November 23, 2003October 19, 2003Meeting Report

November 23, 2003

Rosemary Muller and Joy Fisher
The United States Supreme Court

This was an excellent meeting. Rosemary Muller is a former HAGSA member who used to give us annual reports on recent and pending decisions of the United States Supreme Court. With this meeting, we were trying to bring back this tradition. She was assisted in this effort by Joy Fisher, a practicing attorney.

Rosemary and Joy passed out summary sheets covering many of the cases they mentioned. They covered five kinds of cases: equality, free speech, criminal law, federal authority, and business. Each of the speakers gave a summary of cases of a particular type and the other continued with the next type.

The highlight for Joy Fisher was Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned a Texas sodomy law and reversed an earlier decision by the Court on the same subject. Years ago, in Europe, Joy had questioned Justice Anthony M. Kennedy about the decision in the earlier case. It is interesting that he changed sides when Lawrence v. Texas was decided. He and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor are regarded as the swing votes on the Court. The "liberal" wing consists of John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David H. Souter and Stephen Breyer. The "conservative" members are Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

We were also given a preview of upcoming cases.1 U.S. v. Newdow is one with which we are all familiar. Among others, there is a challenge to the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Law and one that will determine if American judges have jurisdiction over the detention of terrorist suspects who are detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Stay tuned.

Report prepared by Wayne Luney, HAGSA Recorder

1 Rosemary and Joy discussed a total of six upcoming cases:

  1. U.S. v. Newdow. This is the case in which Dr. Michael Newdow challenged the use of the phrase, "under God," in the Pledge of Allegiance.

  2. Tennessee v. Lane. This case asks whether state governments must comply with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates that disabled people be given equal access to "services, programs and activities."

  3. Vieth v. Jubelirer. This case asks whether and when partisan gerrymandering2 violates equal protection.

  4. McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. This is a massive case, challenging provisions of the bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002, also known as the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Law, that may dramatically transform the rules of political debate in the U.S.

  5. Locke v. Davey. This is an Oregon case that asks whether states that give college scholarship grants must allow the grant money to be used for theology education at religious institutions.

  6. Al-Odah v. U.S. and Rasul v. Bush. These two cases ask whether U.S. judges have jurisdiction to hear cases involving the detention by the U.S. of terrorist suspects at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

2 Drawing of district lines to maximize the electoral advantage of a political party or faction. The term was first used in 1812, when Elbridge Gerry was Governor of Massachusetts, to characterize that state's redistricting plan.

Footnotes prepared by Bill Potts, based on summary sheet handout

Return to top of pageClick below to return to the list of 2003 Meetings or to go to the previous or next meeting report.