U.S. Supreme Court

Photo courtesy wallyg, flickr.com/70323761@N00

The U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s set of signature health care reforms, has broad implications for the nation and Texas.

This morning’s hearing on the reforms’ effects has Texas ties. State Attorney General Greg Abbott has argued the national expansion of Medicaid coerces states into compliance, an issue the court is taking up today.  

KUT News’ reporting partner, The Texas Tribune, has created a Storify timeline detailing how yesterday’s discussion of the constitutionality of an individual insurance mandate – which was widely seen as critical of the requirement – reverberated in Texas. 

After Tuesday's judicial fireworks, the Supreme Court wraps up arguments on the new health care law Wednesday by focusing on two questions. The first involves what would happen if the "individual mandate" — the core of the law that requires most people to have health insurance — is struck down. Would the rest of the law fall, too, or could some provisions stay?

Here's some of the early word about today's Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of the nation's new health care overhaul law:

-- Five Justices Were Tough: Five members of the court "beat him up pretty hard," NPR's Nina Totenberg says of how the justices treated the counsel representing the government. But she also says, "I don't think you can call this," when asked about whether the court will or won't strike down the so-called individual mandate in the law. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy "seem to be in play," Nina reports.

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Supreme Court Decision Affects Death Row Inmates?

Two Texas death row inmates, including one who is set to be executed next week, hope a ruling yesterday from the U.S. Supreme Court will give them another chance to prove their innocence or that their crimes don’t warrant the death penalty.

KUT’s reporting partner, The Texas Tribune, reports the high court’s ruling in a case out of Arizona, Martinez v. Ryan, could expand appeals access for inmates:

The nation’s highest court ruled that the failure of initial state habeas lawyers to argue that their client’s trial counsel was ineffective should not prevent the defendant from making that argument later on.

Jonathan Cohn is senior editor at The New Republic.

Next week the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act. But is it really the "case of the century," as pundits have started calling it?

Photo by KUT News

The U.S. Supreme Court will revisit the issue of race in college admissions

Today, the court agreed to hear a challenge to the affirmative action policy at the University of Texas. The case was brought by Abigail Fisher, who argues she was denied admission to the university because of UT's race-conscious policy.

It's the second time the court has taken up the issue in the past 10 years. In 2003, the court upheld the University of Michigan's use of race in assessing law school applicants by a vote of 5-4. But today's court is more conservative. Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the majority opinion in the Michigan case. She's since been replaced by Justice Samuel Alito – who tends to vote with the court’s more conservative bloc.

Yale law professor Peter Schuck tells KUT News a number of factors outside the court’s University of Michigan ruling could be in play, as each state university system differs. Here in Texas, Schuck points to the effect the UT system’s “top 10 percent” rule could play.

It’s back to the drawing board for a San Antonio court that reworked Texas’ most recent redistricting plan.

This morning, the Supreme Court offered an opinion in a lawsuit brought by Gov. Rick Perry, representing the State of Texas, against members of a three-person San Antonio court. The San Antonio justices had rejected the Texas Legislature’s 2011 overhaul of congressional districts, drafting their own map of new districts.

At issue was Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Enforced in southern states including Texas, the act requires the Department of Justice to “preclear” election changes with the Department of Justice to ensure changes don’t adversely affect the ability of ethnic minorities to elect the candidates of their choice. The San Antonio court felt that with 2010 census numbers confirming explosive growth in Texas’ Hispanic and Latino population, the new map drawn by the Texas Legislature in 2011 wouldn’t meet preclearance standards.

wikipedia user 350z33

The Associated Press reports the Supreme Court has dismissed the map of Texas electoral districts redrawn by a court in San Antonio. The districts were reworked by the San Antonio court amid complaints an earlier map drawn by the Texas Legislature in 2011 created gerrymandered districts and didn’t allow minority voters the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice.

Who didn't see this coming?

The Supreme Court has added a case challenging the constitutionality of the provision of last year's health overhaul requiring nearly every American to have health insurance beginning in the year 2014 to the list of cases it will hear this term.

Photo of Humberto Leal, courtesy the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Updated 4:40 pm: The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has voted to deny a request for reprieve from death row inmate Humberto Leal.

From the AP:

The panel voted 4-1 Tuesday to deny a reprieve request for 38-year-old Humberto. The same board refused by a 5-0 vote to commute Leal's death sentence to life in prison.

Leal's attorney issued a statement on the denial this afternoon. 

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles’ recommendation against a reprieve for Humberto Leal ignores the views of the U.S. government and Solicitor General, former diplomats, military leaders, judges and prosecutors, and organizations representing Americans abroad who believe that Mr. Leal’s execution would threaten the safety of Americans overseas and undermine the international interests of the United States. 

Earlier: State lawyers are asking the U.S. Supreme Court not to stop the execution of Mexican national Humberto Leal. The 38-year-old is scheduled to be killed on Thursday in Huntsville for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old San Antonio girl in 1994.

As KUT reported last week, Leal’s lawyers are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court on the basis that Leal’s execution would violate an international treaty.

That’s because Leal was not made aware of his right to contact the Mexican consulate when he was arrested, a right guaranteed by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. His lawyers argue he may never have been convicted, or sentenced to death, if he had access to legal help.

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