Tag Archives: decision

For the record: Quotes from the historic court ruling on marriage

Some comments on the historic Supreme Court ruling that gives same-sex couples the right to marry in all 50 states:

“From this day forward, it will simply be ‘marriage.'” — Lead plaintiff Jim Obergefell.

“There’s so much more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to every American. But today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect.” — President Barack Obama.

“This decision recognizes the fundamental truth that our love is all equal. Today is a great day for America. (hash)LoveWins” — Tweet from first lady Michelle Obama.

“Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage. I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision. I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments. ” — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

“I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman. People who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage have the right to change their state laws. That is the right of our people, not the right of the unelected judges or justices of the Supreme Court.” — Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Republican presidential contender.

“While I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision, their ruling is now the law of the land. I call on Congress to make sure deeply held religious views are respected and protected. The government must never force Christians to violate their religious beliefs.” — Dr. Ben Carson, Republican presidential candidate.

“As a result of this decision, the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage.” — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination.

“If accepted by Congress and this president, this decision will be a serious blow to religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment.” — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

“So while we celebrate the progress won today, we must stand firm in our conviction to keep moving forward. For too many LGBT Americans who are subjected to discriminatory laws, true equality is still just out of reach.”—  Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democratic presidential contender.

“We in the faith community have much work yet to do as we seek to end all discrimination against the LGBT community in America and the world,” — The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the National Cathedral, Washington.

“Every nation has laws limiting who and under what circumstances people can be married. This is because lawmakers have always understood that marriage does not exist just for the mutual satisfaction of the two people involved but for the betterment of society.” — Roman Catholic Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acknowledges that following today’s ruling by the Supreme Court, same-sex marriages are now legal in the United States. The Court’s decision does not alter the Lord’s doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman ordained by God. While showing respect for those who think differently, the Church will continue to teach and promote marriage between a man and a woman as a central part of our doctrine and practice.” — The Utah-based Mormon church, in a statement.

“The U.S. bishops now need to reconcile themselves to the new social reality of marriage equality, as it is poised to spread to all 50 states. They can do so by entering into a dialogue with lesbian and gay Catholics to learn more about the reality of their lives and how their faith inspires their relationships.” — Francis DeBernardo, executive director, New Ways Ministry, a national ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT Catholics and the wider church community.

“Denying couples legal recognition of their relationship opens the door to widespread discrimination. This ruling will help close that door and marks a great step forward for human rights in the United States.” — Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for United Nations Secretary Gen. Ban Ki-Moon.

“It is the law of the land now. It is our opinion that that ruling does stand and they will need to follow it.” — Chris Villines, executive director of the Association of Arkansas Counties, whose group is advising clerks on the ruling.

“All human beings are created equal by God and thus deserve to be treated with love, dignity and respect. I am, however, disappointed that the Supreme Court disregarded the democratically-enacted will of millions of Americans by forcing states to redefine the institution of marriage.”— House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

“This decision is about creating a future where loving, committed families are able to live with dignity. This is about freedom. This is about love. This is transformative, not only for LGBT families, but for America.” — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D.-Calif.

“I cannot think of a better way of celebrating the conclusion of LGBT Pride Month than the sight of gay and lesbian couples publicly taking their vows and joining their straight peers in showing their love and commitment.”— Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

“The phone blew up once the ruling came through. We had all kinds of people calling.” — Nora Dietzel, Boon County, Missouri’s, recorder of deeds.

“This has always been about our religious freedoms and the persecution of those who believe same sex unions are wrong. Now the persecutions will begin.” — Phil Burress, leader of the Citizens for Community Values of Cincinnati, Ohio, which opposes gay marriage.

“No single ruling can fix the scarring prejudice and stereotypes that have plagued good people for so long, but this can go a long way in helping people discover their common humanity.” — Mary Bonauto, the civil rights project director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders who argued before the court on behalf of gay couples from Michigan and Kentucky.

“Today’s ruling strikes a blow to inequality and discrimination throughout the nation, and that’s good for Americans’ mental health.” — Renee Binder, president of the American Psychiatric Association, which in 1973 removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

U.S. Supreme Court sets date for marriage arguments

UPDATED: The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on four marriage equality cases on April 28.

Plaintiffs’ briefs in support of marriage equality were filed on Feb. 27. Next, briefs from the states defending anti-gay marriage bans will be filed on March 27, followed by plaintiffs’ responses on April 17. 

The filing schedule puts the high court on track to hear oral argument in the cases — DeBoar v. Snyder from Michigan, Obergefell v. Hodges from Ohio, Tanco v. Haslam from Tennessee and Bourke v. Beshear from Kentucky — on April 28, with a decision due in late June.

Already a series of friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed, the most recent from the American Bar Association, which urges the justices to rule that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment requires a state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The ABA’s amicus brief supports the Michigan and Kentucky cases for marriage equality and is based on the ABA policy adopted as early as 1973 that advocates for the elimination of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Five years ago, the 400,000-member ABA adopted a policy urging the elimination of legal barriers to same-sex marriage.

“ABA members who represent same-sex couples know from experience the numerous obstacles same-sex couples face in ordering their affairs and providing security for themselves and their children in the most basic aspects of life: parenting, dealing with sickness and old age, paying taxes, passing on a legacy to their heirs and the myriad other legal and practical issues,” the brief states. “Although lawyers can sometimes counsel their clients on ways to avoid or limit the effects of (marriage bans), they know from experience that no legal ‘work-around’ can cure the discriminatory effects that necessarily result when a state denies formal recognition of a same-sex couples’ commitment through marriage.”

Alabama showdown

The day the national bar association filed the brief, the Alabama Supreme Court put a stop to probate judges issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. It was the latest development in a showdown between the state and federal courts in a Southern state famous for showdowns on civil rights matters. 

The state supreme court, led by right-wing Chief Justice Roy Moore, ordered probate judges to stop issuing licenses weeks after a federal judge overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage.

The state’s highest court said it’s order would stand until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the issue.

“Even as nationwide marriage equality is on the horizon, the Alabama Supreme Court is determined to be on the wrong side of history,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the attorney for the same-sex couples challenging Alabama’s ban.

Same-sex couples can legally marry in 37 states and the District of Columbia.

People’s brief

More than 200,000 people signed the People’s Brief, a friend-of-the-court brief circulated by the Human Rights Campaign and filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of marriage equality.

HRC said citizens in 50 states signed the document written by attorney Roberta Kaplan, who successfully argued before the Supreme Court against the Defense of Marriage Act. 

“Each and every signature on this brief … is a piece of evidence that this country is ready for marriage equality,” said HRC president Chad Griffin. “Through this historic document, the American people, LGBT and allies alike, are standing shoulder to shoulder to insist on fairness for all.”

Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that cleared the way for federal recognition of same-sex marriages, was the first to sign.

— Lisa Neff

Supreme Court knocks down buffer zone at abortion clinics in Massachusetts

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 26 struck down a 35-foot protest-free zone outside abortion clinics in Massachusetts.

The justices were unanimous in that ban on protests violates the First Amendment.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion, which said there are other ways to deal with protests outside Planned Parenthood centers in Boston, where the case originated.

Roberts wrote that banning protests within 35 feet from clinics throughout the state to deal with a problem at one clinic on one day a week is “hardly a narrowly tailored solution.”

Roberts and four liberal justices struck down the ban on narrow grounds. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a separate opinion that was critical of the Court’s practice of “giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents.”

Proponents of the buffer zone have argued that it is necessary to protect the safety of patients and staff. In 1994, a man shot and killed two receptionists and wounded five others at a clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts.

42 counties issue marriage licenses to gay couples in Wisconsin

Gay couples across Wisconsin rushed to wed on June 10, as more than half of the counties in the state began issuing licenses ahead of an expected hold on a ruling that the state’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison struck down the ban on June 6 in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging the prohibition. But she didn’t order county clerks to begin issuing licenses or block them from handing them out. Instead, she asked the ACLU to submit a proposed order spelling out how the organization wants her decision implemented, which the ACLU did late on June 9.

For now, her stance has left county clerks to decide on their own whether they can legally issue licenses to same-sex couples. Clerks in Milwaukee and Madison, the state’s liberal hubs, began issuing licenses to same-sex couples within hours of the ruling. Together the counties issued 238 licenses on June 6-7.

At least 42 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on June 9, according to a canvass by The Associated Press. Clerks in a handful of counties did not answer phone calls. Many, but not all, also waived the state’s five-day waiting period.

Dozens of couples were initially refused licenses in Appleton, Green Bay and elsewhere on June 9 while county clerks in those communities sought advice from the Wisconsin Vital Records Office, which keeps marriage records. Nearly 100 people at the Outagamie County Clerk’s office in Appleton objected when told they could not apply for licenses.

“We did tell them we weren’t leaving until licenses were issued,” said Kathy Flores, 47, of Appleton, who hopes to marry her partner, Ann Kendzierski.

Soon after, Outagamie County attorney Joe Guidote told couples that he had advised Clerk Lori O’Bright to accept applications for licenses. Flores said later that she knew one couple who received a waiver because a parent was very ill.

Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno said she decided to issue licenses to about 10 couples at her Green Bay office after failing to reach anyone in the Wisconsin Vital Records Office. She said she explained to couples the work would stop as soon as a court put the judge’s decision on hold.

Waukesha County Clerk Kathleen Novack said her office west of Milwaukee began accepting applications for licenses about 9:30 a.m. Monday after she talked to a county attorney, saw what other counties were doing and spoke with waiting couples. Her office had issued about a half-dozen licenses in the first half-hour and expected perhaps two dozen or so more by the end of the day.

The Rock County clerk’s office in Janesville said it issued two licenses before noon on Monday. Kenosha County Clerk Mary T. Schuch-Krebs said she gave a license to one couple who told her they planned to marry that night.

“I don’t see anything that tells me otherwise,” she said.

St. Croix County deputy clerk Cheryl Harmon said a county attorney told her office in Hudson not to issue licenses until after Crabb’s June 16 deadline for the ACLU to submit its proposed order. La Crosse County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer said her county’s attorney initially gave the same advice but she issued a license later in the day, after Crabb refused Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s request for an emergency order halting the marriages.

But how long the couples’ window stays open is anyone’s guess.

Van Hollen also appealed Crabb’s decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and asked it to stop the ceremonies.

“There is absolutely no reason to allow Wisconsin’s county clerks to decide for themselves, on a county-by-county basis, who may and may not lawfully get married in this state,” Van Hollen said in a statement.

Crabb said in rejecting Van Hollen’s request for an emergency hold that clerks weren’t issuing licenses because of anything she did. The judge said since she hasn’t yet issued an order it’s not clear what Van Hollen wants to stop. Once both sides have a chance to weigh in on the scope of the ACLU’s proposed order she’ll decide whether to put it on hold, she said.

The order would require state officials to let gay couples marry and to recognize gay marriages performed in other states. It also would guarantee gay couples who marry the same rights as opposite-sex couples.

The 7th Circuit, meanwhile, could rule at any moment.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said over the weekend he expected Crabb’s order to be put on hold. But he noted that more than 1,000 couples married in Utah before a hold was issued there, and a judge recently said those marriages were valid. That decision, like others related to gay marriage, has been appealed.

Given events around the nation, Tobias said he expects the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue next year.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that everything will be fine for those couples,” Tobias said, “but we just don’t know right now.”

LGBT groups respond to Supreme Court ruling on Voting Rights Act

LGBT civil rights group on June 25 expressed dismay with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning a key provision in the Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights law first enacted in 1965.

The decision was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the conservative majority. The four more liberal justices dissented.

The court said that a formula used to determine which states and localities require close federal monitoring for elections is based on 40-year-old data that fails to reflect changes in society and racial progress.

The decision in Shelby County v. Holder means that the provision cannot be enforced until Congress comes up with a new formula or criteria for federal monitoring. The direct impact will be felt in nine states and parts of others, mostly in the South.

Roberts wrote that Congress could “draft another formula based on current conditions.”

The court, according to The Associated Press, did not strike down the advance approval requirement of the law that has been used, mainly in the South, to open up polling places to minority voters in the nearly half century since it was first enacted.

The court also left in place the nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting.

A coalition of LGBT groups issued a response to the ruling, that read, “Today, the Supreme Court struck down a central part of the Voting Rights Act, invalidating crucial protections passed by Congress in 1965 and renewed four times in the decades since. The sharply divided decision will significantly reduce the federal government’s role in overseeing voting laws in areas with a history of discrimination against African-Americans.

“We, America’s leading LGBT advocacy organizations, join civil rights organizations – and indeed, all Americans whom this law has served to protect – in expressing acute dismay at today’s ruling. Not only had Congress repeatedly reaffirmed the need for this bedrock civil rights protection, but authoritative voices from across America had filed amicus briefs urging the court not to undermine the law: the NAACP; the American Bar Association; the Navajo Nation; the states of New York, California, Mississippi and North Carolina; numerous former Justice Department officials charged with protecting voting rights; dozens of U.S. senators and representatives; and many others.

“These varied and powerful voices attest to the self-evident reality that racial protections are still needed in voting in this country. As recently as last year’s elections, political partisans resorted to voter suppression laws and tactics aimed at reducing the votes of people of color.

“Voting rights protections, which have long served our nation’s commitment to equality and justice, should not be cast aside now. The court has done America a grave disservice, and we will work with our coalition partners to undo the damage inflicted by this retrogressive ruling.”

The signers include: Center for Black Equity
Center, The Community of LGBT Centers
, The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
, Equality Federation, 
Family Equality Council
, Freedom to Marry, 
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, 
Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Human Rights Campaign
, Immigration Equality Action Fund, 
Lambda Legal, 
National Black Justice Coalition
, National Center for Lesbian Rights, 
National Center for Transgender Equality
, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
, The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, 
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
, PFLAG – Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, 
Pride at Work – AFL-CIO, and 
Unid@s.

The president, before his speech on climate change, also issued a response to the Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act. He said, “I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today.  For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans.  Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.

“As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote.  But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists.    And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination.  I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls.  My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.”

The Supreme Court will meet again on June 26 at 10 a.m. EST to release the three remaining cases of this session, including the two marriage equality cases.

Will the Supreme Court justices take note of new laws?

Three U.S. states and three countries have approved same-sex unions just in the two months since the Supreme Court heard arguments over gay marriage, raising questions about how the developments might affect the justices’ consideration of the issue.

In particular, close observers on both sides of the gay marriage divide are wondering whether Justice Anthony Kennedy’s view could be decisive since he often has been the swing vote on the high court.

“It is always possible that Kennedy is reading the newspapers and is impressed with the progress,” said Michael Klarman, a Harvard University law professor and author of a recent book on the gay marriage fight.

In earlier cases on gay rights and the death penalty, Kennedy has cited the importance of changing practices, both nationally and around the world.

The court is expected to rule by late June in two cases involving same-sex marriage. One is a challenge to California’s voter-approved Proposition 8 that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The other seeks to strike down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denies to legally married same-sex couples a range of benefits that generally are available to married heterosexuals.

The justices took an initial vote in the days after hearing arguments in the two cases in late March. The senior justice on the winning side and the senior justice in dissent assigned opinions based on those votes. But while that first vote is important, it is not the end of the process; justices’ assessments of a case can shift subtly or, in some cases, dramatically.

In 1992, Kennedy initially drew the assignment to write a majority opinion for five justices allowing prayers at public school graduations. In the end, he ended up writing the opinion for a different five-justice majority striking down the graduation prayers. According to several accounts, Kennedy simply changed his mind during the writing process.

Current events also can find their way into opinions. Last year, Justice Antonin Scalia’s fiery dissent from a court ruling that watered down Arizona’s crackdown on immigration included a reference to comments President Barack Obama made at a news conference that took place between the argument in the case in April and the announcement of the decision in June.

There is no way to know at this point whether anything similar will happen in the gay marriage cases, either of which could be decided on technical legal grounds that would say little about the court’s view of the issue. But there has been no shortage of action.

In a 10-day span earlier this month, lawmakers in Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island gave final approval to bills to legalize same-sex marriages. Minnesota was the last of the three to act, on May 13, and when Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill into law the following day, Minnesota became the 12th state, plus the District of Columbia, to approve same-sex unions. The other nine are: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington.

Internationally, French President Francois Hollande signed a law this month making France the 14th country to recognize gay marriages. Uruguay and New Zealand took similar steps in April.

And further change could come soon. The Illinois Senate has approved a gay marriage bill that now is pending in the state House in advance of the May 31 end of the legislative session. Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would sign it.

In Great Britain, a bill to legalize same-sex weddings in England and Wales easily cleared the House of Commons and will be debated in the House of Lords beginning in July.

Both sides in the high court gay marriage debate say the recent events reinforce arguments they made to the court in March.

Defenders of limiting marriage to heterosexuals say the justices need only look at the change in marriage laws to see that there is no reason for them to step in and declare a national rule in favor of gay marriage that would upend constitutional bans in 30 states and laws prohibiting same-sex unions in roughly half a dozen others.

“These developments provide yet further evidence…that the claim that gays and lesbians are politically powerless and that the courts therefore have some special role in subjecting classifications affecting them to strict scrutiny is baseless,” said Ed Whelan, an opponent of same-sex marriage who is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Jim Campbell, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, said the court should not short-circuit a vigorous national debate.

“The vast majority of the states have decided to retain the traditional view of marriage that has existed throughout Western civilization. This decision belongs to the people and should be decided by the people,” Campbell said.

Mary Bonauto, the director of the Civil Rights Project at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said the assessment of the political clout of gays and lesbians is misleading. The number of states allowing same-sex weddings has doubled in less than a year and now represents 18 percent of the U.S. population. If Illinois joins in and the court were to affirm a lower court decision that struck down the California ban, just over a third of the population would live in 14 states and the District of Columbia where gay marriage would be legal.

That’s not nearly enough, especially in the context of a decades-long struggle by gays and lesbians to win the right to marry, Bonauto said. “These states moving in the direction of marriage is a far cry from all states doing it,” she said.

Klarman said gays and lesbians have made huge political strides in “deep blue” Democratic states.

“It is absolutely true that the political process continues to work and it is working with extraordinary rapidity,” he said. By some estimates, in roughly 10 years majorities in all but a handful of Southern states will favor gay marriage.

“The only argument against this position is, what about the gay couple in Mississippi?” Klarman said, pointing to a state where the prohibition on same-sex unions is likely to endure.

The same argument could have been made, and was, during the court’s deliberations over the Brown v. Board of Education case that outlawed segregation in public schools, he said.

Justice Stanley Reed, a Southerner, suggested that the court “let things play themselves out,” although he eventually joined in the unanimous opinion in Brown.

During argument in the California case, Kennedy strongly suggested that he was not about to give gay marriage proponents what they are asking for, a decision that would allow same-sex couples to wed everywhere in the United States.

But Klarman wonders whether Kennedy might consider his legacy and the fact that at 76 years old, he might not be on the court for the next big gay marriage case. “He knows that today, he can write the opinion that would be the Brown of the gay rights movement,” Klarman said.

Court keeps upcoming health care decision secret

It’s the biggest secret in a city known for not keeping them.

The nine Supreme Court justices and more than three dozen other people have kept quiet for more than two months about how the high court is going to rule on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

This is information that could move markets, turn economies and greatly affect this fall’s national elections, including the presidential contest between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But unlike the Congress and the executive branch, which seem to leak information willy-nilly, the Supreme Court, from the chief justice down to the lowliest clerk, appears to truly value silence when it comes to upcoming court opinions, big and small.

No one talks, and that’s the way they like it.

Contrast this with the rest of the government, which couldn’t keep secret President Barack Obama’s direct role in supervising an unprecedented U.S. cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear facilities or the existence of a double agent inside al-Qaida’s Yemen branch who tipped the U.S. to a new design for a bomb to put on a jetliner.

As Republicans air their suspicion that the leaks might be deliberate to enhance the Obama administration’s stature, Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed two U.S. attorneys to investigate those two disclosures and probably additional recent national security leaks. Because far more people, of necessity, know about such secret national security operations, those investigators must examine hundreds, even thousands, of federal workers who might have known at least a chunk of the guarded information.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the law in the upcoming week. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking to a lawyers’ convention June 15, noted a steady stream of “rumors and fifth-hand accounts” in the media about what the high court was likely to do.

“My favorite among the press pieces wisely observed: ‘At the Supreme Court … those who know don’t talk, and those who talk don’t know,’” she said.

The justices, of course, know, having officially voted on the results the same week they heard arguments. But they are not the only ones in the loop: Each of the nine justices has four clerks who know not only how their justice voted but also how the other justices stand because these clerks help research and craft the majority opinions and dissents that are circulated for justices to sign if they agree.

In addition these 45 people surely in the know, there are an assorted number of secretaries, aides, security guards, janitors, support staff and family members keenly attuned to the inner workings of the Supreme Court’s upper floors where the justices keep their chambers. At the last moment possible, printers who prepare the paper opinions to be handed out will know.

If any of these people also know anything about how the case is going to come out, they’re not talking.

Unlike the president, who needs to be re-elected every four years and needs positive publicity to help, the justices have lifetime appointments and don’t need favorable publicity to keep their jobs. Unlike the other constitutional branches, the justices rarely appear on television and don’t even allow cameras inside their main workplace, the Supreme Court.

But that silence trickles down even beyond the justices.

Those 36 clerks, who have inside knowledge of the court’s deliberations, are just as mum as their bosses despite growing up in the Internet age of bloggers, camera-phones, social media and instantly free-flowing information.

Clerks are warned from day one not to reveal anything about their work, said lawyer Stephen Miller, who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia.

Miller remembered Chief Justice William Rehnquist warning all of the clerks in his year of the perils of leaking information from the court. “Leaks were unacceptable,” Miller remembers the chief justice sternly telling all of them.

In addition to losing their job, one of the most highly sought positions for up-and-coming lawyers in the nation because it usually leads to a six-figure salary upon completion, any clerk caught revealing information would immediately be ostracized in the legal profession, Miller said. No law firm would be willing to take a chance on a lawyer who talks or leaks information to outsiders without permission.

If the leaking clerk isn’t caught, the entire class would have that stigma, leading to strong peer pressure to stay silent, he said.

“So what’s in it for a clerk to leak?” Miller said.

The court’s mystique and reputation for silence means there have been no special warnings from the justices for employees not to spill the beans on the health care decision. It’s not that the health care decision isn’t important. It’s that clerks, secretaries, aides, janitors, and all of the other staff know they are not supposed to talk about anything the court does until the official announcement.

That doesn’t mean that the court’s always been perfect at withholding information until its formal release. For example, the court inadvertently posted opinions and orders on its website about a half hour too soon in December.

The last apparent leak occurred more than 30 years ago when Tim O’Brien, then a reporter for ABC News, informed viewers that the court planned to issue a particular opinion the following day. Chief Justice Warren Burger accused an employee in the printing shop of tipping O’Brien and had the employee transferred to a different job.

Miller noted that all the lampposts at the entrances and exits of the Supreme Court building are supported by turtle sculptures, which can also be found elsewhere in the building. It’s an apt symbol for the court.

“They like information to move slowly and deliberately,” Miller said.

Feingold starts group to fight corporate political influence

Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., has launched an organization to fight back against corporate influence in politics.

The Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel reports that Feingold hopes Progressives United will spark “a new progressive movement” that will build a grassroots movement to mitigate – and eventually overturn – the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which enabled unlimited corporate spending in the political campaigns.

“In my view – and the view of many people – it’s one of the most lawless decisions in the history of our country,” Feingold told HuffPo. “The idea of allowing corporations to have unlimited influence on our democracy is very dangerous, obviously. That’s exactly what it does … Things were like this 100 years ago in the United States, with the huge corporate and business power of the oil companies and others. But this time it’s like the Gilded Age on steroids.”

Feingold, long a champion of campaign finance reform, lost his re-election bid in 2010 against wealthy political newcomer Ron Johnson, who benefited from $3 million dollars in independent third-party advertising. Feingold received about $1 million worth of such advertising but refused to accept any ads from the kind of third-party groups that the Citizens United decision bolstered.

Johnson’s campaign spent a total of $14 million, while Feingold spend $13 million, making their race the most expensive campaign for federal office in Wisconsin history.

Feingold’s new political action committee will support progressive candidates at the local, state and national levels, in addition to holding the media and elected officials accountable on the group’s key priorities, HuffPo reports.

Feingold is currently teaching law school at Marquette University and writing a book on foreign policy.