Monday, September 29, 2014

Today in Jurisprudence

All eyes are seemingly on the U.S. Supreme Court this morning, which is considering several different appeals on the question of marriage equality. It's a private conference, where the justices put their cards on the table in utter private. Even their clerks aren't allowed in the room. Do they take a gay marriage case or not? Or lump all seven appeals together for a major constitutional decision: "Do states have power to refuse to allow same-sex couples to marry, and do states have power to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states?"

All eyes in North Carolina should be on the three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard an emergency plea last Thursday for a stay on North Carolina's massive new voting law passed last year. If that three-judge panel stays all or part of the new law, then there will be an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court. In cases like that, a single justice is assigned to consider "expedited" appeals. Chief Justice John Roberts is assigned to the Fourth Circuit to hear expedited appeals.

Meanwhile in Ohio, under the jurisdiction of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, a very similar new voting law, which limited early voting among other provisions, was ruled unconstitutional by the Sixth Circuit, and that decision is on expedited appeal to the Supreme Court. Justice Elena Kagan is assigned to consider emergency appeals from the Sixth Circuit.

In other words, a lot could happen this week relative to limitations on voter participation passed by various Republican-dominated state assemblies.

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