Tag Archives | Supreme Court

Utah’s firing squad plan is another twist in America’s long quest for a perfect execution method

The death chamber at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. REUTERS/Jenevieve Robbins/Texas Dept of Criminal Justice/Handout

The death chamber at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas.
REUTERS/Jenevieve Robbins/Texas Dept of Criminal Justice/Handout

Daniel LaChance, Emory University

Concerned that the Supreme Court may soon declare lethal injection unconstitutional, some states are making back-up plans.

In March, Utah’s governor signed legislation that will bring back the firing squad as the state’s official execution method in the event that injection – the method used by every state that still retains the death penalty – is no longer possible.

Utah’s legislation has received a lot of attention, in part because the state occupies a symbolically important place in the history of the modern American death penalty.

In 1977, it was the first to kill anyone after a ten-year suspension of executions in the United States. (The Supreme Court had found the death penalty capriciously applied, and thus unconstitutional, in a 1972 case. But it permitted executions to resume four years later when states presented the Court with new sentencing guidelines aimed at reducing arbitrariness.)

Standing in front of five rifles poking through a slotted wall, convicted murderer Gary Gilmore famously uttered, “Let’s do it,” and with his death, the modern era of executions in the United States was born.… Read the rest

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Mr. President, It’s Our Moment of Truth

John Wellington Ennis

John Wellington Ennis

Dear Mr. President,

From the heartlands of America to our city centers, there are too many folks who don’t believe our system works. When citizens are under-served by their leaders, an apathy is fostered that enables corruption and prevents accountability. Despite the historic struggle to vote, the dream of democratic elections is at risk when the public does not take voting seriously. In cities, states and at the national level, campaigns have become a cynical game that shuns voters, and lets those with millions to spare dominate the debate and decide who runs. This has to change.

I have been inspired by the people I have met across the country who are working hard in their community to limit the influence of money in politics. They have told me in one way or another how they came to realize that until we reform how money is spent in elections, we can’t confront the biggest problems facing us.… Read the rest

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CU5: Nationwide Actions Mark Fifth Anniversary of Citizens United

"U.S. Chamber of Commerce building" by AgnosticPreachersKid at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Chamber_of_Commerce_building.JPG#mediaviewer/File:U.S._Chamber_of_Commerce_building.JPG

“U.S. Chamber of Commerce building” by AgnosticPreachersKid at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Republished with permission from Occupy.com

The corporate money machine has been snaking its way through our government for much longer than five years. However, this Wednesday marks the fifth anniversary of the moment when that snake went from insidious slithering to a boa constrictor-like tightening on our feeble and fragile democracy.

Five years ago, the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission allowed corporations and unions the right to spend as much money as they want to influence elections. It gave rise to dark money spending and Super PACs where donors remain hidden from public view while funneling millions of dollars into state and federal elections.

In 2012, non-party outside spending passed the $1 billion mark for the first time in our history – three times the amount spent in the 2008 presidential elections.… Read the rest

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The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake

Anyone who’s been a regular visitor to this page knows that we deplore the Pay 2 Play political system in place in the United States. Much of the blame for this must be laid at the steps of the US Supreme Court, as described in the New York Review of Books:

Five years ago this week, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court decided to allow unlimited amounts of corporate spending in political campaigns. How important was that decision? At the time, some said criticism of the decision was overblown, and that fears that it would give outsize influence to powerful interests were unfounded. Now, the evidence is in, and the results are devastating.

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US SupremeCourt West Facade by UpstateNYer (CC)

To coincide with the decision’s fifth anniversary, eight public interest organizations—the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Public Citizen, Demos, U.S. PIRG, Public Campaign, Justice at Stake, and the Center for Media and Democracy—have simultaneously issued reports that demonstrate the steadily growing influence of money on elections since the Court’s decision.

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U.S. Supreme Court To Weigh New Religious Rights Case

One of the Good News signs at issue.

One of the Good News signs at issue.

Should we expect further expansion of pro-religious law from the Roberts Supreme Court today? Reuters via Yahoo News reports on its latest opportunity to roll back the decades:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday will take up a new religious rights case when it considers whether a town in Arizona discriminated against a local church by forcing it to remove signs notifying the public of its worship services.

The nine justices are set to hear a one-hour argument in an appeal filed by the Good News Community Church, which objected to its treatment by town officials in Gilbert, Arizona. The church says its free speech rights, protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, were violated.

The conservative-leaning court’s last decision on a religious-themed issue came last June. The justices ruled 5-4 that owners of private companies can object on religious grounds to a provision of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law that requires employers to provide insurance covering birth control for women.

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Putting Our Country Back Together

A largely quiet tactic to disenfranchise voters of all persuasions has become a target of reform-minded citizens in the wake of the 2014 midterm elections. While we have seen widespread pushback against voter suppression, unreliable voting machines, and unchecked spending in elections, Gerrymandering–the process of selectively re-drawing voters’ districts to ensure the outcome–has reached a critical mass in the fight for American Democracy. This is a tactic favored by incumbents of either political party, and as such this is a non-partisan issue affecting the public at large.

This short clip from my documentary PAY 2 PLAY illustrates how gerrymandering works, and how an equal number of voters can be strategically divided so as to guarantee districts that will vote a certain way. Featuring Marianne Williamson, an impassioned reformer, as well as the insight of Jerry Springer, whose previous jobs included Mayor of Cincinnati and Ohio gubernatorial candidate.

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens writes in his book Six Amendments that we even need a new amendment to the U.S.… Read the rest

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Activist Comics: Disclosure

If someone was talking shit about you, wouldn’t you want to know who it was? And if it was $145 million worth of shit you were buried under, wouldn’t you be outraged and demand to know who was dumping all this excrement on top of you, and why?

Well, here we are: After $145 million of anonymous spending in the midterm elections, the American public remains none the wiser as to who not only wanted to spend fortunes influencing politics, but needed to do it without exposing their identities and their motives. Insomuch as political spending is largely an investment made by eager pay-to-players looking to get a massive return in the form of tax breaks, contracts, or legislative deference, how much worse must these interests be if they need to keep their motives secret?

There are some — such as Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas, and fulminating lawyer James Bopp — who believe there should no disclosure on spending in elections at all, because that might expose a particular donor to criticism from others, which then would make them hesitant to give large sums to unpopular causes, and that is JUST LIKE restricting their First Amendment right to free speech.… Read the rest

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How Billionaire Oligarchs Are Becoming Their Own Political Parties

Anthony Kennedy official SCOTUS portrait crop.jpg

Justice Kennedy, the author of the Supreme Court’s ‘Citizens United’ opinion.

Pay 2 Play politics has been the name of the electoral game in America since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Jim Rutenberg has a great essay in the New York Times Magazine showing just how bad things have become:

…Before 2002, parties could accept unlimited donations from individuals or groups (corporations, labor unions, etc.) so long as they devoted the funds — so-called “soft money” — to the amorphous act of “party building.” The McCain-Feingold law, as it came to be known, banned soft-money contributions, and it also prohibited political groups that operate outside the regulated system and its donation limits — like the Wylys and their Republicans for Clean Air — from running “issue ads” that appear to help or hurt a candidate close to an election. It implemented tough fines and even prison terms for those who illegally coordinated with the official campaigns.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Why I can’t resign now

400px-Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg_official_SCOTUS_portrait

via Politco:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is pushing back against suggestions that she should soon retire, saying President Barack Obama would be unable to get a justice like her through the Senate.

“Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have?” the 81-year-old justice told Elle Magazine in an interview excerpt released Tuesday. The wide-ranging interview portrays Ginsburg — seen as a member of the court’s liberal wing — as attuned to the dynamics in Congress and some of the greater political and social discussions in the U.S.

In the interview, she suggested that Senate Republicans would likely block any potential nominee like her.

Continue reading.

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