U.S. Supreme Court

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.


A recent poll from Public Policy Polling found 78 percent of Texans agree:

Don't Mess with Texas.

Nine percent say people should mess with Texas, and 13 percent are unsure.


With all the coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions last week regarding affirmative action, the Voting Rights Act and same-sex marriage, it’s not surprising some of the court’s other decisions didn’t receive as much attention, including one case that originated in Texas: Salinas v Texas.

 That decision is expected to have a big impact on the rights of criminal suspects on trial. 

This week was a busy one for the U.S. Supreme Court. It ruled on cases involving three major issues: affirmative action, same sex marriage and voting rights. 

All three of these cases have national implications, but they also mean changes for Texans, too. 


On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its second big decision of the week, striking down part of the Voting Rights Act. Supporters praised the decision, calling it a step forward in eliminating antiquated aspects of the law. Opponents of the decision say it makes it easier to discriminate against minorities.

Tyler Pratt, KUT News

Update: The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on two same-sex marriage cases today means those unions will now be recognized by the federal government. In separate cases, the court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and the state of California can now resume efforts to legalize same sex marriage.

But neither of these rulings will directly affect Texas residents. 

“The ruling today was limited in the sense it didn’t extend to strike down defense of marriage acts that exist on state level," says Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas.

Texas’ own Defense Against Marriage Act will remain on the books. Gov. Rick Perry signed the law in 2003.  In 2005, the state legislature also passed a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. If that amendment were repealed, it would need two-thirds approval by the state House and Senate. It would then go to voters for final approval. 

Same sex marriage is legal in 12 states and the District of Columbia. 


The Supreme Court has overturned a portion of the Voting Rights Act. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says this morning’s decision means a Texas voter ID law "will take effect immediately." Scroll down for updates. 

The high court struck down Section 4 of the act, which establishes a formula to identify portions of the county (primarily the South) where changes to elections must be approved by the Department of Justice. That was to ensure minority voting rights weren’t infringed upon.

From the court's opinion:

"Coverage today is based on decades-old data and eradicated practices. The formula captures States by reference to literacy tests and low voter registration and turnout in the 1960s and early 1970s. But such tests have been banned for over 40 years. And voter registration and turnout numbers in covered States have risen dramatically."

The court didn’t do away with Section 5 of the act – the portion that allows the Department of Justice to reject state laws it sees as discriminatory. Instead, the court says the new standards should be created, instead of the expanded coverage called for under Section 4.  


Update: It turned out the Supreme Court went in an entirely different direction - returning the ruling to a lower court, essentially on a technicality. 

Read more here: Supreme Court Punts on Affirmative Action’s Merits; Returns Ruling to Lower Court

Original Post: This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down three major decisions that will affect Texans—including Fisher v. University of Texas.  That case asks the question if it’s constitutional to consider race in the college admissions process.

The Supreme Court is looking to make the final stretch of the 2012 term a dramatic one: While the justices knocked out five opinions today, none of them were the major ones we've been looking forward to. As we've told you before, we're waiting for:

Fisher v. University of Texas, a key test of affirmative action in higher education.

There's no big news again today from the U.S. Supreme Court — which is sort-of big news in itself because it means we're still waiting for the justices' decisions on these major cases:

-- Fisher v. University of Texas, a key test of affirmative action in higher education.

By a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a Maryland law that allows police to collect DNA, without first getting a warrant, from persons who are arrested.


Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a case that could help people already convicted of crimes appeal their convictions in federal court.

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that an Indiana farmer infringed on Monsanto's patent when he planted soybeans that had been genetically modified by Monsanto without buying them from the agribusiness giant.

(We most recently updated the top of this post at 1:45 p.m. ET.)

There seem to be four solid votes on the Supreme Court — and possibly a fifth — to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages, NPR's Nina Totenberg told us after Wednesday's oral arguments before the nine justices.

But there's a big "if."

As in: There's possibly a 5-vote majority to strike down the law if the court first decides it should even issue an opinion.

As we wait for the Supreme Court to convene again at 10 a.m. ET and begin the second of two historic days of oral arguments focusing on legal issues surrounding same-sex marriage, there's a natural question:

Did Day 1 — a case about California's Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage — tell us much about how the justices will tackle Wednesday's case?

NPR's Nina Totenberg told us Tuesday that the short answer is no.

(Our most recent update was at 12:50 p.m. ET.)

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

As the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments today over same-sex marriage, here in Austin, people on both sides of the issues surrounding the cases will gather at the Capitol. 

Governor Rick Perry is expected to be the featured speaker at the "Faith and Family" rally in support of so-called "traditional values."


The Texas Capitol celebrated the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright today, the Supreme Court case that determined courts have to supply legal counsel in criminal cases when requested.

Bruce Jacob, a professor at the Stetson University College of Law, presented the history at the Capitol Monday. Jacob was the Assistant Attorney General of Florida during the Gideon v. Wainwright case. He argued against Gideon, on behalf of Wainwright.

The Obama administration has filed a friend of the court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down California's ban on gay marriage as a denial of "equal protection under the law." But the brief does not call for the abolition of all state bans on same-sex marriage.

The case now before the high court tests the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, a referendum narrowly passed by voters in 2008 that reinstituted a ban on gay marriage.