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Supreme Court Tuesday (updating)

First decision: Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, a takings case. In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, Florida is reversed. Kagan dissents, joined by Breyer, Ginsburg and Sotomayor

Second decision: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.  Again by Justice Alito, and a victory for the adoptive parents, a loss for the biological father.  The holding: Assuming for the sake of argument that the biological father is a parent under the Indian Child Welfare Act, neither of the two sections at issue bars the termination of his parental rights.

Third decision:  Voting Rights Act — Shelby County v. Holder. In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts writes: “Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. Its formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance.”

The Court further holds, though, that:

Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in [Section] 2. We issue no holding on [Section] 5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions.

Per scotusblog, here’s the Shelby decision in plain English:

Today the Court issued its decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the challenge to the constitutionality of the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. That portion of the Act was designed to prevent discrimination in voting by requiring all state and local governments with a history of voting discrimination to get approval from the federal government before making any changes to their voting laws or procedures, no matter how small. In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts that was joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, the Court did not invalidate the principle that preclearance can be required. But much more importantly, it held that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which sets out the formula that is used to determine which state and local governments must comply with Section 5’s preapproval requirement, is unconstitutional and can no longer be used. Thus, although Section 5 survives, it will have no actual effect unless and until Congress can enact a new statute to determine who should be covered by it.

 

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