In his 1971 opinion in the Pentagon Papers case, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.” That’s what WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have been doing since 2006: censuring governments with governments’ own words pried from secrecy by WikiLeaks’ sources—whistleblowers. In other words, WikiLeaks has been doing the job the U.S. constitution intended the press to do. One can hardly imagine anyone sitting on today’s U.S. Supreme Court writing such an opinion.
In a federal case that many advocates in Indian Country consider to be the most significant threat to sovereignty in modern times, not a single Native voice presented as part of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue is the fate of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a 43-year-old federal law designed to keep children who are tribal members with Native families. The law came in response to hundreds of years of tribes being decimated by the forced separation of children and families, in which children were often placed in residential boarding schools and subject to horrific and sometimes deadly abuse. Congress enacted ICWA less than a decade after the Association on American Indian Affairs found that 25 percent to 35 percent of all Native children had been removed from their families and placed in foster homes, nine out of 10 times with non-Native parents.
Oneida, Wisconsin – On November 9, over 50 people gathered on the Oneida Indian Reservation in northeast Wisconsin to show solidarity with the Oneida people and all indigenous people as a Supreme Court decision regarding the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) looms. The crowd included members of the Oneida Tribal Nation, concerned community members and several organizations that helped facilitate the event. The gathered community members, both tribal and not, were met with hospitality from the Oneida hosts, with homemade corn soup and community-building conversation being shared before the speakers began. The first speaker had firsthand experience seeing the effects of harsh U.S. policy concerning the children of oppressed groups.
Washington D.C. - This morning Indigenous organizers and allies shut down the lobby of the Gibson Dunn law firm in Washington D.C, protesting their involvement in trying to strike down the Indian Child Welfare Act for their big oil client, Energy Transfer. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on Haaland v Brackeen today and will decide if they will gut ICWA in 2023, which will further weaken tribal sovereignty. Organizers entered the lobby with a drum singing prayer songs before security removed them from the building. Matthew McGill, a lawyer at Gibson Dunn, is representing the Brackeens in this case pro bono, alongside Paul Clement, an attorney who has a history of regularly attacking existing Indian law and worked to disestablish the Mashpee Tribe’s reservation in 2020.
The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are inscribed above the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. The terse phrase powerfully underscores the conviction that the nation’s judiciary occupies a special plane of existence in which momentous decisions are made in a protected sphere of legal purity. For many Supreme Court watchers, however, the court’s recent rulings overturning abortion rights, expanding gun rights, limiting the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency and blurring the lines separating church and state reflect the alarming impact of an ultra-conservative majority among justices. Indeed, a September 2022 Gallup poll shows that 42 percent of Americans think the Supreme Court is too conservative, a new high for that response.
The US Supreme Court – whose conservative justices I've criticized as of late – has ordered President Biden's Department of Justice to explain why it allowed an oil company (Chevron) to prosecute and detain me in the first and only private prosecution in US history. This is a good news for our campaign to hold Chevron accountable for its mass industrial poisoning of Ecuador’s Amazon and for the legal effort to enforce the $9.5 billion pollution judgement against the company won by Indigenous peoples whom I helped represent. Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland for almost two years have ignored repeated requests from my lawyers to take back my private prosecution from Chevron and uphold the decision by the federal prosecutor in Manhattan not to pursue Judge Kaplan's unfounded contempt charges against me.
Tahlequah – Constitutionality of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act is the focus of an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court review in which the Cherokee Nation and other tribes will play supporting roles. The federal ICWA legislation, promoted for decades as a means of preserving Native families and culture, gives Native American families priority in foster care and adoption proceedings involving Native children. Chad and Jennifer Brackeen, of Texas, initiated a lawsuit in 2017 alleging that the ICWA is unconstitutional. Since then, the case has worked its way through the lower courts. In late February, the Supreme Court agreed to review the case based upon petitions from both sides. Arguments are scheduled to take place Nov. 9.
Kansas - Kansans have voted to protect abortion rights in their state. Yes, Kansas — the deep red state where Trump won by more than 15 percentage points last election cycle has voted to protect abortion rights. In fact, Kansas has a history of violence against abortion providers, including the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller in 2009.But the vote wasn’t even close. At the time of publishing, the vote was roughly 60% in favor of abortion rights and 40% against. It was overwhelmingly in favor of protecting abortion rights in the state, with a huge voter turnout and by a wide margin. Amidst the dystopian chaos that is the post-Roe world, legislators in Kansas tried to slip one past Kansans, holding a referendum in the middle of the summer, during a mostly Republican primary, in an effort to capture a repeal of the state’s constitutional protection for the right to abortion in a low-turnout event.
In the few weeks that have passed since the United States Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, stripping abortion rights from millions of women, the people of the United States have continued to fight back. Despite assurances, the response from the Biden administration to protect the fundamental right has been deemed resoundingly inadequate. “The mass of the people will have to flood into the streets, and will have to remain in the streets,” Monica Illyrich, a young organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, told Peoples Dispatch. “We will have to do everything they can to let these politicians know that they will not be able to quietly and peacefully go on with their lives, trying to jeopardize the lives of so many millions of people.” Illyrich, alongside others, participated in an 18-hour protest in front of the Georgia Judicial Center in Atlanta, from July 4 to 5, in order to protest a pending Georgia abortion ban that would prohibit most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Only 36 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. system of government is sound, according to a new poll from Monmouth University. This number is a significant drop from previous polls which showed that even as recently as 2020, 52 percent felt the system was sound. This historic drop — down from 62 percent of responders who said that the system was sound in 1980 — is the result of sustained decrease in Americans’ faith in the government over the past several years. A recent Gallup poll which measures faith in 16 different institutions — including governmental institutions as well as institutions more broadly defined such as the medical system and small businesses — backed up these findings. The poll found that the average level of faith in institutions is at an all-time low and that faith in 11 of the institutions that they measure has dropped significantly.
Little Rock, Arkansas - In June, a federal appeals court upheld an Arkansas law barring state contractors from boycotting Israel, sparking concerns over First Amendment rights in the United States. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision made last year by a panel of three judges who found that mandating a pledge to not boycott Israel is unconstitutional. However, the recent court ruling determined boycotts are not expressive conduct and instead related to commercial activity and therefore the state can regulate such actions.
The United States Supreme Court has decided to allow the Biden administration to end a Trump-era immigration policy according to an opinion delivered by Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday. The program formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), frequently called the “Remain in Mexico” policy, requires migrants arriving at the southern border to stay outside the United States while waiting for the sluggish U.S. immigration system to process their asylum hearings. The Biden administration has yet to end the program.
I can’t celebrate a country this year where the highest court in the land sets society back a century with rulings so out of the mainstream of society that they harken back to the Dred Scott decision. Newspapers on the morning of July 4 told the story of a 10-year-old pregnant rape victim who, thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, was denied an abortion and told that she would have to carry her rapist’s baby to term. Her parents had the wherewithal to take her to neighboring Indiana for an abortion. It’s not that Indiana is in any way a progressive state.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision on Thursday illustrated the extent to which the court has transformed a Reconstruction-era law meant to protect the rights of freed slaves and marginalized Americans into a formidable shield for the most powerful, including police, prosecutors and businesses. The June 23 decision bars lawsuits against police for using evidence obtained without advising people of their rights – the ‘Miranda’ warnings the court mandated nearly 60 years ago that have since become the framework through which most Americans understand their rights against police intrusion.