Texas abortion case arguments show polarized court. The Supreme Court spent 85 minutes hearing oral arguments Wednesday in “its biggest abortion case in years,” Reuters reports. The court’s four liberal justices leaned towards striking down the Texas law that opponents argue makes access to abortion doctors and clinics harder for women. With the decision expected by June, all eyes will be on potential swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy, although it’s widely believed his vote will fall on the conservative side. If that happens, the 4-4 decision will essentially delay the court taking a position on abortion. Further, by letting the Texas law stand, the court “could encourage other states with anti-abortion legislatures to pass similar laws.” Reuters


Supreme Court vacancy heavily impacts the working class. As if a reminder about how contentious the void left on the Supreme Court by Justice Scalia’s death was needed, Buzzfeed’s labor reporter Cora Lewis provides a quick run-down of the top cases that will affect the working people. Among the cases looming for the court are lawsuits over non-members of public sector unions being forced to pay dues, rights for undocumented workers and the very functionality of the National Labor Relations Board. Buzzfeed


White House meeting between Obama and Senate Republicans yields nada. CNN reports President Obama “confronted” Senate Republican leaders in a meeting at the White House on Tuesday (March 1) but, there was no progress on their opposition to him nominating anyone to the Supreme Court. Sitting in on the meeting with the president and vice president were Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Senate Democrats Patrick Leahy and Harry Reid. CNN


Supreme Court keeps milestone Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan in place. By deciding not to review a challenge to an Environmental Protection Agency-led effort, the court essentially told American Farm Bureau Foundation to take a hike. The court’s action – technically, inaction – infers that U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia H. Rambo was correct in her 2013 ruling that the EPA has authority “under the Clean Water Act to partner with the six states in the bay watershed to cut the pollution that pours in from sewers, construction developments and chemical and biological waste from farms,” the Washington Post’s Darryl Fears reports. Washington Post


Health insurance spending transparency dealt a setback. In a 6-2 vote, the Supreme Court sided with Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. in a case involving data on health insurance spending. Liberty cited a 1974 law in its argument that it should not have to submit data on its clients in Vermont, since “companies that have operations across the country shouldn't be subjected to 50 different state laws” and answer only to the U.S. Department of Labor.” NPR via ProPublica



Free speech as a rap song? Supreme Court: “Nah.” The high court declined to review a free speech case brought before it by attorneys for a Mississippi high school student suspended over a controversial rap. The student, Taylor Bell, recorded the song “at a professional studio” during the winter break and shared it on Facebook in February 2011. In the song – which we here at the Hip Hop Caucus would love to hear – he accused two coaches of allegedly behaving inappropriately towards female students. Bell sued when Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, suspended him for seven days. Lower courts upheld the suspension, “saying it made no difference where Bell made and distributed the song.” AP/CBS News 

President Obama appointed several key staffers to oversee Supreme Court nomination. Politico reports the president’s senior adviser Brian Deese will spearhead the task and point to “outside speculation” that the pick may be announced as “early as this week.” No official word has come down from the White House. Deese’s team will also include Obama’s counsel Neil Eggleston. The staffers’ job scope includes the “search, review, research, and vetting of candidates.” They will report to Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough. Hip Hop Caucus is glad to learn that, per Politico, Deese’s office previously oversaw “environmental regulations and international negotiations leading to the Paris climate deal that’s so much defined his second term.” The White House has also reached out to outside advisers, “led by Stephanie Cutter, a former deputy senior adviser in the White House and deputy campaign manager for Obama.” Politico

“One-third of all U.S. presidents appointed a Supreme Court justice in an election year.” In an essay that reads like a Cliff’s Notes on the history of Supreme Court nominations, former Supreme Court fellow Barbara A. Perry writes that the founding fathers extensively debated about the very process before Obama now. Perry, currently serving as Miller Professor of Ethics and Institutions and director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, noted that George Washington “added an associate justice and a chief justice during the election year of 1796.” Washington Post

 Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks! Did you know what Supreme Court’s only Black member, Clarence Thomas, hasn’t asked a question of attorneys for either the plaintiffs nor defendants in his courtroom – since Feb. 22, 2006? Thomas finally broke his silence – based on his own preference, apparently – by asking U.S. government attorneys to clarify whether the 2d Amendment right to carry a firearm was suspended when a person is convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. In Voisine vs. U.S., which involves two Maine me who entered guilty pleas for DV but are arguing that should not disqualify them from owning guns, is currently before by the high court. NPR

Just to illustrate how important the Supreme Court of the United States is to the current trending headlines, just hop over to ComputerWorld.com, which has posted quite a forward-looking article headlined “Apple encryption fight with FBI could go to the Supreme Court.”

Just to be clear: it will be a while – months, maybe years – before this case is appealed to the Supreme Court. It’s vital to understand what’s at stake, and CW article does a great job explaining as such:

"If the order from U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym still stands after Apple's appeal, the company can elevate the case through the courts. With the case involving privacy, national security and other major issues, the Supreme Court may be interested, some legal experts said … Some cases take years to reach the nation's highest court, but this one is likely to move faster because it's related to a high-profile terrorism investigation, with the FBI possibly hunting for associates of the shooters."

The ubiquitous iPhone – along with MacBooks, iPads and even the iWatch – are tech devices widely consumed globally by hip-hop artists, their fans and consumers. What happens to these devices in terms of government intrusion probably affects you – the person reading this – and is only amplified through hip hop lens because Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine are Apple employees and stakeholders in that publicly traded and considerably powerful company.

The person that President Obama nominates to the SCOTUS is supremely important and this is just another reminder as to the ‘why.’ The new Justice and his/her colleagues will likely be weighing in and interpreting the U.S. Constitution and various federal laws against lower court rulings.

President Obama and his staff are still in the due diligence stage of selecting a nominee to the Supreme Court. Today, the eight justices were back in session with a full docket of cases. Here’s the latest on some of these cases as well a roundup of news coverage surrounding the upcoming nomination.

Even with bitterly partisan sensationalism setting the tone of the media coverage of the Supreme Court nomination, politics is still a business and business does go on. Diplomacy is one of the tools of the political business and it appears that good ol’ fashioned diplomacy is what President Obama is trying to fulfill his duty of selecting the next Supreme Court Justice. 

The Hill reports Obama has personally called two Republican senators “to consult” about his Supreme Court nomination. The calls follow an exchange of op/ed pieces in the Washington Post by Senate leaders from both parties.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) went first on Feb. 15 and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) followed on Feb. 18.

In their jointly written opinion piece, McConnell and Grassley don’t mind their words. The gist of what the two powerful leaders are implying is their belief that there’s a good chance of a Republican being elected president. As such, their argument – rooted in the fact that the American people put Republicans in power in the Senate in the midterm election – is that Obama should simply postpone the nomination.

But, here are some facts that put this debate in perspective:

  • Since 1900, 6 justices have been confirmed in a presidential election year.
  • Every U.S. Supreme Court nominee in history has received a vote within 125 days.
  • Since 1975, it's only taken an average of 67 days to confirm a president's nominee to the Supreme Court. 
  • Since 1875: Every Supreme Court nominee has received a Senate hearing or a vote 

On Justice Kennedy’s confirmation, it was president Reagan who said: "The Federal judiciary is too important to be made a political football”, and we agree. It is the President’s and U.S. Senate’s duty to respect the rule of law and constitutional duties; they must act urgently to fill the vacancy.

Next up: Obama’s due diligence White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama will “begin poring over materials compiled by his advisers about candidates” over the weekend, reviewing “files contain information about their records and professional careers.”