June 28, 2013
Lauren Brucker

Law Professors React to U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

Several big U.S. Supreme Court opinions were handed down this week, and three School of Law professors have offered up their expert take on the rulings.

This week, the United States Supreme Court issued several rulings that have created major shockwaves around the national. Three Saint Louis University School of Law professors have taken a look at these cases and offered more about the impact these rulings will have.

Affirmative Action

Aaron Taylor
Aaron Taylor, J.D.

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down its opinion in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case Monday morning, which dealt with the issue of affirmative action programs in higher education admissions. The justices ruled that the lower court did not hold the University of Texas' program to strict enough scrutiny and sent the case back for further review.

Aaron Taylor, J.D., assistant professor of law and one of the School of Law's education law experts, tweeted about the decision after it was announced. Read a roundup of his tweets about the case at the School of Law's website.

Taylor said after reading the opinion that he's not optimistic about the UT program's chances during its new review.

"The chances of this policy being upheld are not favorable," he said. "Texas will have to actually demonstrate that it has exhausted every ‘workable race-neutral alternative' alternative in achieving the compelling interest of diversity. This is a significant departure from previous precedent, which deferred to the expertise of universities in the realm of admissions. In other words, Texas will have to answer to the court in a way that universities never have before."

Voting Rights Act

Marcia McCormick
Marcia McCormick, J.D.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, which was originally passed in 1965 and recently renewed in 2006. The section provided a formula for determining which jurisdictions needed pre-clearance from the federal government to change their election laws. The court did not strike down the pre-clearance requirement as a whole, which was a possibility, but striking down the formula deals a serious blow to the enforcement of the law. Marcia McCormick, J.D., an expert on civil rights, discrimination and constitutional law, answered a few questions about what that meant and what the implications of the ruling might be.

"In one sense, the ruling was a little surprising because the Court did not directly address the section of the Voting Rights Act that was really the basis for challenges in recent years, section 5," said McCormick. "That is the section that requires certain states and some counties to pre-clear any proposed changes to voting practices with the Department of Justice or a panel of three federal judges. It was surprising that the Court limited its holding to section 4(b) of the Act. That section provides the formula for determining which states and counties must pre-clear changes."

Read more of McCormick's opinion on the ruling online.

Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8

Jeff Redding
Jeff Redding J.D.

On the last day of its 2013 session, the Court handed down opinions in two cases regarding same-sex marriage. In the first, United States v. Windsor, the court ruled that a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman was unconstitutional. The second, Hollingsworth v. Perry, was over the constitutionality of California's same-sex marriage ban (Proposition 8). In that case, the court declined to rule on procedural grounds.

Jeff Redding, J.D., a constitutional and family law expert, provided his thoughts on the rulings.

"The two Supreme Court opinions on same-sex marriage are remarkable, perhaps primarily because in taking on and attempting to resolve some major legal questions, these two highly anticipated opinions leave so many legal issues unanswered and unsettled. I always tell people that if they want to learn a lot about civil procedures, conflicts and constitutional law, then the ongoing same-sex marriage litigation controversies are a great place to explore all three areas of law simultaneously — and that of family law, too.

Read more of Redding's opinion on the ruling online.

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