Tag: Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Image via The Guardian.

By Guest Contributor Thomas L. Mariadason

The iconography of blind justice is ubiquitous. Expressionless Greco-Roman goddesses stridently clutching scales adorn courtrooms all across our country. At this point, the imagery is hardly eye-catching, but its familiarity helps numb our doubts about the nature of judicial objectivity. Sightlessness, after all, is the supreme analogue of impartiality.

One small catch: the metaphor of blindness—an ableist trope that frequently undermines itself —also suggests the inability to perceive the realities before us.

In a heavyweight dissent to the flyweight opinion in Schuette v. BAMN, Justice Sonia Sotomayor knocked the shut-eyed obliviousness out of her Supreme Court benchmates, exhorting them “to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”

I’m with Kweli on this one: “Right about now I’m feeling very grateful we have a Puerto Rican from the Bronx on the Supreme Court.”
Read the Post Cutting The Ties That Blind

June 26, 2013 / / academia

By Guest Contributor Ruth Hopkins, cross-posted from Last Real Indians

“The Death of Jane McCrea” by John Vanderlyn (1804)

Before I head out the door, I watch Morning Joe on MSNBC.  It’s part of my workday routine.  This morning they were talking about the latest issue of the New Republic and its lead story entitled, “How the NRA is Going Down: This is How the NRA Ends.”  Since the Newtown tragedy, Republican Joe Scarborough, the show’s host, is openly advocating for gun control. Still, Joe disagreed with the assertion that the NRA’s power and influence is eroding, especially in the wake of recently defeated gun control legislation.

In the midst of this exchange, John Heilemann, an author, journalist and political analyst who frequents Morning Joe (and who occasionally says things that make sense to me), said, “But who’s the SCALP?” John paraphrased this statement by saying, “who’s gonna pay the price for having voted the wrong way?” In other words, John was questioning whether any of the congressmen who voted against the recent legislation in question will be defeated next election specifically because they voted against gun control, i.e. who will be the “scalp” (defined in the dictionary as a “trophy of victory”) that gun control proponents win.

Mr. Heilemann made a perfectly rational argument. Unfortunately his archaic phraseology took me right out of the conversation. The moment he said, “Who’s the SCALP?” my mind immediately raced to the fact that my ancestors (the Dakota people) were hunted down and murdered in their Minnesota homelands in the late 1800s, when then-Governor Alexander Ramsey placed a $200 bounty on their scalps. Yes, you read that correctly. It was once government policy to encourage civilians to hunt down American Indian men, women and children (human beings), kill them, and rip the flesh from their skulls. Anyone who did so was rewarded handsomely for it.
Read the Post Of Scalps and Savages: How Colonial Language Enforces Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples

January 5, 2012 / / activism

By Guest Contributor Phil Yu, cross-posted from Angry Asian Man

Received word through social media that civil rights hero Gordon Hirabayashi, best known for being one of the few people to openly defy the government’s unconstitutional internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, has died. He was 93.

Hirabayashi was arrested, convicted and imprisoned, and eventually appealed his case to the Supreme Court (Hirabayashi vs. United States) — the first challenge to Executive Order 9066. The Court ruled against him, 9-0. However, his wartime convictions were successfully overturned forty years later.
Read the Post Gordon Hirabayashi, 1918-2012

July 12, 2010 / / legal issues
May 14, 2010 / / policy

by Latoya Peterson

Over the last few days, I’ve been watching with interest the discussions around Elena Kagan and race.

I need to revisit some of my Sotomayor coverage, but I am wondering about the concept of a “thin” resume – comparatively speaking, it would appear that Kagan has far less of a legal paper trail than Sotomayor, yet the idea that she is inherently unqualified seems to be from a quiet corner of the punditry, and not the echoing refrain it became for Sotomayor. But that’s neither here nor there.

The real controversy brewing is over Kagan’s record on race. The first time we heard about Kagan in the racial blogosphere was around the time of the Stephanie Grace scandal, Kagan’s name came up as the Harvard Law School Dean that did not take allegations of racism seriously. Diane Lucas, the Harvard law grad who wrote a guest post for Feministe called “The Racist Breeding Grounds of Harvard Law School” was also quoted in an article about Kagan’s track record with students. According to Lucas:

[…]Lucas says when she and other students asked Kagan to issue a formal apology, set up diversity training and hire a diversity director [after a student roast which parodied actual students with racist and sexist stereotypes] , Kagan refused. Kagan defended the parody as students’ freedom of speech. From that, Lucas concluded that Kagan shirked her responsibility to make Harvard Law School a more racially sensitive place.

As more details emerge about Kagan, it was revealed that her hiring record also reflects a certain type of trend. The New York Times explains:

In the nearly six years that Ms. Kagan was dean, from 2003 to 2009, she hired a total of 43 permanent, full-time faculty members, 32 of whom were tenured and tenured-track. Of those, 25 were white men, 6 were white women and one was an Asian-American woman. Of the other 11, 6 were white men, 2 were women and 3 were minority men (2 black and one Indian), according to a law school official.

Law school officials said the numbers did not reflect the whole story because offers were made to other minority and women scholars; some were declined and some still open. But others said the record spoke for itself.

“Kagan’s performance as dean at Harvard raises doubts about her commitment to equality for traditionally disadvantaged groups,” Guy-Uriel Charles, a black law professor at Duke, wrote last month in an oft-cited post.

After Kagan was selected as Obama’s next nominee, both defenders and detractors came out of the woodwork, making powerful cases based on Kagan’s record. Read the Post Questions Remain Around Elena Kagan and Race