Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

The Consequences of Striking Down § 4: Voter Inequality

February 3rd, 2014 No comments

By: Carla Arias

Blog Category: Racial Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions

The United States Supreme Court struck down § 4 of the Voting Rights Act in the summer of 2013.[1] As an integral part of civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act designates which parts of the country must have any voting law changes approved by the federal government.[2]  In a 5-4 decision, the Court held, “[a]t the same time, voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that. The question is whether the Act’s extraordinary measures, including its disparate treatment of the States, continue to satisfy constitutional requirements. As we put it a short time ago, ‘the Act imposes current burdens and must be justified by current means.’” (emphasis added). [3] Although the decision does not overturn the Act’s ban on discriminatory voting rules, the striking down of § 4 hinders voting equality throughout the country.

Justice Ginsburg dissented stating, “[c]ontinuance would facilitate completion of the impressive gains thus far made; and…, continuance would guard against back sliding.”[4] Section 4 of the Voter Rights Act has proven incredibly successful in “increasing minority registration and access to the ballot.”[5] Section 4 should have remained in place to ensure that the increase in minority registration and access continues.

President Obama was quoted as saying, “[a]s a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists.”[6] If voter discrimination still exists, as recognized by the Supreme Court, why eliminate an act that has had such success in promoting voting equality. The striking down of § 4 will likely lead to the backsliding Justin Ginsburg noted and undue the progress President Obama emphasized.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

[1] Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder, 133 S.Ct. 2612 (2013).

[2] See 42 U.S.C.A. § 1973b.

[3] Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder, 133 S.Ct. 2612 (2013).

[4]  Id. at 2619.

[5]  Id. at 2632.

[6]  Ryan J. Reilly et al., Voting Rights Act Section 4 Struck Down by Supreme Court, Huffington Post, June 25, 2013,


Affirmative Action Admission Policies After Fisher

January 6th, 2014 No comments

By: Andrew Patrick
Blog Category: Racial Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions

The recent United States Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin did little to clear up the issues surrounding affirmative action’s role in the higher education admission process.  The case involved a challenge to the University of Texas at Austin’s (“University”) undergraduate admission process, which considered potential applicant’s race.   The Petitioner, a white female, sued the University after being denied admission alleging that the consideration of race in the admissions process violated the Equal Protection Clause.   The 7-1 decision vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals holding that the lower court failed to correctly apply the “strict scrutiny standard” consistent with precedent.

The opinion authored by Justice Kennedy indicated that the Fifth Circuit did not make an “independent searching examination,” which was essential in determining whether the University’s affirmative action plan was narrowly tailored.   The University had the burden of showing that there were “no workable race-neutral alternatives [which] would produce the educational benefits of diversity.”  The Court of Appeals mistakenly gave deference to the University’s judgment with respect to the means of achieving the compelling interest of diversity.   The case was remanded to the lower court where the University will be required to demonstrate that their admission process is in fact narrowly tailored to achieving the educational benefits of diversity.

Going forward, this decision imposes a significant evidentiary burden on educational institutions that consider racial classifications in the admissions process. Universities will be required to “demonstrat[e], before turning to racial classification, that available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice.”


Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, 132 S.Ct. 2411 (2013).

Supreme Court Ruling Opens Doors to Racial Discrimination in Voting System

December 9th, 2013 No comments

By: Christina Quinn
Blog Category: Racial Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions

On a Tuesday in June, 2013, the Supreme Court effectively struck down the heart of The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (“Voting Rights Act”), which required certain states to receive clearance from the Justice Department or Federal Courts before making changes to voting procedures. The majority of the Supreme Court held that section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. However, the Court did not strike down section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which sets forth the pre-clearance requirement. Section 4 determined what states must receive clearance from the Department of Justice or Federal Courts. Moreover, Section 4 was a significant provision because it worked to prevent lawless conduct by officials who were determined to bar African Americans from voting.

The impact of the ruling is likely to be felt in the Southern states, which are most strongly impacted by the Voting Rights Act. States such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia, are now free to make minor changes, such as changes to voting procedures, or major changes, like redrawing electoral districts without pre-approval by either the Justice Department or a Federal Court. Racial discrimination in elections is precisely what the Voting Rights Act had prevented for many years and this Supreme Court ruling has opened the doors to once again allow racial discrimination in the voting system.


Adam Liptak, Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act, New York Times, available at (last visited October 10, 2013).

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl—Interpreting the Indian Child Welfare Act

November 11th, 2013 No comments

By: Jamilah Espinosa

Blog Category: Racial Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions

The Supreme Court this summer cleared the way for the adoption of a four year old girl known as “Baby Veronica,” by the Capobiancos’, a South Carolina couple.  The case Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, has been a long, emotional, and contentious battle between the prospective adoptive parents and the biological father, Dusten Brown.  The story began when a woman in Oklahoma placed her daughter, Baby Veronica, up for adoption and agreed to allow the Capobiancos’, a South Carolina couple, to adopt her newborn daughter.  The baby’s biological father, Brown, had expressed his desire to terminate his parental rights.  Brown knew the mother was pregnant, but did not provide her with any support during her pregnancy.  Therefore, the adoptive couple, theoretically, would not need his consent for the adoption to proceed.

However, Brown was served with a notice of the pending adoption which he signed and did not contest.  After signing the papers, and prior to the adoption becoming finalized, Brown objected to the adoption. Brown went to court to get full custody of Baby Veronica, citing the Indian Child Welfare Act (hereinafter “ICWA”). This Act prevents Native American children from separation from their biological families and given to non-Native American foster parents.  Brown is a registered member of an Indian tribe, the Cherokee nation, thus Baby Veronica was categorized as “Indian because she was 1.2% (3/256) Cherokee.”  The trial court ruled in favor of Brown, finding that the ICWA barred the adoption.

After the lower court ruled, the South Carolina Supreme Court gave custody of Baby Veronica to Brown, and at this point Baby Veronica was twenty-seven months old, and had lived her entire life with her adoptive family.  The Capobiancos’ petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review the case. On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision held that the relevant sections of the ICWA were designed to preserve American Indian families.  The Supreme Court held that the ICWA did not apply to Brown because he abandoned Baby Veronica and never even had custody of her.  Justice Samuel Alito stated, “as the Supreme Court reads [the Indian Child Welfare Act], a biological [American] Indian father could abandon his child in utero and refuse any support for the birth mother—perhaps contributing to the mother’s decision to put the child up for adoption—and then could play his ICWA trump card at the eleventh hour to override the mother’s decision and the child’s best interest.”  The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower courts to determine Baby Veronica’s placement using state law and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of ICWA.  As of today, Baby Veronica is now living with the Capobiancos’, her adoptive parents, after the Oklahoma Supreme Court dissolved a temporary court order leaving her with Brown.  The effects of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl are yet to be seen in other cases, but the Native American tribes fear the purpose of the ICWA has been diminished by the case.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.  


Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 133 S.Ct. 2552 (2013).

Hansi Lo Wang, Happy Ruling for Adoptive Couple, Uncertainty For Baby Girl, NPR, (June 25, 2013),

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Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

October 14th, 2013 No comments

By: Molly McDonough
Blog Category: Racial Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions

On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a 5-4 decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.  In this case, Biological Father, a member of the Cherokee Nation, informed Birth Mother that he would agree to relinquish his parental rights. Birth Mother put Baby Girl, 1.2 percent Indian, up for adoption and selected Adoptive Couple, a non-Indian couple. During the adoption proceedings, Biological Father sought custody and stated he did not consent to the adoption.

Under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), Indian parent’s rights were not to be terminated, but in the event their parental rights were terminated, the adoption placement preferences would apply. These preferences require Indian children to be placed with family, tribal members, or another Indian family before other possible placement.  The Supreme Court held that ICWA does not apply where the Indian parent never had custody of the child. In this case, Biological Father should not have been able to invoke the ICWA because he had never had custody of the Baby Girl. The Court also ruled that the adoption placement preferences are inapplicable in cases where no alternative party has sought to adopt the child.  In this case, Baby Girl’s paternal grandparents or other members of the Cherokee Nation never filed for adoption. The Court reversed and remanded the case back to the lower courts to determine Baby Girl’s placement using state law and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of ICWA.

On July 8, 2013, Biological Father’s stepmother and Baby Girl’s paternal grandparents filed to adopt Baby Girl. Now, the lower courts will be faced with the issue of whether the ICWA is inapplicable when there is no alternative party who has formally sought to adopt the child before the commencement of the alternative adoption proceedings or if the ICWA can become applicable during any point of the proceedings. Since there is now a placement preference for Baby Girl, it seems likely that she may have to leave the custody of Adoptive Couple to be placed with the Cherokee Nation.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 


Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, No. 12-399, 2013 U.S. LEXIS 4916 (2013).

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl: Information and Resources, National Indian Child Welfare Association (2013), available at

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Fall 2013 Blog Topics

October 13th, 2013 No comments

new shield

 The Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race would like to announce our Fall 2013 Blogs


Our blogs will feature the following four topics:

      1)  Racial Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions

2)  Immigration Reform

3)  Race and Healthcare

4)  Minimum Wage and the Economy


New blog entries will be added every Monday. Thank you for supporting the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race!