The Supreme Court delivered another mixed bag of major decisions on Wednesday as the term draws to a close, but an anxiously-awaited ruling on voting rights still looms.
* In a win for pissed off teens everywhere, the Court ruled 8-1 that a public Pennsylvania high school violated a cheerleader’s First Amendment rights ([link removed]) when it disciplined her for a colorful Snapchat rant. Then-14-year-old Brandi Levy had expressed her frustration over not making the cheerleading team by posting a photo with her middle finger held aloft, and the caption, “Fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.” Levy posted the photo outside of school hours and off-campus, but another student snitched (c’mon), and the school suspended her from the JV cheerleading squad for a year.
* Justice Stephen Breyer, who incidentally would look terrific in a retiree’s Hawaiian shirt, wrote in his majority opinion, “courts must be more skeptical of a school’s efforts to regulate off-campus speech, for doing so may mean the student cannot engage in that kind of speech at all.” It was a narrow ruling—the Court declined to announce a rule for what qualifies as punishable off-campus speech in a world with social media—but it marks the first time a student has won a free-speech case at the Supreme Court in more than 50 years.
* In a substantially shittier ruling, the Court’s conservative majority struck down a California law ([link removed]) that allows union organizers to access private agricultural land in order to reach farmworkers—a rollback of one of Cesar Chavez’s biggest accomplishments. Not only is it a potentially disastrous decision for the farmworkers union and organized labor in general, it could also open the door for property owners to start denying access to other unwanted nuisances ([link removed]) , like, say, health and workplace safety inspectors.
Two other decisions flew a little further under the radar:
* The Court ruled unanimously ([link removed]) that police can’t always enter a home without a warrant when pursuing a suspect for a minor crime, unlike the categorical rule that allows officers to conduct a warrantless search when they believe they’re pursuing a felony suspect. And in a 7-2 decision, the Court made it easier for President Biden to remove the Trump-appointed head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which Biden moved to do immediately ([link removed]) .
* With just two more days’ worth of decision-dumps left on the calendar, the worst may be yet to come. In Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Supreme Court will decide whether two Arizona laws that have disproportionately made it harder for minorities to vote violate (what’s left of) the Voting Rights Act. If the conservative justices uphold those restrictions, as they seem likely to do ([link removed]) , it will be a serious blow to the voting-rights advocates gearing up to challenge new GOP voter-suppression laws across the country. Could be a good time to end the filibuster and pass some voting-rights legislation yesterday?
While the increasingly far-right Supreme Court has managed to uphold the ACA, side with NCAA athletes, and protect the rights of high schoolers to fly off the handle in very specific circumstances, we’re also starting to see the expected consequences of Amy Coney Barrett’s rushed confirmation, with darker clouds on the horizon. The most far-reaching decision of the term may be Stephen Breyer’s call to put on the Hawaiian shirt, or not.
Nuclear weapons are constantly in the news. Whether it's the renewed negotiations with Iran by President Biden's team, the challenges posed by North Korea, arms control talks with Putin's Russia, China's expanding nuclear arsenal, or whether and how America should modernize its own, these most terrible weapons touch us all in ways that are both obvious and obscured. How should we think about all this? As with most issues, the first place to start is history.
That's why War on the Rocks put out a A Most Terrible Weapon, a limited run podcast hosted by Usha Sahay that goes back to the start of the nuclear age. Think of it as the origin story of nuclear weapons. How did Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy struggle with the god-like power to destroy the world? What about their Soviet counter-parts? And how did this affect ordinary people the world over? Search for A Most Terrible Weapon on your podcast app of choice ([link removed]) .
As the GOP ramps up its coordinated attacks on “critical race theory” in all its imagined forms, Florida Republicans have moved to defund state schools that they deem to be “indoctrinating” students ([link removed]) . On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed legislation requiring public colleges and universities to survey students, faculty, and staff about their beliefs to assess whether those schools have enough right-wing blowhards, presumably. DeSantis’s very credible push for “viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom” comes two weeks after the State Board of Education banned certain lessons ([link removed]) on racism in American history, at his request.
Meanwhile, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley delivered an impressive response ([link removed]) to GOP lawmakers whining about critical race theory during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday: “I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding...the country which we are here to defend?” Milley also discussed the necessity of understanding white rage, and the role it played in the insurrection that Republicans refuse to investigate. It’s worth taking two minutes to watch the whole thing ([link removed]) .
* Undisputed New York City Resident Eric Adams took the lead but not an outright majority in the mayoral primary’s first-choice vote on Tuesday ([link removed]) , and Andrew Yang has conceded the race. Ranked-choice vote tallying will now begin, and we thus may not know the official winner until mid-July.
* The Interior Department will launch an investigation of federal boarding schools ([link removed]) to find possible unmarked burial sites of Native American children.
* Attorney General Merrick Garland defended the DOJ's decision to maintain its vile position in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case thusly ([link removed]) : “We don’t have one rule for Republicans and one rule for Democrats, one rule for a former president, one rule for the current president.” All presidents are above the law, you see.
* Antivirus software magnate John McAfee died in a Spanish prison on Wednesday ([link removed]) , hours after a Spanish court approved his extradition to the U.S. on tax-evasion charges.
* A pedestrian bridge collapsed in Washington, DC ([link removed]) , injuring five people and imbuing Infrastructure Week(s) with a new sense of urgency.
* Former DNC Chair Tom Perez has announced he’s running for governor of Maryland ([link removed]) .
* A GOP-led Michigan Senate investigation found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election ([link removed]) , if you can even wrap your head around that, and the report’s authors will surely rescind their support for voter-suppression legislation based on their own lies which they just debunked. Surely that page just got lost.
* Britney Spears pleaded with a Los Angeles judge to end her conservatorship on Wednesday ([link removed]) , telling the court among other things that her conservators have forced her to keep an IUD in place.
* Oath Keepers member Graydon Young pleaded guilty to charges related to the insurrection ([link removed]) , and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators in the first January 6 plea deal.
* China has forced the closure of Apple Daily ([link removed]) , Hong Kong’s last remaining pro-democracy newspaper.
* Netflix forgot we can go outside now ([link removed]) .
President Biden has unveiled a slate of new efforts to combat gun violence ([link removed]) in response to a spike in violent-crime rates that began months before he took office, which Republicans have nevertheless blamed him for. Biden directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to revoke the licenses of gun dealers the first time they fail to run background checks, and the administration will set aside $350 billion from the American Rescue Plan for state and local governments to hire more police officers and fund community policing strategies. That increased police funding might not sit well with progressives who are pushing for dramatic police reforms, but it’s at least paired with things like expanded housing and hiring opportunities for formerly incarcerated people.
Cops shouldn't have a “get-out-of-court-free” card, whether they’re using lethal force, making unlawful arrests, or racially profiling people. But that's what qualified immunity lets them do. You can take action to help us end qualified immunity by signing our petition today.Click here to sign the petition today. ([link removed])
Qualified immunity shields police officers and other government officials from liability by requiring proof an official violated “clearly established law” – putting the burden on victims to find a nearly identical court case that found the action unconstitutional. This is a key element of the architecture of impunity that amplifies police power and keeps them above the law, and disproportionately impacts those targeted most by law enforcement including people of color, particularly Black people, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ individuals.
As the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act moves through Congress, the ACLU is demanding Congress to take action by passing legislation that ends qualified immunity without exception. Are you with us?Click here to add your name ([link removed]) to our petition and urge Congress to end qualified immunity.
Thanks for taking action,
The ACLU Team
India Walton ([link removed]) is on track to become the first female mayor of Buffalo, NY, and the only socialist mayor of a major U.S. city.
The Biden administration ([link removed]) will allow asylum-seekers who were unable to attend their court dates as a result of Trump’s Remain In Mexico policy to restart their proceedings.
Gov. Ned Lamont (D-CT) ([link removed]) has signed legislation restoring the right to vote to people on parole.
The Interior Department ([link removed]) has announced the transfer of more than 18,000 acres of land back to Montana tribes.