Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.
The NAACP filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Trump administration, claiming that the U.S. Commerce Department is unlawfully withholding information about how it plans to oversee the Census in 2020. The NAACP filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act in order to obtain documents on outreach and plans to ensure that “hard-to-count” populations—such as communities of color, renters, low-income people, and young children—are included in the next tally. The response from the Commerce Department to the request was “wholly inadequate,” according to NAACP General Counsel Bradford Berry, and demonstrates that the Trump administration doesn’t plan to be transparent about the Census.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) has also launched a voter registration and education campaign called “Reclaim Your Vote” in an effort to battle voter suppression. “Fear has no place in our democracy. Reclaim Your Vote is about reclaiming the long-fought-for principles of the Voting Rights Act—equity, representation and justice for all,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s president and director-counsel, in a statement.
DeNeen L. Brown of the Washington Post wrote a profile of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black man to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court (and former NAACP legal star), and the shrewd political moves that Lyndon B. Johnson had to make in order to shore up support for Marshall among white members of Congress. It’s interesting political history—published just in time for the new Marshall biopic in theaters this week.
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The Trump administration filed documents asking the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss two lawsuits challenging the Muslim ban executive order that President Trump issued in March—Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project and Trump v. Hawaii. The administration argued that the cases are now moot. But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)—lawyers for plaintiffs in one of the cases—and lawyers for the State of Hawaii both asked the high court to proceed. The Court was set to hear oral arguments in the cases this month, but removed them from the court calendar in the wake of Trump’s Muslim ban 3.0 proclamation issued last month.
Writing at the Patheos website about religion and spirituality, attorneys Sam Grover and Andrew L. Seidel of the Freedom From Religion Foundation argue that the religious right is trying to do to the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment what the gun lobby did to the Second Amendment: “[T]urn free exercise into an absolute right that must be protected even when it infringes on the rights of others.” The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this term in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case about a baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple and cited religious freedom and freedom of speech, may determine whether that plan will succeed.
Oliver Roeder and Galen Druke of FiveThirtyEight write about research on whether the number of questions U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy asks during oral argument helps predict how he will vote. The justices will be discussing the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering in Gill v. Whitford, a case about a 2011 Republican redistricting plan created to maximize the GOP’s chance of winning extra seats in the Wisconsin state assembly. Their prediction? Kennedy, often an important swing voter on the bench, lobbed no questions at the Democratic side bringing the appeal. If his pattern holds—he tends to ask fewer questions of the legal side he favors in rulings—he will vote to strike down partisan gerrymandering as unconstitutional.
Rebecca Grant writes in Wired about the increasing number of cyberattacks against abortion clinics and advocacy groups.
The ACLU kicked off its “Let People Vote” campaign last week at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, right in Kris “I Will Suppress the Hell Out of Your Votes” Kobach’s own backyard. Through the campaign, the ACLU hopes to fight voter suppression, restore voting rights to those convicted of felonies, and urge states to adopt election and redistricting reforms.
Janai Nelson writes for Trib Talk that in pursuit of a court victory on its racially discriminatory voter ID law, Texas has spent more than $3.5 million. And that’s as of 2016. The law has been to court four times in three years. Each time, it has been struck down as racially discriminatory and unconstitutional. Black and brown people’s right to vote is under siege in Texas. Stay woke.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a district court judge and held that a lawsuit filed by a Black family against the Evesham Township Board of Education and Florence V. Evans Elementary School in New Jersey may proceed. The family alleges that its children faced racial discrimination from peers and administrators while they attended Florence V. Evans Elementary School between 2007 and 2012. In once instance, a teacher reportedly smiled and walked away after hearing one pupil call one of the children a racial slur; in another, the principal allegedly told the same child, “We know what kind of neighborhood we are in with you.”
A Bellingham, Washington, woman is suing PeaceHealth, a Catholic health-care system that runs the employee insurance plans offered by the hospital where she works, because the plan refused to cover gender reassignment surgery for her teenage son.
A rape survivor in Sanilac County, Michigan, is seeking protection under the federal Rape Survivor Child Custody Act after a judge granted parental time and joint legal custody of her 8-year-old son to the man who allegedly raped her, held her hostage, and impregnated her nine years ago when she was 12. The man, Christopher Mirasolo, is a convicted sex offender: In March 2010, he sexually assaulted a child between the age of 13 and 15.