An op-ed by Charles Ogletree. The last time I visited Shreveport, the Confederate flag still adorned the Caddo Parish Courthouse. It was 2011 and I came to meet with Carl Staples, the man who refused to serve on a jury so long as that flag — a symbol of one of the most “heinous crimes ever committed to another member of the human race” — flew over the courthouse lawn. How could we be here for justice, Staples asked, when we “overlook this great injustice by continuing to fly this flag?” When I heard about Staples’ courage I had to meet him. It was an honor to stand with him and Caddo Parish’s community, business and church leaders as they asked the Caddo Parish Commission to take down that flag.
An op-ed by Nancy Gertner. The government focused on the claim that Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did not show remorse for his heinous, unimaginable crime until last week’s sentencing proceeding. That, counsel suggested, was too little, too late. Why was Tsarnaev silent during the penalty phase, when his life was on the line, only to speak after the jury chose death, when it no longer mattered? The sealed docket entries, the arguments of counsel, the documents that have been kept from the public, may hold the clue.
An op-ed by Noah Feldman. You didn’t really think you could get out of this U.S. Supreme Court term without a teaser about the next big case, did you? On its last day of public business until the first Monday in October, the court dropped a big hint about next season’s episodes. It agreed to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which squarely poses the question of whether the basic public-union arrangement that’s been in place since 1977 violates the First Amendment.
An op-ed by Noah Feldman. The end of this term at the U.S. Supreme Court felt like the culmination of an era — or rather of two eras. Periods in the history of the court tend to form in relation to the great, defining political issues of the day, which eventually make their way to the court in legal guise. The gay-marriage decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, marks the culmination of a 25-year period of gay-rights decisions that coincided with an era of gay-rights advocacy, starting with the 1969 riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York. The Affordable Care Act case, King v. Burwell, belongs to a shorter wave of cases, challenges to the social and economic legislation enacted partly in reaction to the financial crisis of 2007-08.
An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Score one for the living Constitution. No, not gay marriage, which the framers couldn’t have imagined as a fundamental constitutional right, yet became one last week. Monday’s winner is the referendum, which the framers would’ve hated but has been part of our government for more than a century. The case, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Districting Commission, involved an obscure provision of the Constitution that was actually extremely important to those who drafted it during the long, hot summer of 1787.
An op-ed by Noah Feldman. In a significant defeat for Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote Monday rejected emissions regulations for power plants because the agency didn’t engage in a full-blown cost-benefit analysis at the very first stage of its regulatory process. From the Obama administration’s perspective, if it had to lose Justice Anthony Kennedy’s deciding vote in one high-profile case this term, it was better for it to lose this environmental case than the Affordable Care Act decision. But the loss will still smart for environmentalists.
An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Other justices appointed by Republicans, most notably Harry Blackmun, turned to the left toward the end of their careers, as Justice Anthony Kennedy has gradually and selectively done. But Blackmun’s turn famously included a refusal to tinker with the “machinery of death,” and a consequent rejection of capital punishment. On the last day of the U.S. Supreme Court term, Kennedy showed he wasn’t even close to there. He provided the fifth and deciding vote Monday to reject death-row inmates’ claim that the drug midazolam, part of the drug cocktail designed to render you unconscious before killing you, is unconstitutionally ineffective.
China adopted a sweeping, new national security law that the government says is needed to counter emerging threats but that critics say may be used to quash dissent and exclude foreign investment. Approved by the legislature’s standing committee Wednesday, the law sets an expansive definition of national security that outlaws threats to China’s government, sovereignty, national unity, as well as its economy, society and cyber and space interests…“This law will legitimize the abuse of power by state and public security bureaus,” said Teng Biao, a prominent Chinese lawyer who was detained in the past over his rights activism, and is now a fellow at Harvard Law School. “For the Communist Party, the rule of law means using legislation as a tool of control.”
The Supreme Court will once again take up affirmative action in college admissions. The Court announced Monday it would review whether considering race and ethnicity while building a college class is constitutional…”It’s always been a highly contentious issue,” says Tomiko Brown-Nagin, who teaches law and history at Harvard. Brown-Nagin says the Court is taking up affirmative action at a time when the country is debating questions of access for students of color. “It’s incredibly competitive to be admitted to selective institutions of higher education,” she says. “On the one hand you have the continuing controversy over the use of race in admission. On the other hand you have a lot of anxiety in the public about whether students will be admitted to college.”
The secretariat of strategic affairs in Brasília lies in a nondescript ministry building in the middle of the plano piloto — the aircraft-shaped street layout of Brazil’s modernist capital. The job of its new minister, philosopher and Harvard law professor Roberto Mangabeira Unger, is to chart a long-term development plan for President Dilma Rousseff, whose palace lies a kilometre away in the “cockpit” of the plano piloto. It is not an easy task. Latin America’s largest economy is suffering increased turbulence from the end of the commodities super cycle and a credit-driven consumption boom. Economists forecast the economy will shrink nearly 1.5 per cent this year. Unemployment is increasing fast. “The underlying frailty of the system that we built was its very low productivity,” said Mr Unger, one of Brazil’s best-known academics internationally who won tenure at Harvard Law School aged just 29 in 1976.