Weekly Round-Up #5: Race and Governmental Power

The blog posts for this week tend to fall into a grouping of posts discussing race and another grouping discussing some aspect of the separation of powers in our federal government. There is a another quasi-group discussing First Amendment issues, too. I’d spend more time introducing posts and trying to (read: pretending to) be clever, but I’m tired and a little behind. So, on to the posts!

Image result for cat in a pumpkin
Cat in a pumpkin! What more do you want for a transition?

Taylor, Erin, and Selma O. all address some aspect of race, the law, and America society in their posts for this week. In a rather detailed post, Taylor discusses white privilege. Making use of many different sources, she discusses what it is, why it matters, and how it manifests in society. She draws on scholarly work, as well as her own experiences to address this important topic. While the post originated as a paper last year, it is clearly still relevant and definitely worth a read.

Erin, in her post, discusses how historical circumstances can help predict Supreme Court opinions. As she explores this idea through affirmative action she turns back to Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), one of the Court’s first major affirmative action rulings, setting the terms of debate we still use today. Erin walks through the holding in Bakke, comparing it with the recent ruling in Fisher II.

Completing the trinity of race-based posts, Selma O. considers a case for which the Court very recently heard oral arguments, Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado. The case involves claims of racial bias in the jury, but also with procedural questions around whether jury deliberations are open to judicial scrutiny after a case has ended. Selma explains the case, what happened, and offers some great reflection on what the case means and why it is important for the Court to consider this case.

Image result for cat in a pumpkin
See, no need for properly thought-out transitions when there are cats in pumpkins. 

In the next grouping of posts, Tom, Grace, and Amanda discuss different aspects of the separation of powers in practice in the U.S. Tom provides a general overview, Grace provides a focus on a specific content area, and Amanda discusses a current bill in Congress. Tom’s post this week is about how the separation of powers is not always clear cut, leading to gray areas, which inevitably leads to Court challenges. Tom gives a few examples, discussing them, and what they tell us about the separation of powers in action.

Grace’s post this week addresses the constitutional separation of powers in foreign policy. Grace does a great job of spelling out the various powers the president and Congress have over foreign policy, and how these powers can conflict. She provides several case examples of when these conflicts have arose, and how the Court has had to step in and mediate between the other two branches.

Amanda’s post is about a bill that the House of Representatives recently passed, known as the Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016. The Act is aimed at overturning a 30-year old Supreme Court ruling, which gave way to the “Chevron Defense.” The case involved judicial deference to federal agencies in interpretation of federal statutes. The new bill proposes to end that deference and force courts to provide more oversight of how federal agencies interpret laws, and thus make decisions based on these interpretation.

Image result for cat in a pumpkin
It’s a cat. In a pumpkin. ’nuff said.

The last two posts, which do not really fit into the other categories, and do not really create their own category, do both pertain to the First Amendment. Ben looks at a case around freedom of association and self-expression, while Elise looks at libel, and what does not count as defamation. Both are First Amendment issues, but hit on different aspects of this amendment. Specifically, Ben discusses the 2000 Supreme Court case Boy Scouts of America v. Dale. This case involved questions of First Amendment associational rights as the Boy Scouts of America chose to dismiss Scoutmaster James Dale because he is gay. Ben discusses the case, as well as his reactions to it.

Elise’s post this week is about what she properly identifies (yeah, I said it) as “the most epic, and constitutionally relevant, burn,” in the form of The New York Times’s response to Donald Trump threatening to sue them. She explains the letter, and the article that preceded it. Elise also explains New York Times v. Sullivan and how that precedent, also involving The New York Times, pretty much guarantees that they would, indeed, win if sued by Donald Trump. To step back from Elise’s great post for a second, as a professor, I love when the real world hands us such great teaching tools as this letter. Seriously, if you have not yet read it, go read Elise’s blog first, and then read The New York Times’s response letter to Trump (Elise links to it in her post).

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