This is the first in what I hope to be a frequent installment: Short Calendar, my version of the quick hits sports column but with legal news and commentary, for days when I do not write a longer, single-topic post. The idea may not be original but the content will be.
- Two days into the week and there are already two major victories for marriage equality. A federal court in Pennsylvania struck down the Keystone State’s gay marriage ban today. This is fresh on the heels of Oregon’s state constitutional ban being ruled unconstitutional yesterday. Oregon’s governor and attorney general are not appealing the decision so it is most likely final. The National Organization for Marriage is attempting to intervene but likely will not (and should not) have standing to do so.
- The PA decision is the 14th consecutive federal court victory for marriage equality (an intermediate state court declared Arkansas’ ban unconstitutional last week but that was stayed and is pending state supreme court review). It will be difficult to reason and strike a tremendous blow to the equal protection clause for any court to rule differently. So when will the Supreme Court weigh in? Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall says by the end of this presidential term. Although the Court could wait until some circuit decisions come out and only take a case if there’s a split, I think it will grant cert to the first circuit decision and, in a decision joined by Chief Justice Roberts, will hold all laws against same-sex marriage unconstitutional. I even think the Court decided Windsor and Hollingsworth last year with the plan that they would lead lower courts to decide this issue in a way that would make its eventual decision both climatic and smooth.
- The Delaware Supreme Court overturned the conviction and death sentence of Jermaine Wright and remanded the case for a new trial, citing among other things, prosecutorial impropriety for withholding evidence.
- The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the execution of condemned Missouri man Russell Bucklew. Mr. Bucklew claims a medical condition involving his veins and heart would make a lethal injection extra painful. The court noted, “The irreparable harm to Bucklew is great in comparison to the harm to the state from staying the execution.” Even without the medical issue, the irreparable harm (death) is far greater compared to the alternative to any method of execution–life without possibility of parole–and is no more effective in protecting the state.