TOP STATE JUDGES MAKE RARE PLEA IN MOMENTOUS SUPREME COURT ELECTION CASE: If the Supreme Court adopts the theory, it will radically reshape how federal elections are conducted by giving state lawmakers independent authority, not subject to review by state courts, to set election rules in conflict with state constitutions. The conference’s brief, which was nominally filed in support of neither party, urged the Supreme Court to reject that approach, sometimes called the independent state legislature theory. The Constitution, the brief said, “does not oust state courts from their traditional role in reviewing election laws under state constitutions.” The case, Moore v. Harper, No. 21-1271, will be argued in the coming months. It concerns a congressional voting map drawn by the North Carolina Legislature favoring Republicans that was rejected as a partisan gerrymander by the state’s Supreme Court. Republican lawmakers seeking to restore the legislative map argued that the state court had been powerless to act. Four conservative members of the U.S. Supreme Court have issued opinions indicating that they may be ready to endorse the independent state legislature theory. It's one of the most naked power grabs BergerMoore has cooked up recently, and that is saying a mouthful. I only wish the voters of NC could see how dangerous keeping them in power has become, but said voters are asleep at the wheel.
THE RIGHT'S EFFORTS TO DEFUND THE IRS ARE AN ATTACK ON SOCIETAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING: In December of 2019, my mom died. A couple of months later, the pandemic overtook American society, and as with so many other aspects of modern life that quickly took on an extra level of complexity and difficulty during those harrowing and chaotic months, settling her affairs got a good deal more challenging. In June of 2020 – two months past the normal due date, but well in advance of the special extended deadline – I mailed her 2019 tax returns to the state and federal governments. Not long afterward, the State of North Carolina deposited her refund – a modest sum that helped cover some basic expenses. But from the IRS, I received no word. As summer turned to fall, I sought to find out what was going on. The amount of money in question wasn’t huge – just a few thousand dollars – but, as the executor of her estate, I knew it was my duty to follow through. And I knew my mom – a detail person with a passion for fairness and justice — would have expected it. Unfortunately, a search of the IRS website produced no helpful information; it couldn’t even tell me whether the return had been received. Attempts to contact someone by phone proved futile. I relate this story not to seek sympathy, advice or criticism (I’m sure there are many smart readers who could identify mistakes I’ve made in this process), but to highlight an important truth about paying taxes in modern America: It shouldn’t be this hard. Paying taxes is a solemn civic duty for all Americans. It’s how we fund the public structures – schools, roads, public safety, armed forces, courts, democratic institutions, environmental protections, social safety net – that knit together our vast and complex nation. Indeed, a functioning tax system is a key indicator of overall societal health and well-being. One need only glance at any number of corrupt autocracies and failed states across the globe to see the kind of trouble, dysfunction and inequality to which the absence of a respected and well-resourced tax collection system often gives rise. Conservatives are notorious for defunding government programs, and then pointing at the resulting chaos as a reason the programs are ineffective, and should be further cut. It's hard to decide which logical fallacy fits the best, frankly, but that's what you get when you allow mental children to mind the store.
THE EAGERNESS OF GINNI THOMAS: A longtime conservative crusader, Thomas increasingly appears to have been chin deep in the push to keep Donald Trump in power by any means necessary. Her insurrection-tinged activities included hectoring everyone from state lawmakers to the White House chief of staff to contest the results. She also swapped emails with John Eastman, the legal brains behind a baroque plot to have Vice President Mike Pence overturn the election that may have crossed the line from sketchy into straight-up illegal. Along the way, Thomas peddled a cornucopia of batty conspiracy theories, including QAnon gibberish about watermarked ballots in Arizona. In another era, this might have prompted more pushback, for any number of reasons. But Thomas has benefited from a couple of cultural and political shifts that she has shrewdly exploited. One touches on the evolving role of power couples and political spouses. The other, more disturbing, is the descent of the Republican Party down the grievance-driven, conspiracy-minded, detached-from-reality rabbit hole. If most of America has come around to two-income households, Washington is overrun with bona fide power couples and has fashioned its own set of rules, official and unofficial, for dealing with them. Among these: It is bad form to suggest that a spouse should defer to his or her partner’s career, other than when explicitly required, of course. (A notable exception is the presidency, in which case the first lady is in many ways treated as if it were still 1960.) Though plenty of folks discuss it sotto voce, publicly musing that a couple’s work life might bleed into their home life is considered insulting — even sexist, if the spouse being scrutinized is a woman. To be honest, as long as her husband was in the minority on the Court, it almost didn't matter what nonsense Ginni got up to. His occasional dissenting opinions revealed just how bent his understanding of the Constitution actually is. But all that changed with Trump, and now we are living the nightmare.
BLACK PARENTS STILL NEED TO GIVE POLICE SURVIVAL TALK: Last week, I read about a Tennessee school resource officer dragging a teenage Black kid by his hair down a set of high school bleachers. He’d refused the PE teacher’s directive to play kickball in gym class. The student told the teacher he wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to participate. The interaction escalated into a shouting match with the end result being the police officer assaulting, pepper spraying and ultimately placing him in handcuffs. Was that level of force necessary? Sadly, when it comes to Black men of color, that appears to be the typical response to de-escalate an altercation. Even sadder, it results in so many men of color’s lives being extinguished permanently and unnecessarily. Officers, who have military style weapons and tactical gear versus none, will say he was scared for his life and faces no accountability or justice. The victim is shamed and blamed for not adhering to the police officers’ orders as if doing so would magically absolve him from facing a deadly outcome. I spent six years in military law enforcement followed by seven years working for the N.C. Department of Corrections after my honorable discharge. I respect and support law enforcement officers. I have many friends who serve behind the badge. I encourage young people to show police officers respect, but I will criticize officers when they fall short. In contrast, I have no trust or faith in our so-called system of justice. It seems like we only have a collection of laws that are applied inconsistently and unevenly based on ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The Black community does not hate the police. They mistrust a system they feel continually fails them as they have too many examples of deadly outcomes without due process. When prosecutors take away the opportunity for justice and a jury of our peers (wink, wink-nod) allow corrupt officers to walk free, why should people of color continue to have faith while their voices are muted, their value diminished and true blind justice never realized? When I read about cases where miscarriages of justice involving police officers are so routine, I feel it necessary, and almost a requirement, that Black parents have a survival talk with their kids. To those who don’t have the weight of this bearing down on them, instead of criticizing and condemning me and other Black parents, try to understand why we feel this way. The year is 2022, and we're still having these conversations. It's why I will no longer tolerate even mild racism from family or friends, because it helps perpetuate the worst flaws of our justice system. A "fair" system is not relative, it is supposed to be universal. Until it becomes that, it is not fair.
YOU THOUGHT THE LAST SUPREME COURT SESSION WAS BAD? BRACE YOURSELF: The cataclysmic Supreme Court term that included the unprecedented leak of a draft opinion and the end of constitutional protection for abortion would, in the normal ebb and flow, be followed by a period of quiet, to let internal wounds heal and public opinion settle. That doesn’t appear likely in the term set to start Monday. Nothing in the behavior of the court’s emboldened majority suggests any inclination to pull back on the throttle. The Supreme Court is master of its docket, which means that it controls what cases it will hear, subject to the agreement of four justices. Already, with its calendar only partly filled, the justices have once again piled onto their agenda cases that embroil the court in some of the most inflammatory issues confronting the nation — and more are on the way. As much as the previous term was dominated by the decision to overrule Roe, the overriding theme of the coming term will be race — with one major case on the constitutionality of weighing race as a factor in college admission and another on the fate of the remaining shreds of the Voting Rights Act. Both implicate the same fundamental question: Does the Constitution and federal law impose an unyielding insistence on colorblindness? Or should the nation’s history of racial discrimination and its lingering pernicious effects permit some flexibility to allow consideration of race? This majority is certain it knows the answer. Race is a triggering issue for the conservative justices, one that rivals abortion in the intensity of response that it evokes. They have made a near fetish of Justice John Marshall Harlan’s famous 1896 admonition in Plessy v. Ferguson that “our Constitution is colorblind” — somehow forgetting that statement came in the context of arguing against state-compelled segregation of rail cars, what Harlan termed “a badge of servitude wholly inconsistent with ... the equality before the law established by the Constitution.” These justices are offended by the notion of allowing any consideration of race, whether the motive is malign or benevolent. Over the past decade, the court has put the Voting Rights Act through the shredder. In 2013, in Shelby County v. Holder, the court eviscerated the law’s central mechanism, known as Section 5, which required jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination to obtain advance federal approval before changing voting rules. Roberts, who wrote the opinion, offered assurances that it in “no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting” in Section 2 of the law. But Section 2, which prohibits any voting practices that result in the “denial or abridgment” of the right to vote on account of race, hasn’t fared much better. Two years ago, the court made it much more difficult to use the law to go after voting restrictions, such as limits on absentee ballots, that disproportionately harm minorities. I have been reluctant to jump on the bandwagon to expand the Court, but that reluctance is fading fast.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
JOAN SOVA: THINK BEFORE YOU VOTE: Your vote to elect Republicans is a vote against yourself, your family and especially against women. When the Republican-nominated Supreme Court justices voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, they knew that some Republican-led states would impose the most restrictive, the most punishing, the cruelest laws against women they could come up with. They knew that those laws could include citizen vigilantes and jailing women and their physicians, with no exceptions for rape, incest or reproductive complications that put women at risk. They knew that pregnancy resulting from rape or incest was possible, and that the youngest victims would not be physically, emotionally or financially ready for motherhood. Before you vote in the mid-term election, think of the women you know — mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, nieces — your vote could save lives! The real impacts of this court decision will be felt for years, but our opportunity to ameliorate those impacts has a much shorter window. The clock is ticking.
INDIVAR DUTTA-GUPTA: HERE'S THE REALITY OF THE CARE INDUSTRY: The Sept. 26 front-page article “Forced to carry the load on their own” highlighted our nation’s caregiving crisis. Care jobs have long been underpaid and undervalued. The work has historically been performed by women, and disproportionately by women of color. Nearly half of home-care jobs are held by Black and Latina women who are paid a median wage of $29,260 per year, often struggling to meet expenses. Black and Latina women are also overrepresented in the child-care workforce. The median pay for child-care workers is just $27,490 per year, approximately the poverty line for a family of four. This is the reality of work for millions of women of color: jobs with low-wages and few benefits or opportunities for advancement. Yet, families strain to pay the astronomical out-of-pocket costs for caregiving. The only solution is for Congress to invest in child-care and home care to transform care jobs into family-sustaining jobs, while establishing a national paid-leave program to help more working people care for their loved ones. I agree wholeheartedly. After paying several thousand dollars per month for care (both parents), and knowing the people who *actually* take care of them are horrifically underpaid, this issue is screaming for government intervention.
JM VAN PELT: QUEER STUDENTS NEED THE SAFE SPACE SCHOOL CAN BE: When I was a young queer person, school felt like the safest place for me, where I could be myself and discover who I was. I confided in teachers who supported me. I hid gender-nonconforming clothes in my backpack until I got to school to put them on. I stayed at school after classes as long as possible before I had to fit back into who I thought my parents wanted me to be. That is why Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) school guidance on transgender students is concerning. If I hadn’t had that space to be myself, I’m not sure I would be here to write this letter today. Had those teachers been required to tell my parents I was queer, I wouldn’t have had the courage to return home at all, much less keep going to school. Alexandria, Falls Church and Arlington will resist this order. I beg every district to follow suit. I understand Mr. Youngkin’s concern for parents. However, school isn’t for parents; it’s for the students. Students need to be able to bring their full selves to school not only to learn but also simply to live past the age of 18. I was able to grow up, continue my education and become a physicist. My parents and I had time and space to love and accept each other. I literally survived because of school. I implore teachers to please protect their transgender and queer students. They are infinitely more important than any parent or governor. We need to shake off the notion that parents deserve to be the arbiters of their child's sexual/gender identities. Here's a clue: if a child is afraid of their parents, there is a valid reason for that fear.