Donor Disclosure (And Unlikely Alliances) At SCOTUS Today | The Tale Of Two Bretts
April 26, 2021
Today the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case over a California rule that requires nonprofits to disclose their top contributors to state regulators. Two conservative groups — one of which is tied to CHARLES KOCH — argue the requirement violates the Constitution by subjecting donors to threats of violence from political opponents. John Fritze with USA Today reports, “The groups point to a landmark 1958 civil rights case in which the Supreme Court struck down a request by Alabama that the NAACP reveal its membership, a decision that required governments to weigh their need for information against the potential that its disclosure could make people nervous to join an advocacy group.”
APPLES TO ORANGES|
The California case about disclosing nonprofit donors is very different than the 1958 case the Koch brothers and others are hoping will support their arguments today. For one thing, the list of donors is not made public, it’s reported to the state of California. Also, only big donors’ names must be reported at all. Nina Totenberg with NPR writes, “Historically, it is state attorneys general who police charities, and in California, a state with 115,000 charities, that is a big job. JAN MASAOKA, the CEO of the California Association of Nonprofits, compares the California regime to the Federal Aviation Administration’s system of regulation. Just as the FAA needs information from airplane manufacturers and airlines to ensure safety in air travel, California and other states need information from charities to ferret out fraud and self-dealing.”
“That politics makes strange bedfellows is an old observation, yet Monday’s lineup at the Supreme Court remains a sight to behold. On one side is California, which is demanding that nonprofit groups hand over lists of their major donors. Arrayed on the other side: The Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF), a project of Charles Koch; the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; a Christian law center named for Thomas More; the Council on American-Islamic Relations; and the Human Rights Campaign. We could go on.” The Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal comments on the case before justices today and argues, “Donors to nonprofits that are involved in heated issues—say, abortion, religious liberty or transgenderism—deserve robust protections for their privacy.”
GIVE ME AN F|
“The high school cheerleader relegated to the JV squad for another year responded with a fleeting fit of frustration: a photo of her upraised middle finger and another word that begins with F.” But however fleeting her emotion may have been, it’s now taken her to the Supreme Court where justices will determine how the First Amendment’s protection of free speech applies to the off-campus activities of the nation’s 50 million public school students. Robert Barnes with The Washington Post reports on the case that will be argued at SCOTUS this week.
A TALE OF TWO BRETTS|
“Supreme Court JUSTICE BRETT KAVANAUGH has enjoyed a life of comfort and privilege, the son of a Beltway lobbyist and the product of the Ivy League. Mississippi prisoner Brett Jones has endured a life of misery and abuse, the son of an alcoholic father who brutalized his mother and a stepfather who beat him. As fate would have it, their lives converged this week: In an opinion released Thursday, Brett Kavanaugh upheld Brett Jones’s sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing his grandfather just 23 days after his 15th birthday. (And, yes, let us pause here to note a certain irony in the fact that the opinion was written by a justice whose confirmation hearings featured a discussion about how people can change after high school.)” Ruth Marcus with The Washington Post writes on the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision in Jones v. Mississippi in which SCOTUS broke with its own trajectory of showing leniency on punishments for juvenile offenders.
ED BOARD OVERTURE|
The Editorial Board of The Washington Post reviews the Supreme Court’s more than ten-year history of striking down laws that allowed children to be sentenced to death or mandatory life without parole. “It’s important to note that the court’s decisions left life without parole for juveniles as a possibility; states just have to consider an alternative first. On Thursday, however, the court stopped progressing on this moderate and humane road.” The Ed Board notes the dissent of JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR in which she accused the court of overruling its previous life-without-parole decisions and says, “We agree, but we hope the dispute between Justice Sotomayor and the majority does not distract from the essential point, which is that no child can be deemed so incorrigible as to be forever denied even the hope of release.”
David D. Kirkpatrick with The New York Times reports more than 100 people have been shot and killed by the police in the last six weeks. “The officers’ justification for the use of lethal force in each instance differs with the circumstances. But as in almost every other recent case involving questions of police use of force, law enforcement officials defending the officers are relying on a doctrine set forth by the Supreme Court three decades ago and now deeply ingrained in police culture: that judges and juries should not second-guess officers’ split-second decisions, no matter how necessary a killing may appear in hindsight.” But the push to change that standard has been growing stronger and stronger — especially after the killing of GEORGE FLOYD last summer. “While most agree that officers must sometimes use deadly force to protect themselves or others, many criminologists say the wide latitude under the rule is an obstacle to reducing the number of police killings, and lawmakers in Congress and many states have begun seeking tighter restrictions.”
A SUPREME SPRING|
Ariane de Vogue with CNN reports the Supreme Court is readying itself for another historic spring. “In the coming weeks the justices will enter what the late JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG used to call the ‘busy season’ where drafts fly between chambers and the justices seek to release all remaining opinions. The term, like the second half of last term, has been groundbreaking. Instead of appearing in their majestic chamber, participating in a freewheeling give-and-take with arguing counsel, the justices have convened by telephone for more stilted, less spontaneous arguments.” But Ruth Bader Ginsburg is gone now — having an enormous impact on the high court’s term. Time will tell how JUSTICE AMY CONEY BARRETT will leave her imprint on the court’s decisions since her arrival. And of course, all eyes will be on JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER and his possible retirement.