Federal Courts


Supreme Court Weighs Unions' Future

By Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi

Springtime is typically emblematic of the birth and growth of new life forms. However, in 2014 this time of year could become a moment of death for the labor movement as we have come to know it.

In the coming weeks the United States Supreme Court will render a decision in the case of Harris v. Quinn that could paralyze labor’s ability to organize workers throughout the country. Despite its major implications, the case remains largely absent from our mainstream discourse or even within discussions among progressive allies.

For Marriage Equality, It Took a Movement

Randy ShawBy Randy Shaw

The Supreme Court's striking down DOMA and Prop 8 sent a powerful message about the ongoing power of grassroots movements to bring about social change. These rulings could not have come a decade ago. Then, even campaigns for domestic partnerships and civil unions were politically controversial. But the broader activist struggle for marriage equality brought the courts along, just as the African-American civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's brought legal rulings to support that struggle.

Brown Can Release Prisoners Early Without Compromising Public Safety

By Lizzie Buchen

After a year of defying court orders to alleviate the state’s prison crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown seems to have finally pushed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to its limit. In an April 11 ruling, having already "exercised exceptional restraint," the exasperated federal judges declared the state "will not be allowed to continue to violate the requirements of the Constitution of the United States," giving Brown until May 2 to develop a plan that will reduce the prison population by nearly 10,000 people by the end of the year.

Prop 8 Likely to Be Repealed Narrowly; Court to Hear DOMA Today

By Paul Hogarth

It is never wise to predict U.S. Supreme Court decisions on oral arguments, or else Obamacare would have been repealed. Based on the Justices' line of questioning, however, it appears that they will overrule Proposition 8 - but on narrow grounds that will only affect California. The Justices spent a significant chunk of time on "standing," but they will likely consider the Prop 8 supporters as proper litigants. But Justices Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts had clear problems with finding a "right" to same-sex marriage that would apply nationwide - and the "nine-state" compromise was widely panned. I predict they will rule Prop 8 unconstitutional by applying the Romer precedent and sustaining the Ninth Circuit decision, i.e., Prop 8 was unique because it "took away" a right that same-sex couples already had.

Time For "Testing As Child Abuse Suits" to Fill the Nation's Courts

By Mark Naison

A tragedy is quietly taking place in America's public schools that represent an important opportunity for America's lawyers to advance the cause of equity and justice. All over the nation, with the support of both major parties, schools systems are now requiring that teachers and administrators be evaluated on the basis of student test scores, with their jobs placed in jeopardy if the scores do not reach a certain level.

California Legislature Passes High Speed Rail Bond Issue, Moving Project Forward

By David Dayen

High speed rail survived by the skin of its teeth Friday.

In a closely watched vote of the California state Senate, a bill to issue the first $5.8 billion in bonds for the construction of high speed rail lines passed 21-16. It needed all 21 votes to pass. Four Democrats voted no – including Allen Lowenthal, the Democratic candidate for Congress in CA-47, and Fran Pavley, the author of the state’s historic global warming law – but ultimately, just enough Democrats voted in favor of the bonds for them to pass. Joe Simitian and Mark DeSaulnier were the other Democrats who opposed the bill.

Supreme Court Declines to Hear NRDC California Clean Shipping Fuels Case

By Melissa Lin Perrella

Last week the Supreme Court declined the Pacific Maritime Shipping Association’s request to  review a lower court ruling requiring roughly 2,000 ocean-going vessels entering California ports each year to switch to low-sulfur fuel before coming within 24 nautical miles of the state’s coast. Denying the case allows the lower court ruling to remain in place and will protect millions of people living in California from the harmful effects of inhaling particulate pollution from ships.

This ruling finally puts an end to industry’s attempts to shirk responsibility and reduce air pollution that’s threatening the health of millions of Californians each year.

In 2009, PMSA challenged California’s Vessel Fuel Rule, which has the opportunity to be one the most health protective regulations ever adopted.  About 40 percent of the nation’s imported goods move through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, creating massive emissions from trucks and vessels.

What California Has At Stake At The Supreme Court

By Anthony Wright
Health Access California

So, what would happen if the Supreme Court struck down the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? Hundreds of thousands of Californians would lose their health insurance, and many more would lose financial assistance to be able to afford care and coverage. Millions more California families would find that their new options, benefits, and consumer protections would disappear.

If the Supreme Court strikes down the health law, it would be a radical, unprecedented, judicially activist step that would literally throw people in treatment off of coverage, and have devastating ripple effect throughout our health system and state. Hundreds of thousands of Californians could lose their health coverage. Over 8,600 Californians with pre-existing conditions would be dumped onto the mercy of the market, uninsured and uninsurable. Over 370,000 low-income Californians in federally-matched county 'bridge to reform' programs would find themselves on a bridge to nowhere.

Why the Supreme Court Will Uphold Health Care Law

By Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

As the nation focuses on Supreme Court oral arguments on the health care law, the politics of the ruling defy standard assumptions. On the one hand, the most pro-business Court in modern history will decide the case. It has handed huge victories to corporate interests by striking down campaign finance laws, eliminating class action damages in employment discrimination cases, and by issuing several rulings that limit access to the courts. This track record would appear to make the Court’s striking down the health care law a no-brainer. But I see the Court upholding the law for two reasons. First, the health and pharmaceutical industries prefer Obamacare to the status quo, and to potentially more sweeping reforms like single-payer which would emerge if the health care law at issue is struck down. Second, and most importantly, a ruling upholding Obamacare gives the Court even more freedom to pursue its right-wing agenda on other issues.

Adult Day Health Care Recipients Ask Federal District Court to Hold Brown Administration in Contempt

By Marty Omoto
California Disability Community Action Network

Disability Rights California (DRC), a disability, mental health and senior rights legal advocacy organization, filed legal documents on Thursday asking a federal district court in San Francisco to hold the Brown Administration in contempt for failing to fully comply with a court approved agreement that settled a lawsuit between the State of California and people with disabilities and seniors who use Adult Day Health Care services as a Medi-Cal benefit. The hearing is set for March 29, Thursday, at 09:00 AM before US Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley, in the federal district court in San Francisco. The Brown Administration has not yet issued a public response to the motion. CDCAN will provide full report following that court hearing next week.