Minutes: September 9, 2014

Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences
Minutes of the 
CAAS 1437th Meeting
September 9, 2014
Whitney Center, Hamden, CT 

Lecture by Linda Greenhouse,  Senior Research Scholar in Law, Knight Distinguished Journalist-in-Residence, and Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law, Yale University and winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize, who writes about the Supreme Court and the law. She reported on the Supreme Court for The New York Times from 1978 to 2008.

The 1437th meeting of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences was held on Tuesday, September 9th, 2014, at the Whitney Center in Hamden, CT.  President Tignor welcomed members and guests noting that 67 people had signed up for dinner.  He presented a summary of new initiatives including a meeting with the President of Yale 

scheduled for 4 PM on September 16, 2014 in the Yale President’s office at Woodbridge Hall.  He also announced a tour of the newly renovated Sterling Memorial Library offered by a CAAS member, the Yale Librarian, and scheduled for 11 AM on September 23 with an optional lunch at Mory’s following the tour.

Past Presidents Fred Robinson and H. Catherine Skinner

Tributes were offered to two past presidents from the modern era.  This first recipient was Fred Robinson (1980-1984).  The second was H. Catherine Skinner (1984-1994).

President Tignor then introduced the guest speaker, Linda Greenhouse.

Linda GreenhouseMs. Greenhouse announced that she should review 10 years of the Roberts court, focusing on his seemingly three major goals:  race, religion, and deregulation.

Regarding race, it appears that the Roberts court intends to eliminate racial considerations from all educational actions.  In one decision, based on court actions in Kentucky and Washington, the court expressed no compelling interest in integration despite the great success stories in both states in achieving integration.  Greenhouse described this decision as “backwards” from the Brown decision of the Warren Count. 

Continuing race, Greenhouse described the voting rights ruling as the most shocking in recent history.  This decision restored all voting restrictions from America’s early history of Black disenfranchisement.

In 2003, Justice O’Connor upheld affirmative action for 25 years.  In 2006, Justice Kennedy “frizzled” a case attempting to overrule this decision.  The Robert’s court seems to be waiting for an opportunity to overturn affirmative action all together, according to Greenhouse.

Regarding religion, the Robert’s court has expressed a consistent theme that it’s all about free exercise.  In the first ruling in this area, the Robert’s court sided on the side of in free exercise versus the constitutional requirement prohibiting Establishment.  The court came down on free exercise with Justice Kennedy stating, in the Town of Greece case, that we have to put up with things we don’t like.  So prayers offered by clergy that the officials of the town chose were perfectly legal.

In the Hobby Lobby Case focused on the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), the court ruled that Hobby Lobby need not pay for contraception.  The court majority had no compelling interest in birth control.  The court majority didn’t want complicity in birth control.

The third area that Ms. Greenhouse touched on regarding the Robert’s Court was Deregulation.  She expressed her belief that, in the Citizens United case, the Roberts Court expressed a different cast of the first amendment.  In fact, she described this ruling as a “high jacking of the First Amendment.”

About abortion, it seems that 4 justices would overturn Rowe v Wade.  However, those justices haven’t been able to get Kennedy on board.

About same sex marriage, the court upheld DOMA.  Ms. Greenhouse conclusion was that the justices didn’t want to be on the wrong side of history.  To avoid this, the court simply doesn’t have to take cases. 

Regarding life tenure, her opinion is that time has passed for action on this.

The Question and Answer Period was revealing.

Question and Answers

Are corporations persons? 
There is a long judicial history of viewing corporations and persons.

Is the Roberts Court lucky or persuasive? 
Open to question

How to get over the court? 
Politics is the answer

Fate of the Affordable Care Act. 
No authority for mandate.  Further challenges are coming.

Genetic Cases. 
No obvious ideology in recent genetic case.  Can patent manipulated genes but not ordinary DNA

Search of Cell Phones
Roberts Court ruled 4th Amendments freedom

Ideological drift toward left
Outsiders sometimes drift left (O’Conner & Blackman)
Insiders almost never (
Alito and Thomas)

Are SOTUS decisions based on desired outcomes?
Cultural cognition plays a role
Court apparently thinks where law if going