We're in the hybernation phase of the year, I'm afraid. You'll see that there's almost nothing on the events list. And the next elections won't happen until February 21 (for the primary) and April 4. But there are a host of issues that have kind of languished while we've been working so hard for the fall 2022 elections. So while we await the results of the Senate run-off in Georgia today, I thought I'd look at some of what the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is working on.
On Monday, SCOTUS heard oral arguments in a religious bigotry case masquerading as a free speech issue. Joan McCarter at Daily Kos has a good summary of the arguments in "Supreme Court hears another pro-bigotry, anti-LGBTQ case and again proves its illegitimacy." The case is a bit weird because the plaintiff is a business that does not yet exist. The issue is whether the web designer would be required to build a wedding website for a gay couple, since she believes same-sex marriage contradicts Scripture. "Justice Sonia Sotomayor went to the crux of the threat this case poses: 'What if a wedding website maker doesn’t believe in interracial marriage or letting disabled people get married?'" Could the designer refuse disabled people? When the lawyer for the non-existant business agreed that the designer could, Justice Sotomayor concluded, "So there is no line on race, there is no line on disability, ethnicity, none of the protected categories." The New York Times covered the arguments here and the Washington Post here. Both conclude SCOTUS seems likely to back the bigot.
In an important elections case, Moore v. Harper, SCOTUS will hear oral arguments on Wednesday, December 7. This case asserts the independence of state legislatures in determining all kinds of election laws. At issue is whether governors and state courts have ANY role to play in setting the rules for elections. At the heart of the case is what's known as the "independent state legislature" theory (ISLT). A key issue is the role of courts in countermanding partisan gerrymandering, the sort of election map design that keeps one party in power in perpetuity. Professor of election law at the UCLA Law School, Richard Hasen has a really clear explanation of the case's basics on the SCOTUSblog podcast. (It runs for just ove 23 minutes.)
This case, Ian MacDougall in ProPublica writes, "has major implications for ... gerrymandering." In fact it arose from a redistricting dispute in North Carolina on the grounds that the US Constitution stipulates that the "Times, Places and Manner" of congressional elections "shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof." MacDougall sums up the crux: "North Carolina Republicans want the Supreme Court to bar state courts from interfering with state legislatures when it comes to congressional elections."
Richard Pildes, Sudler Family Professor of Constitutional Law, NYU School of Law, has two detailed posts about the independent state legislature theory delving into some of the key arguments, from the most conservative, to the least conservative. The first explores THE ISLT: How State Statutes and State Constitutions Differ and then applies that discussion to how the independent state legislature theory might play out at SCOTUS. The second piece, The ISLT: The Remedial Version, discusses a limited way the state legislatures could be independent of judicial review.
Speaking of Supreme Courts, Justice Patience Roggensack's retirement from the Wisconsin Supreme Court means that we have an opportunity to elect a new justice who will make common cause with the more progressive justices: Jill Karofsky, Rebecca Dallet, and Ann Walsh Bradley. Right now it looks like there will be a primary for this office since four people have indicated that they plan to run. Citizen Action of Wisconsin will be hosting a State Supreme Court forum on January 11th, 2023, at 7pm (via Zoom) for all Democratic and progressive State Supreme Court candidates. Citizen Action plans to endorse a candidate to make the court "a liberal, pro-voting rights, anti-gerrymandering majority!" You can RSVP now and a link will be sent to you.
On the racial justice beat, there are several initiatives in our North Shore communities to address equitable housing issues. The latest Bay Bridge newsletter includes information about training sessions for those who want to contribute to UWM's Mapping Racism and Resistance Project. The sessions will train you to assist the project team in identifying and documenting discriminatory covenants in various communities. These covenants were legal clauses embedded in property deeds that barred people who were not white from buying or occupying land. The goal of the mapping project is to answer key questions: "How common were these restrictions? What areas of our community were reserved for white people only? How much land was restricted in this way? When were they put into place? What did they say? What are the legacies of these practices today?" Volunteer training will take place on the following Wednesdays:
- December 7, 7 - 8pm
- December 14, 12 - 1pm
- December 21, 7 - 8pm
- January 4, 7 - 8pm
- January 18, 7 - 8pm
In addition, the North Shore Equitable Housing Coalition, with groups in Glendale and Fox Point/Bayside, is organizing to strategize approaches to village boards to repudiate racially restrictive covenants, a first step toward building awareness of intentional segregation in the North Shore. The Coalition will be meeting via Zoom on Thursday, January 12, at 7pm. I don't have a link for this meeting yet, but if you may be interested in this work, send an email to Nancy Kaplan and I'll make sure you get the link.
An opportunity to support Governor Evers's inauguration has just arrived in my email. There will be a Kids Gala on December 31, from 10am - 12pm, and Evers's staff is looking for 10-15 volunteers to take a variety of roles. If you're interested and want more details (including where the event will be held!), email Chastity Duffey.
Also, there will be a candlelight vigil for victims of gun violence on Saturday, December 10, from 10:30am - 1pm at the Brown Deer Event Center (8653 W. Brown Deer Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53224). The Donovan Hines Foundation of Exuberance dedicates this event to honoring and remembering all victims of violence in Milwaukee. Speakers will include Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Ashanti Hamilton, Director of the Office of Violence Prevention, among others. RSVP is encouraged, though not required.
And finally, an opportunity to acquire some furniture from our Brown Deer office — FREE! We are temporarily closing the office, which we have not used since March 2020, while we figure out what our needs will be going forward. We're putting some equipment in storage but the rest of the chairs, desks and tables must go. If you are interested in any of these things, you can visit the office (5600 W Brown Deer Rd, Suite 116) on Wednesday, December 8, from noon - 2pm and from 4 - 6pm. Ginny Goode ([email protected], 414-460-5686) will make arrangements with you to pick up your selections. We ask that you arrange to move what you want out of the office by Wednesday, December 14.
Wednesday, December 7
Grass Roots South Shore Meeting, 6:00 – 8:00pm
Cudahy Library, 3500 Library Drive, Cudahy
Grass Roots South Shore will have meetings of the members on the first Wednesday of the month. More information: https://www.facebook.com/GrassRootsatSouthShore/
Living Liberally Waukesha, 6:30 – 8:30pm
The Tap Yard, 1150 W Sunset Drive, Waukesha
Living Liberally Waukesha meets on the first Wednesday of the month, All attendees should be vaccinated and wear masks when not eating or drinking.
Thursday, December 8
Drinking Liberally West Allis, 6:00 – 8:00pm
Studz Pub, 6833 West National Ave, West Allis
Drinking Liberaly West Allis" is back. Same place (but now subject to change) the 2nd Thursday of each month. Everyone had great reunion time last month. Hope to see you there.
Saturday, December 10
Stand for Peace, 12:00 – 1:00pm
Highway 100 and North Avenue, Milwaukee
Stand for Peace has resumed in-person events with masks and social distancing. Check https://www.peaceactionwi.org/stand_for_peace for more information. Organized by Peace Action Wisconsin.
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