Tag Archives: clarence thomas

Scales of justice: Ginsburg No. 1 in opinion poll

Public Policy Polling surveyed the nation’s voters on the favorability of U.S. Supreme Court justices — before the biggest decisions of the term were released.

PPP, a liberal-leaning polling firm, found that voters say Ruth Bader Ginsburg is their favorite justice — as much as they have a favorite. Ginsburg won the top spot with just 19 percent.

Next in line: Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas at 11 percent, John Roberts and Antonin Scalia at 8 percent, Elena Kagan at 7 percent, Anthony Kennedy at 5 percent and Samuel Alito and Stephen Breyer at 4 percent.

Ginsburg is a clear favorite among Democrats, followed by Sotomayor.

Thomas, meanwhile, finishes first with Republicans at 21 percent, followed by Roberts and Scalia.

Asked to name their least favorite member of the court, 18 percent chose Thomas, 12 percent chose Ginsburg, 10 percent named Scalia, 8 percent went for Kagan and Sotomayor, 5 percent named Alito, 4 percent said Roberts and 3 percent said Kennedy and Breyer.

Thomas is the least favorite member among Democrats and Ginsburg is the least favorite among Republicans.

Overall Americans have a negative view of the Supreme Court — about 59 percent of Republicans think the court is too liberal and 45 of Democrats think the court is too conservative.

Justice Thomas objects to refusal to block marriage equality in Alabama

Justice Clarence Thomas says the Supreme Court is inappropriately signaling it intends to clear the way for gay marriage across the nation in a stinging dissent to the high court’s refusal to block the start of same-sex marriages in Alabama.

Bitterly objecting to the Feb. 9 action, Thomas provided a rare insider’s perspective on the widely held view that the court’s embrace of gay marriage is a done deal.

Thomas filed a dissenting opinion after his colleagues rejected Alabama’s plea to put a hold on same-sex marriages in the state until the Supreme Court resolves the issue nationwide in a few months.

He criticized his fellow justices for looking “the other way as yet another federal district judge casts aside state laws,” rather than following the customary course of leaving those laws in place until the court answers an important constitutional question.

“This acquiescence may well be seen as a signal of the court’s intended resolution of that question,” Thomas wrote in an opinion that was joined by Justice Antonin Scalia. “This is not the proper way” for the court to carry out its role under the Constitution, he wrote, “and, it is indecorous for this court to pretend that it is.”

The opinion was remarkable less for the legal result it suggested than for its open criticism of fellow justices.

After all, many legal commentators have predicted not only the case’s outcome this spring (in favor of same-sex marriage), but the vote (5-4) and the author of the majority opinion (Justice Anthony Kennedy).

The number of states in which gay and lesbian couples can marry has nearly doubled since October, from 19 to 37, largely as a result of terse Supreme Court orders that allowed lower court rulings to become final and rejected state efforts to keep marriage bans in place pending appeals.

“If you read the tea leaves the Supreme Court is leaving, the bans on same-sex marriage can’t be permitted. They’re unconstitutional,” said University of California-Berkeley law professor Jesse Choper.

Alabama became the 37th state in which same-sex couples can marry, following U.S. District Judge Callie Granade’s ruling in January that struck down as unconstitutional the state’s statutory and constitutional bans.

Granade had put her order on hold until Feb. 9 to let the state prepare for the change, and State Attorney General Luther Strange had asked for the delay to be extended for at least a few months.

Monday morning, probate judges in Alabama began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, some of whom had been lined up for hours.

“It’s about time,” said Shante Wolfe, 21, as she left the courthouse in Montgomery with wife Tori Sisson. They had camped out in a blue and white tent to be the first in the county given a license.

The Supreme Court can freeze lawsuits in place when they raise the same issue the court already has agreed to decide. And when federal courts declare state laws unconstitutional, “our ordinary practice,” Thomas wrote, is to prevent those rulings from taking effect while they are being appealed.

But since October, the justices have repeatedly turned away state requests to keep same-sex marriages from taking place until appeals are resolved.

Alabama’s plea was the first since the court stepped into the issue last month to take up a decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold laws in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

The court has been silent about the reasons for its actions in the gay marriage cases. It similarly offered no explanation for orders in a series of challenges to state voter ID and registration laws in the fall, or for a decision to allow an execution in Oklahoma to proceed eight days before deciding to hear a challenge to the controversial sedative the state uses in lethal injection executions.

“Part of what gives us all a sense of finality and a sense of acceptance about decisions is knowing that the court has thought about it,” said University of Chicago law professor Will Baude, a former law clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts. Baude uses the term “shadow docket” to refer to unexplained orders. “For the public at large, that can over time harm the court’s legitimacy.”

Thomas has previously made known his support for keeping the same-sex marriage prohibitions in place until the court issues its decision. Although he did not note it in October, he later said he had voted at that time to take up gay marriage when the court rejected appeals from five states seeking to preserve same-sex marriage bans.

Thomas and Scalia also have been in dissent from the three major pro-gay rights decisions at the Supreme Court since 1996, all written by Kennedy. When the court struck down part of the anti-gay marriage federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito also dissented.

Michael Dorf, a former Kennedy law clerk who teaches at Cornell University, said the absence of Roberts and Alito from Thomas’ dissent Monday suggests those justices could be part of a broader majority in favor of same-sex marriage this year, with Roberts the more likely candidate.

Other than that, Dorf said, the justices’ order allowing same-sex marriage to begin in Alabama, “is further evidence that the court intends to reverse the 6th circuit and find a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”

Florida attorney general asks Supreme Court to block gay marriages

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to try to keep the state’s gay marriage ban in place past Jan. 5.

Bondi this week filed a request with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who oversees emergency appeals from Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

A federal appeals court in Atlanta refused earlier this month to extend past Jan. 5 a hold on a ruling that declared Florida’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. The decision possibly brings same-sex weddings one step closer to reality in the state.

But Bondi’s office said that the state’s ban needs to stay in place to avoid confusion while it appeals the ruling. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in August ruled the voter approved ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

The conservative tea party Republican has said it is her duty to protect the state amendment barring gay couples from marrying in the Sunshine State. She has said that allowing gay couples to marry in the state would “impose significant public harm.”

Bondi has been married three times and divorced twice.

In a legal defense of the ban on same-sex marriage earlier this year, the attorney general said, “Florida’s marriage laws have a close, direct, and rational relationship to society’s legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units.”

WiGWAG: News with a twist and sometimes a punchline

Ringing in the season of silly

Yes, the season of stupid edits to “Deck the Halls” arrived earlier than usual this year. A full month before Black Friday and the onset of the frenzied holiday season, Hallmark debuted its “ugly sweater” ornament, which proclaimed, “Don we now our FUN apparel.” Fa-la-la-ugh. The company said it replaced “gay” with “FUN” from the Christmas carol to avoid misinterpretation. So, now you know: Wearing ugly Christmas sweaters is so fun, not so gay. 

Turned that way

Actor, comedian and provocateur Russell Brand said during a recent podcast that after performing oral sex on a man in a public toilet, he now thinks that the only reason he identifies as straight is “because of the environment I grew up in.” Brand said he was persuaded to go to gay bars and gyms to pick up men for his UK showRE:Brand.

‘Boobies’ bracelet 

The court battle between two girls and their school over “I (heart) Boobies!” breast cancer awareness bracelets could be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court. School officials in Easton, Pa., plan to appeal a federal appeals court ruling rejecting their decision to ban the bracelets, distributed by the Keep A Breast Foundation and part of a breast cancer awareness campaign. The girls involved say they’re concerned about free speech and saving lives. School officials say they’re concerned about a “hyper-sexualized” environment. We’re thinking we might actually hear from Clarence Thomas on this one.

Spinning Wheeler

Nevada Assemblyman Jim Wheeler is complaining the media are “having a good time” spinning a comment he made at a town hall gathering into an extreme statement. So what did the freshman Republican say? He said, with no spin here, that he’d vote for the unacceptable if that’s what his constituents wanted, even if that meant voting to allow slavery. 

Fresh produce, big guns

Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna received a flurry of emails after two men showed up near the city’s farmers market carrying AR-15 assault rifles. Police detained the men at gunpoint but eventually released them. A few emails contained messages of support for the men and references to the Second Amendment, but most writers questioned the need for weapons at the family event. “If these idiots are this paranoid, perhaps they should stay home and protect their fortress and not wander around on the streets,” Mary Rutten, of Appleton, wrote to Hanna.

At the Y-M-C-A

A 69-year-old man from Mason City, Iowa, has received probation and suspended jail time for indecent exposure at the local YMCA. The man was convicted on two counts for allegedly committing sex acts in the Y sauna in July 2012. Two other men also received probation. For the record, the Mason City Family YMCA is not the kind of place where “you can get yourself clean, you can have a good meal” or “you can do whatever you feel.”

Wedding march

Two West Point graduates married recently in the military academy’s first wedding between two men. Larry Choate III, class of 2009, married Daniel Lennox, class of 2007, before about 20 guests. Choate and Lennox are out of the military and wore tuxedoes for the ceremony but some of their guests wore uniforms. The couple did not know each other as cadets and met through a friend.

Mars bars and fetus cards

Trick-or-treaters in Albuquerque got a shocking surprise. In addition to candy bars and lollipops, they were given graphic images of fetuses — one with the headline, “I am not a clump of cells” and another one touting, “53 million killed.” Many parents complained. The city’s far-right is pushing for a ban on abortions performed after 20 weeks.

Gaga in space

Lady Gaga will sing one of her hit songs from aboard a Virgin Galactic ship 62 miles above the Earth, becoming the first musician to perform in what is officially designated outer space. Gaga and her beauty team have booked seats on the spaceship and will broadcast the song as part of the Zero G Colony tech festival in New Mexico. Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio also signed up for the flight program, paying $250,000 to secure their spots.

Out on the stump

If successful in his bid to become Maine’s next governor, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud would become the first out candidate ever elected to serve as a state’s chief executive. Michaud came out as gay in a column that he released to Maine’s major news outlets. The six-term congressman and now seventh openly gay member of Congress, said that he acted in response to “whisper campaigns, insinuations and push-polls” about his personal life.