U.S. Supreme Court


From Texas Standard.

The U.S. Supreme Court just wrapped up a momentous term. Last month alone brought decisions on upholding the Texas ban on confederate license plates, provisions of the Affordable Care Act (or as Justice Scalia likes to call it “SCOTUS-care”), and then that little matter of same-sex marriage.

But now that the court is in recess we can calmly reflect on a few things at least. Whatever happened to that 5-4 conservative court? And what’s going to happen in a few months when the 2015 term gets underway? NPR’s Nina Totenberg discussed it all with the Texas Standard.

Texas for Marriage/facebook

From Texas Standard:

The Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling in favor of same-sex marriage today. All 50 states are now required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Ronald “Ronnie” Macklin and his partner, Fritz Johnson-Macklin, are one of those couples. From the Austin suburb of Pflugerville, Ronnie joined Texas Standard to talk about his family’s story –  just minutes after learning about the Supreme Court decision.

Supreme Court: Texas Reinforced Segregated Housing

Jun 25, 2015
Supreme Court of the United States

From the Texas Tribune: The biggest federal housing subsidy program in Texas — which awarded $9.7 billion in tax credits from 1990 to 2011 — effectively has been reinforcing segregated housing, the U.S. Supreme Court found Thursday.

Divided along ideological lines, the high court ruled 5-4 against the state of Texas, which administers the federally backed subsidy program.

"Much progress remains to be made in our Nation’s continuing struggle against racial isolation," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. "We must remain wary of policies that reduce homeowners to nothing more than their race."

Todd Wiseman/Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear a case that centers on how Texas draws its political districts, a longtime point of dispute between the state and voting rights advocates.

The high court said it will take up Evenwel v. Abbott, which involves whether Texas should use total population or voting age population when composing districts. The debate is especially pertinent in Texas, where some districts include many people living in the country illegally who are not eligible to vote. 

Nazis, jihadis, racial slurs and even "Mighty Fine Burgers" all made cameo appearances at the U.S. Supreme Court Monday as the justices tackled a case of great interest to America's auto-loving public. The question before the court: When, if ever, can the state veto the message on a specialty license plate?

Once again the U.S. Supreme Court is correcting its own record, but Wednesday marks the first time that the court has called attention to its own mistake with a public announcement. And it was the erring justice herself, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who asked the court's public information office to announce the error.

The Supreme Court's new term will not include any cases that might decide the issue of same-sex marriage in the U.S., a development that comes after many lower and appeals courts have ruled against states' bans on gay marriage. Advocates on both sides of the issue have been calling for the high court to review the issue and make an official ruling.

The court's refusal of all the petitions related to bans on gay marriage means that the appeals courts' decisions allowing gay marriage can now take effect. They had been on hold pending a potential review by the Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court opens a new term Monday, but so far the justices are keeping quiet about whether or when they will tackle the gay marriage question. Last week, the justices met behind closed doors to discuss pending cases, but when they released the list of new cases added to the calendar, same-sex marriage was nowhere to be seen.

But that really doesn't mean very much.

Are corporations people? The U.S. Supreme Court says they are, at least for some purposes. And in the past four years, the high court has dramatically expanded corporate rights.

Sgt. Ken Scar / Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System

The offices of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Rick Perry were quick to release statements lauding Monday’s Supreme Court decision on contraception. The ruling said family-owned and other closely held companies can opt out of an Affordable Care Act provision requiring they provide insurance coverage of birth control.

Aereo, the company that lets subscribers watch TV stations' video that it routes onto the Internet, violates U.S. copyright law, the Supreme Court has ruled. The court's 6-3 decision reverses a lower court ruling on what has been a hotly contested issue.

An appeal brought by a photographer who refused to take pictures of gay weddings was turned down by the Supreme Court on Monday morning. The court also refused to hear a challenge to a ban on campaign contributions by corporations, and allowed a district court case over U.S. surveillance to continue.

The photography case was brought by Elane Photography, a New Mexico business run by a husband-and-wife team who said their First Amendment rights allowed them to refuse service to a woman who had sought to hire the company to photograph her commitment ceremony with her partner.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down an overall cap on the amount that large campaign donors can give to parties and candidates in a two-year election cycle.

In a 5-4 decision split between conservatives and liberals on the high court, the court said the limits were a violation of the First Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in the latest challenge to the Obama health care overhaul.

This time the issue is whether for-profit corporations, citing religious objections, may refuse to provide some, or potentially all, contraceptive services in health plans offered to employees. It is a case that touches lots of hot-button issues.

In enacting the ACA, Congress required large employers to provide basic preventive care for employees. That turned out to include all 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

photo courtesy Bobak Ha'Eri

A federal appeals court is deciding whether certain provisions of Texas’ new abortion law are unconstitutional.

In making that decision, judges will have to weigh those provisions using what’s known as “the undue burden test.”

For two decades, judges have been weighing the constitutionality of abortion regulations using this concept.

Eric Schlegel, Texas Tribune

The U.S. Supreme Court is declining to take up a case involving abortion.

State officials in Arizona were appealing a lower court’s decision to strike down a state law that would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. But does the high court’s decision not to take up the case have implications on any future challenges to the 20-week ban that went into effect in Texas last year?

Todd Wiseman / Kjetil Ree for Texas Tribune

U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday rejected a request by abortion providers to intervene in their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of new abortion regulations in Texas that took effect in November.

"Reasonable minds can perhaps disagree about whether the [U.S. 5th Circuit] Court of Appeals should have granted a stay in this case," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the 5-4 opinion. "There is no doubt that the applicants have not carried their heavy burden of showing that doing so was a clear violation of accepted legal standards — which do not include a special 'status quo' standard for laws affecting abortion."


Update (July 15, 2014): The Fifth Circuit has ruled that UT's affirmative action policies can continue.

Read more here: ​UT Affirmative Action Policies Stand in Fisher Ruling

Update: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing arguments today in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the case that questions UT's use of race in its admissions process.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court punted the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after deciding the Fifth Circuit didn't apply the strictest scrutiny to UT's admissions policies.

While most UT  students are admitted based on whether they’re in the top seven percent of their graduating class, some are admitted based on what the university calls a “holistic review.” An applicant’s race is one element of that review.

Back in 2008, a white student named Abigail Fisher was denied admission to UT under the holistic review. She sued saying she was a victim of reverse discrimination. Lower courts upheld UT’s affirmative action policy.

The U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue of affirmative action again Tuesday, but this time the question is not whether race may be considered as a factor in college admissions. Instead, this case tests whether voters can ban affirmative action programs through a referendum.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

A familiar sound filled the Texas House on Wednesday morning – the voting bell, applause and protesters.

House Bill 2 passed, 96 to 49 nays, and it's also expected to pass the Senate, late this week or early next. Opponents of the new abortion restrictions say regardless, it will end up in court.