The ruling [in Shelby County v. Holder] was expected, but deeply wrong. In striking down a core provision of the Voting Rights Act, the justices flouted the text and history of the 15th Amendment, which expressly gives to Congress the power to prevent all forms of voting discrimination. The majority justified its ruling by invoking state sovereignty, forgetting that the 15th Amendment was designed to limit the acts of states.
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The court's business cases predictably took a back seat to the run of high-profile civil rights cases. But the business cases show a court that has steadily made it harder for plaintiffs to band together in class actions that can be more efficient and lucrative for plaintiffs, but much more expensive for companies that most often are the defendants in such claims. Doug Kendall of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center said the court's conservatives "were completely united in the push to protect corporations from being held accountable in federal court."
“Anyone doubting that the most important story of the Roberts court is its business rulings has not been paying enough attention,” said Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a liberal group. “This term’s 5-4 rulings, all favoring the chamber, move the law sharply to the right and to the great detriment of consumers, employees, and other Americans trying to get their day in court.”
The court's business rulings represent "troubling trends that reach back a decade or more, with the court's conservative majority making it harder for consumers, workers and small businesses to go to federal court and hold large corporations accountable," said Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a progressive legal group.
"What it means is that if you have a dispute, you can't go to court," Schaeffer argued. "You have to use an arbitrator where [unlike in a courtroom] the rules of evidence don't apply, and you end up having to pay for the arbitrator anyway." "That decision really hurts consumers," said Schaeffer. "We buy cellphones and other products, and each one of those contracts has an arbitration clause buried someplace in [the] fine print."
"As opposed to issues like the dismantling of affirmative action, where the court's conservative bloc is divided and has trouble agreeing about how far and how fast to take the law, the court's conservatives are completely united" on this front, said Doug Kendall, head of the Constitutional Accountability Center. "Corporate America wins; workers, consumers, mom and pop shops, and other individual Americans asserting their rights in federal court lose. Again and again."
When Justice Anthony Kennedy began to read from his opinion in United States v. Windsor, and it became clear the court was striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act as an affront to the human dignity and equality of rights to which gay men and lesbians are entitled by our Constitution, I was exhilarated; history had been made.
Justice Kennedy, quite properly, treats DOMA’s vast system of marriage discrimination as a frontal assault on the Constitution’s universal guarantee of equality, explaining that DOMA’s “principal purpose is to impose inequality” by placing “same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage.” This rank discrimination, he continued, “demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify.”
CAC's David Gans joined Nicole Sandler to discuss the arriage equality, voting rights, and business cases decided by the Roberts Court in the Term that just ended.
CAC Vice President Judith E. Schaeffer appeared on CNBC's Nightly Business Report, broadcast on PBS stations across the country, to discuss the effect of the Supreme Court's ruling to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Justice Kennedy wrote the decisions striking down DOMA today and striking down Texas’s anti-sodomy law ten years ago. The final piece in ensuring his place in history may well be to eventually recognize that the Constitution requires all states to follow the Constitution’s guarantee to any person — regardless of race, sexual orientation, or other group characteristics — equality of rights, including the fundamental right to marry the person she loves.
The Supreme Court may be reluctant to unequivocally decide what it considers to be a hot-button social issue that is still percolating through the states. The Constitution, however, stands for the proposition that some rights cannot be left to the whims of a democratic majority. Equality before the law is one of those rights.