth Circuit’s re-endorsement of the University of Texas at Austin’s use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions decisions can be sustained under this Court’s decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, including Fisher I.

To discuss the case, we have Joshua P. Thompson who is Principal Attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation.
 

Evenwel v. Abbott - Post-Argument SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 2-11-16 featuring Andrew Grossman
Andrew Grossman February 11, 2016

On December 8, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Evenwel v. Abbott. As required by the Texas Constitution, the Texas legislature reapportioned its senate districts after the publication of the 2010 census, formally adopting an interim plan that had been put in place for the 2012 primaries.  Plaintiffs, who are registered Texas voters, sued the Texas governor and secretary of state, asserting that the redistricting plan violated the one-person, one-vote principle of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, by failing to apportion districts to equalize both total population and voter population.  A three-judge district court ruled in favor of the state officials.

On appeal, the question before the Supreme Court is whether the three-judge district court correctly held that the “one-person, one-vote” principle under the Equal Protection Clause allows States to use total population, and does not require States to use voter population when apportioning state legislative districts.

To discuss the case, we have Andrew Grossman, who is Associate at Baker & Hostetler, and Adjunct Scholar at The Cato Institute.