Activist Supreme Court?

June 25, 2012

Today’s the day, most likely, the Supreme Court will announce the results of the legal challenges to what has come to be called ObamaCare.

English: West face of the United States Suprem...

West face of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a twist of fate, conservatives are praying for an activist court to go against precedent, and strike the plan down.  They hope that will improve their chances of getting into the driver’s seat of federal government again in November, because a fiscal ditch is looming and they find the temptation too strong to resist.

Ezra Klein’s Wonkbook noted:

Most legal scholars think the mandate is constitutional, but few are confident it will be upheld. ”The U.S. Supreme Court should uphold a law requiring most Americans to have health insurance if the justices follow legal precedent, according to 19 of 21 constitutional law professors who ventured an opinion on the most-anticipated ruling in years. Only eight of them predicted the court would do so…Five of the 21 professors who responded, including Whitman, said the court is likely to strike down the coverage requirement. Underscoring the high stakes and complexity of the debate, eight described the outcome as a toss-up..” Bob Drummond in Bloomberg.

Klein’s post is titled “Everything you need to know about health care and SCOTUS in one post.”  He covers the waterfront — you should read it.

Interesting day.  I’ll be traveling.

10 things about Judge Sonia Sotomayor

May 27, 2009

Those people over at move quickly:

Ten Things To Know About Judge Sonia Sotomayor

  1. Judge Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the bench than any Supreme Court justice in 100 years. Over her three-decade career, she has served in a wide variety of legal roles, including as a prosecutor, litigator, and judge.
  2. Judge Sotomayor is a trailblazer. She was the first Latina to serve on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and was the youngest member of the court when appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of New York. If confirmed, she will be the first Hispanic to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.
  3. While on the bench, Judge Sotomayor has consistently protected the rights of working Americans, ruling in favor of health benefits and fair wages for workers in several cases.
  4. Judge Sotomayor has shown strong support for First Amendment rights, including in cases of religious expression and the rights to assembly and free speech.
  5. Judge Sotomayor has a strong record on civil rights cases, ruling for plaintiffs who had been discriminated against based on disability, sex and race.
  6. Judge Sotomayor embodies the American dream. Born to Puerto Rican parents, she grew up in a South Bronx housing project and was raised from age nine by a single mother, excelling in school and working her way to graduate summa cum laude from Princeton University and to become an editor of the Law Journal at Yale Law School.
  7. In 1995, Judge Sotomayor “saved baseball” when she stopped the owners from illegally changing their bargaining agreement with the players, thereby ending the longest professional sports walk-out in history.
  8. Judge Sotomayor ruled in favor of the environment in a case of protecting aquatic life in the vicinity of power plants in 2007, a decision that was overturned by the Roberts Supreme Court.
  9. In 1992, Judge Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate without opposition after being appointed to the bench by George H.W. Bush.
  10. Judge Sotomayor is a widely respected legal figure, having been described as “…an outstanding colleague with a keen legal mind,” “highly qualified for any position in which wisdom, intelligence, collegiality and good character would be assets,” and “a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity.”

Sources for each of the 10 things:

1. White House Statement, May 26, 2009.

2. White House Statement, May 26, 2009.

3. Cases: Archie v. Grand Cent. Partnership, 997 F. Supp. 504 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) and Marcella v. Capital Dist. Physicians’ Health Plan, Inc., 293 F.3d 42 (2d Cir. 2002).

4. Cases: Flamer v. White Plains, 841 F. Supp. 1365 (S.D.N.Y. 1993), Ford v. McGinnis, 352 F.3d 382 (2d Cir. 2003), and Campos v. Coughlin, 854 F. Supp. 194 (S.D.N.Y. 1994).

5a. “Sotomayor’s Notable Court Opinions and Articles,” The New York Times, May 26, 2009.

5b. Cases: Bartlett v. N.Y. State Board, 970 F. Supp. 1094 (S.D.N.Y. 1997), Greenbaum v. Svenska Hendelsbanken, 67 F.Supp.2d 228 (S.D.N.Y. 1999), Raniola v. Bratton, 243 F.3d 610 (2d Cir. 2001), and Gant v. Wallingford Board of Education, 195 F.3d 134 (2d Cir. 1999).

6. “Sonia Sotomayor: 10 Things You Should Know,” The Huffington Post, May 26, 2009.

7. “How Sotomayor ‘Saved’ Baseball,” Time, May 26, 2009.

8. “Sotomayor’s resume, record on notable cases,” CNN, May 26, 2009.

9. “Sotomayor’s resume, record on notable cases,” CNN, May 26, 2009.

10a. Judge Richard C. Wesley, a George W. Bush appointee to the Second Circuit.

10b. “Sotomayor is Highly Qualified,” The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2009.

10c. Honorary Degree Citation, Pace University School of Law, 2003 Commencement.

  • Judge Sotomayor is a widely respected legal figure, having been described as “…an outstanding colleague with a keen legal mind,” “highly qualified for any position in which wisdom, intelligence, collegiality and good character would be assets,” and “a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity.”ere are the sources for the ten statements:

  • 400 years of river history: NY celebrates Hudson, Champlain and Fulton in 2009

    July 26, 2008

    Okay, it’s the 202nd anniversary of Robert Fulton’s historic, 32-hour steamboat trip from New York City to Albany, demonstrating the viability of steamboat travel for commerce on the Hudson.  But for such a historic river, why not delay that fete for a couple of years and roll it into the 400th anniversary of Champlain’s exploration of the lake that now bears his name, and Henry Hudson’s discover of the mouth of the river to the south, the Hudson, whose mouth is home to New York City.

    400 years of Hudson River history in 2009 - Hudson, Champlain, Fulton

    400 years of Hudson River history in 2009 - Hudson, Champlain, Fulton

    And so 2009 marks the Quadricentennial Celebration on the Hudson, honoring Hudson, Fulton and Champlain.

    Alas, the committee to coordinate the celebration along the length of the river was not put in place until February, so there is a scramble.  Local celebrations will proceed, but the overall effort may fall short of the 1909 tricentennial, with replicas of Hudson’s ship, Half Moon, and Champlain’s boats, and Fulton’s steamer, and parades, and festivals, and . . .

    Still, the history is notable, and the stories worth telling.

    Most of my students in U.S. and world history over the past five years have been almost completely unaware of any of these stories.  One kid was familiar with the Sons of Champlin, the rock band of Bill Champlin, because his father played the old vinyl records.  Most students know nothing of the lore of Hudson, the mutiny and the old Dutch stories that have thunder caused by Hudson and his loyal crewman bowling in the clouds over the Catskills.  They don’t even know the story of Rip van Winkle, since it’s not in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) list and so gets left out of even elementary school curricula.  Is this an essential piece of culture that American children should know?  American adults won’t know it, if we don’t teach it.

    Henry Hudson, from a woodcut

    Henry Hudson, from a woodcut

    Explorations and settlement of Quebec by Samuel de Champlain get overlooked in post-NCLB texts.  Texts tend to make mention of the French settlement of Canada, but placing these explorations in the larger frame of the drive to find a route through or around North America to get to China, or the often-bitter contests between French, English, Spanish, Dutch and other European explorers and settlers gets lost.  French-speaking Cajuns just show up in histories of Texas and the Southwest, with little acknowledgment given to the once-great French holdings in North America, nor the incredible migration of French from Acadia to Louisiana that gives the State of Louisiana such a distinctive culture today.

    French explorer and settler Samuel de Champlain

    French explorer and settler Samuel de Champlain

    Champlain’s explorations and settlement set up the conflict between England and France that would result in the French and Indian War in the U.S., and would not play out completely until after the Louisiana Purchase and War of 1812.

    Fulton’s steamboat success ushered in the age of the modern, non-sail powered navies, and also highlights the role geography plays in the development of technology. The Hudson River is ideally suited for navigation from its mouth, north to present-day Albany.  This is such a distance over essentially calm waters that sail would have been preferred, except that the winds on the Hudson were not so reliable as ocean winds.  Steam solved the problem.  Few other rivers in America would have offered such an opportunity for commercial development — so the Hudson River helped drive the age of steam.

    New York City remains an economic powerhouse.  New York Harbor remains one of the most active trading areas in the world.  Robert Fulton helped propel New York ahead of Charleston, Baltimore and Boston — a role in New York history that earned him a place in for New York in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall.  The steamboat monopoly Fulton helped establish was a key player in Gibbons v. Ogden, the landmark Supreme Court case in which the Court held that Congress has the power to regulate commerce between states — an upholding of the Commerce Clause against the old structures created under colonial rule and the Articles of Confederation.

    Robert Fultons statute in the U.S. Capitol - photo by Robert Lienhard

    Robert Fulton's statute in the U.S. Capitol - photo by Robert Lienhard

    400 years of history along the Hudson, a river of great prominence in world history.  History teachers should watch those festivities for new sources of information, new ideas for classroom exercises.


    Constitution Day, September 17

    September 9, 2007

    Get ready.

    Constitution Day is September 17, 2007. It’s the anniversary of the day in 1787 when 39 men signed their names to the proposed Constitution of the United States of America, to send it off to the Continental Congress, who was asked to send it to specially convened meetings of citizens of the 13 states for ratification. When and if nine of the former colonies ratified it, it would become the document that created a federal government for those nine and any of the other four who joined.

    Banner from Constitution Day website

    For Texas, the requirement to commemorate the Constitution was changed to “Celebrate Freedom Week” effective 2003. This week is expected to coincide with the week that includes national Veterans Day, November 11. School trustees may change to a different week. (See § 74.33 of the Texas Education Code) Texas does require students to recite a section from the Declaration of Indpendence. (Recitation is highlighted below the fold.)

    Knowledge of the Constitution is abysmal, according to most surveys. Students are eager to learn the material, I find, especially when it comes presented in interesting ways, in context of cases that interest the students. The trick is to find those things that make the Constitution interesting, and develop the lesson plans. Some classes will be entertained by Schoolhouse Rock segments; some classes will dive into Supreme Court cases or other serious issues, say the legality of torture of “enemy combatants” or warrantless domestic surveillance. Some classes will like both approaches, on the same day.

    Texas teachers have two months to get ready for Celebrate Freedom Week. Constitution Day is just a week away for anyone who wants to do something on September 17.

    Sources you should check out:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Japanese-American internment: Statesman-Journal web special

    June 29, 2007

    Looking for good sources on Japanese internment?

    Editor & Publisher highlights the web version of a special series on Japanese internment during World War II, put together by the Statesman-Journal in Salem, Oregon. The series is featured in “Pauline’s Picks,” a feature by Pauline Millard showing off the best use of the web by old-line print publications.

    Beyond Barbed Wire, photo by Salem Statesman-Journal

    The Statesman-Journal’s web piece is “Beyond Barbed Wire,” featuring timelines, maps of the Tule Lake internment facility (closest to Oregon), stories about Japanese Americans in Oregon, especially in Salem, photos, video interviews, and a significant collection of original documents perfectly suited for document-based studies.

    Texas kids test particularly badly in this part of U.S. history. Several districts ask U.S. history teachers and other social studies groups to shore up student knowledge in the area to overcome gaps pointed out in testing in the past three years, on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). In teacher training, I’ve noted a lot of Texas social studies teachers are a bit shaky on the history.

    The Korematsu decision was drummed into my conscious working on civil rights issues at the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, and complemented by Constitutional Law (thank you, Mary Cheh) and other courses I was taking at the same time at George Washington University. It helped that Utah has a significant Japanese population and had “hosted” one of the internment camps; one of my tasks was to be sure committee Chairman Orrin Hatch was up on issues and concerns when he met with Japanese descendants in his constituencies in Utah. Hatch was a cosponsor of the bills to study the internment, and then to apologize to Japanese Americans affected, and pay reparations.
    The internment was also a sore spot with my father, G. Paul Darrell, who witnessed the rounding up of American citizens in California. Many of those arrested were his friends, business associates and acquaintances. Those events formed a standard against which he measured almost all other claims of civil rights violations.

    Because children were imprisoned with their parents, because a lot of teenagers were imprisoned, this chunk of American history strikes particular sympathetic chords with students of any conscience.  Dorothea Lange’s having photographed some of the events and places, as well as Ansel Adams and others, also leaves a rich pictorial history.

    (I found this thanks to the RSS feed of headlines from Editor & Publisher at the Scholars & Rogues site.)

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