The Roberts Court is Born

JSPAN Newsletter - June 29, 2012
Jewish Social Policy Action Network

In this Issue:
Newsletter: June 29, 2012
A Mediocre Farm Bill
JSPAN supported Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's effort to keep food stamp programs intact. Read the letters JSPAN sent to both of Pennsylvania's US Senators Bob Casey Jr. and Patrick Toomey. - Ed.

New York Times
Editorial
June 24, 2012

The farm bill approved by the Senate last week makes significant changes in existing farm programs, some for the better. But it takes a disproportionate whack from environmental programs, needlessly trims food stamps and does not fundamentally alter the program's bias toward relatively well-off growers of big crops like corn, wheat and soybeans.

The bill would cost $969 billion over 10 years, about $23 billion less than projected. Much of this comes from eliminating notorious subsidies like the direct payment program, which doled out $5 billion a year to farmers in good times and bad.

Despite the efforts of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York to keep food stamp programs intact, they were cut by $4.5 billion over 10 years - a fraction of some $750 billion in total spending but harmful to many poor families. Conservation programs that encourage farmers to withdraw highly erodible land from production were slashed by 10 percent. These cuts would have been less painful if the Senate had spent less on crop insurance.

[read more]

 

Court's Immigration Ruling Gets Mixed Reaction
The Foward
By JTA
June 25, 2012

Most Jewish groups who have weighed in on Arizona's controversial immigration law saw progress in the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to repeal three of the law's four parts, but had concerns that law enforcement officials would still be allowed to check the legal immigration status of people they detain.

The high court on Monday invalidated the provisions authorizing police to arrest illegal immigrants without warrant if there was probable cause that they committed an offense that made them eligible for deportation; making it an Arizona state crime if immigrants did not carry registration papers or some sort of government identification; and forbidding immigrants unauthorized to work in the country to apply, solicit or perform work.

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society was among the groups that welcomed the repeals but had reservations with the court's decision.

"Though we view the positive part of this ruling as another step in the advancement of immigrant rights - forwarded recently by President Obama's executive order halting deportations of Dream Act eligible individuals - we remain extremely concerned about the potential for racial profiling as a result of today's decision," Mark Hetfield, the interim president and CEO of HIAS, said in a news statement.

[read more]

 

Supreme Court: More Elections for Sale
The Nation
By John Nichols
June 25, 2012

The US Supreme Court may still retain some familiarity with the Constitution when it comes to deciding the nuances of cases involving immigration policy and lifetime incarceration. But when it comes to handing off control of American democracy to corporations, the Court continues to reject the intents of the founders and more than a century of case law to assure that CEOs are in charge.

Make no mistake, this is not a "free speech" or "freedom of association" stance by the Court's Republican majority. That majority is narrowing the range of debate. It is picking winners. To turn a phrase from the old union song, this Court majority has decided which side it is on. The same Court that in January 2010 ruled with the Citizens United decision that corporations can spend freely in federal elections-enjoying the same avenues of expression as human beings—on Monday ruled that states no longer have the ability to guard against what historically has been seen as political corruption and the buying of elections.

The court's 5-4 decision in the Montana case of American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock significantly expands the scope and reach of the Citizens United ruling by striking down state limits on corporate spending in state and local elections. "The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law," the majority wrote. "There can be no serious doubt that it does."

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Arkansas Supreme Court Strikes Down Execution Law
The Associated Press
By Jeannie Nuss
June 22, 2012

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state's execution law Friday, but did not deem lethal injection or the death penalty unconstitutional. Rather, in a split decision, it sided with 10 death row inmates who argued that the 2009 execution law violated part of the state's constitution that deals with separating the branches of government.

"It is evident to this court that the Legislature has abdicated its responsibility and passed to the executive branch, in this case the (Arkansas Department of Correction), the unfettered discretion to determine all protocol and procedures, most notably the chemicals to be used, for a state execution," Justice Jim Gunter wrote in the five-justice majority opinion.

Two justices dissented, arguing that the correction department's discretion is not "unfettered" because it is bound by federal and state constitutions that guard against cruel and unusual punishment.

"In addition, Arkansas is left no method of carrying out the death penalty in cases where it has been lawfully imposed," Justice Karen Baker wrote in the dissent. Special Justice Byron Freeland, who sat in for another justice, joined her.

[read more]

 

The Roberts Court is Born
The Supreme Court affirmed, in a 5-4 decision, most of the Affordable Care Act's provisions, with some notable exceptions, such as enforcement of state Medicaid expansion. - Ed.

The Huffington Post
Adam Winkler
June 28, 2012

Today's Supreme Court is often referred to as Anthony Kennedy's Court. Although Kennedy is the swing justice who usually casts the deciding vote in close cases, the landmark ruling this week in the healthcare cases clearly marks the maturation of the "Roberts Court."

Chief Justice John Roberts was the surprising swing vote in today's Obamacare decision. Although he agreed with the four conservative justices, including Kennedy, that the individual mandate was not a regulation of interstate commerce, he voted with the Court's moderates to hold that it was justified as a tax. Because people who don't obtain insurance pay a tax to the IRS, the mandate was within Congress's power to raise taxes for the general welfare. As a result, the Affordable Care Act was upheld.

With this deft ruling, Roberts avoided what was certain to be a cascade of criticism of the high court. No Supreme Court has struck down a president's signature piece of legislation in over 75 years. Had Obamacare been voided, it would have inevitably led to charges of aggressive judicial activism. Roberts peered over the abyss and decided he didn't want to go there.

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Why Are Americans Losing Trust in the Supreme Court?
The Nation
By Barry Friedman
June 18, 2012

The New York Times reports a recent poll showing the Supreme Court's approval rating at 44 percent. This represents one of the lowest numbers the justices have polled in recent years and is part of a generally downward slide since 2009. Over at least the previous twenty-five years the Court has consistently been one of the more popular institutions in the country. What's been going on to change this?

A plausible answer is: partisanship. Polls show a widespread disgust with partisanship in Washington; Congress's approval rating was at an all time low in May. Although the justices often are divided into left-right ideological blocs, those blocs have recently become identified in the public mind with the Democratic and Republican parties. That, combined with a set of cases that bring partisan issues to the fore, may be leading the public to see the Court as part of the same Washington politics it deplores.

One reason the justices did so well in the past is that they were typically seen as above politics. Not ideology, politics. The distinction matters. Ideology is principled, you believe in something. Politics, on the other hand, is seen these days as devoid of serious content.

 

Male Reform Rabbis Earn More than Women
The Forward
By Debra Nussbaum Cohen
June 24, 2012

A recent article by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the Atlantic provides a thoughtful look at the struggles of women committed to both their careers and their families. These same struggles have come up in the Jewish professional world over the last couple of decades, particularly in regard to women in the rabbinate who have yet to make the same career progress as their male peers.

Now the Reform movement's rabbinical arm, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, has done its first-ever comprehensive salary study of rabbis' earnings in American Judaism's largest denomination, comparing the incomes of men and women in the same jobs.

It found that in the top positions, of solo or senior rabbi, female rabbis earn markedly less than their male colleagues. The salary gap widens as the size of the congregation increases.

[read more]

 

Sylvia Ettenberg, Camp Ramah Founder, Dies at 95
By JTA
June 25, 2012

Sylvia Cuttler Ettenberg, a veteran Jewish educator and a founder of Camp Ramah, has died.

Ettenberg, the first female senior administrator at the Jewish Theological Seminary, died June 21 at age 95. She was recognized as a dean emerita at JTS. The Brooklyn native was at the forefront of many Conservative Jewish educational initiatives, including the Prozdor Hebrew High School program and the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at JTS.

Ettenberg was perhaps best recognized as a founder of Camp Ramah and for incorporating the institution into JTS, a move that helped it grow from a single camp in Wisconsin into a network of a dozen camps and several informal education programs in the United States and Israel.

Ettenberg, the first female senior administrator at the Jewish Theological Seminary, died June 21 at age 95. She was recognized as a dean emerita at JTS.

 

Filmmaker and Writer Nora Ephron Dies at 71
The Forward
By Forward Staff
June 26, 2012

Screenwriter, film director, essayist, novelist and cultural figure Nora Ephron has died at age 71, The New York Times reports. The cause of death was pneumonia brought on by myeloid leukemia, a blood disorder from which she had been suffering for six years.

Ephron, best known for films like "When Harry Met Sally" (1989) and "You've Got Mail" (1998), was born on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to playwrights Henry and Phoebe Ephron. She was raised in Beverly Hills, Calif., before attending Wellesley college, where she got her start writing for the school newspaper.

After college Ephron worked for five years as a general assignment reporter at the New York Post before beginning a freelance career writing for magazines like New York and Esquire. Her pieces focused on cultural and feminist issues and were collected in books such as "Wallflower at the Orgy" (1970) and "Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women" (1975).

[read more]

 

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Editors:
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Publisher:
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