Tag Archives: Supreme Court
drawing oral argument

From Oral Arguments Onwards: Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood

This blog post is adapted from an Advocacy Update sent by Women of Reform Judaism on March 27, 2014. For more information about the background of these cases, check out this blog post.

Following oral argument on Tuesday morning in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, eyes are now turning to the end of June when the Supreme Court is likely to issue its ruling. Although much of the deliberating and deciding goes on behind closed doors, oral argument is an important opportunity to gauge what the justices are considering when looking at the case.

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Reform Leaders Weigh in on Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Cases

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Corp. v. Sebelius. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism jointly released a statement, noting that:

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Religious Liberty and Reproductive Rights: Understanding the Issues in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby

A version of this blog originally appeared at WRJblog on March 19, 2014. Check back here for more updates on Hobby Lobby after oral arguments this afternoon. For immediate updates, be sure to check out SCOTUSblog.com.

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobbyand Conestoga v. Sebelius. These cases have been getting a fair amount of coverage in the press and attention in the advocacy community over the past few weeks. If you are new to these cases, or if you’re excited (like me) to see what will happen before the nine justices on March 25th, here’s a rundown of the basic arguments, the stakes, the position of the Reform Movement, and some suggestions for further reading in anticipation of oral argument.

Let’s go all the way back to the beginning of the story to understand the questions before the Court.

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Counting Down to Hobby Lobby

In just under three weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby LobbyStores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. These two cases ask whether private corporations have ability to exercise religious freedom, and if so, whether the contraception mandate enacted by the Affordable Care Act violates the religious freedom of those corporations under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). If you want to read more about the details of the case, and to learn more about the Reform Movement’s position on the contraception mandate, check out this blog.

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Update: The Contraception Mandate at the Supreme Court

In 31 days, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius – but who’s counting? Just about everyone, it seems.

Since amici briefs were due to the Court on January 28th, the waiting game has begun. The opportunity to influence the justices came with the amici briefs, and will come again with oral argument on March 25th.

As these cases have the potential to change the way we interpret religious liberty and the right to make choices about and access health care, the “waiting game” has given rise to much writing, predicting and debate over these cases.

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Surveilling the Landscape of Privacy Concerns

In a landmark speech this January, President Obama outlined his concerns, goals and plans for reform of the National Security Agency. A month later, there continue to be developments on the right-to-privacy front. On February 6th, the Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, announced two changes the NSA metadata program. Section 215, the “bulk telephony metadata program,” will no longer exist in its current form. It will transition to a new system that addresses national security needs without keep these large amounts of information

“As a first step in that transition, the President directed the Attorney General to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to ensure that, absent a true emergency, the telephony metadata can only be queried after a judicial finding that there is a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the selection term is associated with an approved international terrorist organization.”

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Hand putting stack of dollar bills into ballot box

Citizens United Turns Four: Wealthy Donors and Corporations Celebrate

Last week, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United “celebrated” its fourth anniversary, and the flood of both undisclosed and independent spending in political campaigns continues to grow.

Citizens United struck down a longstanding ban on corporation and union spending in elections—and since the decision four years ago, money has flowed into elections through political action committees (PACs), which contribute money to candidates’ election campaigns. It is estimated that outside groups spent over $1 billion in the 2012 presidential election. More money was spent by outside organizations, often keeping their donor lists secret, than by either candidates’ own campaign. While the total amount of money spent by candidates increased only marginally from 2008, the amount from outside groups quadrupled – thanks largely to the doors opened by Citizens United.

Of this new money pouring into federal elections, over a third of it is undisclosed, meaning that the donors only know the name of the organization funding an ad, but not the donors behind it. Financial disclosure is the cornerstone of any law intended to prevent abuse of public office for personal financial gain. Additionally, disclosure is the one form of campaign finance regulation that the Supreme Court emphatically said does not violate the First Amendment but efforts to expand disclosure have stalled in Congress.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court seems poised to strike down another campaign finance limit. On October 9, 2013, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which concerns the “aggregate limit,”—or total amount of money—one person can donate to candidates for federal office and any political parties in one election cycle. The limit is currently set at $46,000 for individual candidates and $70,000 for political parties per cycle. If struck down, this law would provide another avenue for the wealthy to influence our politics and will further drown out the voices of millions of Americans who donate small amounts to their chosen candidates and causes.

Jewish tradition recognizes the distorting effect that money can have on a leader’s ability to govern fairly. Deuteronomy 16:19 commands, ”You shall not judge unfairly: you shall know no partiality; you shall not take gifts, for gifts blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.” In a modern democracy, it is necessary for elected officials to be accountable to all citizens, not just wealthy and powerful moneyed interests. Please take a moment to tell your Members of Congress to support publically funded elections!

Exterior Supreme Court

Supreme Court Roundup: What Have the Nine Been Up to?

We’re nearly halfway through a busy Supreme Court term in which many important cases ranging from affirmative action to recess appointments and from campaign finance to buffer zones at abortion clinics have been heard by the nine justices. More than ever, this term affirms the importance of the Supreme Court in adjudicating the most important social, political (and of course, constitutional!) issues of today.

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