Supreme court

Affirmative action was hurting black students

Harvard may have a slightly more difficult time poaching black students from Boston College, Miami University of Ohio, or other less elite schools in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision invalidating Harvard’s racial admissions regime. Recruiters from BlackRock and Goldman Sachs may have to suffer the indignity of recruiting their black employees from the University of Connecticut or Rice University, rather than from Stanford and Yale. But contrary to the hysterical rhetoric from President Joe Biden, the Court’s dissenting Justices, and the democratic commentariat, the doors of educational opportunity will remain wide open to black people. As many black students as before will go to college, assuming that they

America’s abortion debate isn’t coming to Britain

Politicians are lining up to condemn the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Activists are warning us that this is the start of a fresh assault on abortion rights in Britain. What starts in the core spreads to the periphery; a new wave of pro-life policies will soon be here. What’s less clear is where this wave is meant to come from, given that every major British party is opposed to the Supreme Court decision. Once again, Westminster politics has mistaken Britain for America. The Conservative party may be in hoc to a blonde tousle-haired populist, but it isn’t quietly stacking the judiciary with pro-life justices in order

How the war on Roe was won

When did it become certain that American women’s abortion rights would fall? The Supreme Court’s ruling that ‘Roe was egregiously wrong from the start’ was leaked almost two months ago, so the formal release of the judgment yesterday is bitter but hardly a surprise. Certainly, Donald Trump can take a lot of the credit. Somehow, an administration that gave every impression of being a blazing car crash from which hapless apparatchiks were ejected at speed managed to appoint three — three! — Supreme Court judges, every one of them a copper-bottomed social conservative. But he could never have achieved that without the unlikely help of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that

Are Kamala Harris’s days as Veep numbered?

President Joe Biden promised last week to nominate the first black woman to the Supreme Court. ‘Long overdue,’ he says. When it comes to elevating African-American females to high office, Biden has form. He chose Kamala Harris, remember, to be the first woman US Vice President of colour. But what if Biden elected to choose the same woman — namely, Vice President Kamala Harris — for the Supreme Court? Wouldn’t that be so unimaginative and tokenistic, as to be quite racist? Even a leader as error-prone as Biden wouldn’t do that, would he? Yet in Washington, there are whispers of a cunning plan to shunt Kamala on to the Supreme

Raab’s law reforms are ridiculous

What should we make of the Times story yesterday, which appeared under the headline ‘Boris Johnson Plans To Let Ministers Throw Out Legal Rulings’? The impression given is that ministers will somehow be handed powers by the Prime Minister simply to ignore court rulings that they do not like. That would lead to an extraordinary constitutional crisis, involving either the arrest and imprisonment of ministers for contempt of court, or the arrest and imprisonment of judges with the government exercising Erdogan-style despotism. Nobody can seriously believe that this is what is intended, and the rest of the Times story makes clear that it is not. Instead, the idea which is

Lord Sumption was right to quit the Supreme Court

There used to be a saying: ‘never discuss religion or politics’. That was just a societal rule, a prudent tip for an enjoyable evening. But that principle is also in our constitution. This is a fact recognised by the Supreme Court — and particularly by Lord Sumption — earlier this year. Sharing your political opinions is, for some people, a breach of constitutional obligations. The UK is odd, some think, in having the constitution that we do. Far younger states with bright and shiny constitutions, written in single documents, seem to look down on our frumpy older version. But if we are playing constitutional top trumps, the UK scores near

The law is not fit to stop Extinction Rebellion’s street protests

Extinction Rebellion (XR) are once again blocking London’s streets, reportedly emboldened by the Supreme Court’s recent Ziegler decision – which found that deliberately blocking roads can be lawful protest. The police maintain that the judgment does not substantially change the law and that XR, like everyone else, has a right to assemble and protest but not to cause serious disruption to the community or to hold the streets to ransom. But while the judgment is not a sea change in the law – whatever some protestors may now say – it does reveal that the law as it stands is failing to adequately protect the public’s right to use the

The Supreme Court’s shameful statement on Hong Kong

In a statement which will doubtless surprise the scores of lawyers, democratic politicians and human rights activists who are currently in jail awaiting show trials under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, the UK Supreme Court today made an announcement which is the best piece of free PR that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has had in years. The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Reed, has issued a statement saying that UK judges will be staying on Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal and that ‘the judiciary in Hong Kong continues to act largely independently of government and their decisions continue to be consistent with the rule of law.’ Lord Reed

Why Poland’s EU climbdown may help Law and Justice

Dare Poland stand up to the EU? The leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party Jaroslaw Kaczynski announced on Saturday that the country’s controversial disciplinary chamber for judges, the subject of a long-running dispute with the bloc over the ‘rule of law’, will be disbanded. The climbdown seems at first glance to be a humiliating defeat for the Polish government in the face of pressure from Brussels. The European Court of Justice gave Poland until 16 August to disband the disciplinary chamber. Politicians in Warsaw say the chamber is a means to root out corruption but the ECJ believes it undermines the independence of the Polish judiciary. With

Pro-choice activists shouldn’t celebrate Roe v Wade

A striking curiosity of American life is that the names of legal cases can insinuate themselves into everyday dialogue. None more so, of course, than Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision where a majority-liberal Supreme Court extracted from the Constitution’s protection of life, liberty and property a constitutional right to abortion: absolute in the first trimester, qualified in the second, and, in rare cases, even in the third. In a 1992 fine-tuning exercise, the rule was re-written as a right to abortion unless and until the foetus was viable at about 24 weeks. But the principle remains. Southern and rural states always saw Roe v Wade as a liberal aberration.

Is this the end of the gig economy?

Before too long, news that Uber will offer 70,000 drivers holiday pay and the national living wage will be viewed less as an unmitigated triumph than a Pyrrhic victory. In the UK you can be an ’employee’ with an ever-growing raft of employment rights, a ‘worker’ with rather fewer rights, or ‘self-employed’. These statuses have different implications for tax purposes. Last month, the UK Supreme Court, ending a six-year case brought by two Uber drivers, ruling that the ride-hailing firm must classify drivers as workers rather than self-employed. This week, the consequences of that judgment begin to be felt — though it is the government’s fault that, in repeatedly failing

The twisted logic of Shamima Begum’s defenders

Shamima Begum is back in the news. Firstly because she’s had a makeover. She can be seen on the front page of today’s Telegraph sporting long, flowing locks, trendy shades and Western clothing. Is Shamima the Islamist now aspiring to be Shamima the celeb? Perhaps she’s angling for her own reality TV show: The Real Housewives of Raqqa. But the second reason she’s in the news is because the British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor has expressed sympathy for her. He says she’s a victim of British racism. I really wish Sir Anish would stick to what he’s (very) good at — public art installations — and leave the Shamima business alone.

The problem with the Supreme Court’s Uber ruling

They are monitored by the firm. They don’t have the option of working for other companies. And they are entitled to all the protections that come with being an employee. The Supreme Court today potentially blew up Uber’s business model, and the model of many other fast-growing ‘gig economy’ companies as well, with a ruling that drivers for the app operator are not self-employed after all, as the company likes to claim, but staff, and should be treated as such. In truth, you can argue the case for or against that decision, as the lawyers have just done expensively in court. But in reality, this is a hugely important verdict

US Supreme Court ends Trump’s last hope

This is the end, my only friend, the end. The Supreme Court yesterday struck down Texas’s legal bid to challenge Joe Biden’s election. Donald Trump said the Court ‘really let us down’, but the truth is that the case was a legal Hail Mary. It has failed. Now the quixotic campaign to challenge the official 2020 election result really is all over, bar the tweeting. It’s actually been over for a while, but a lot of Trump supporters refuse to see it. There’ll be more cases and many more allegations. But whatever the truth of any claims, the fact is the Trump campaign and its Republican supporters have failed to

In defence of British institutions

‘Terms and conditions will apply.’ That, or something near it, was Dan Rosenfield’s initial response when Boris Johnson invited him to become Chief of Staff in No.10. Naturally, Mr Rosenfield was tempted. But he wanted assurances that he would have the authority to run a serious political outfit. He was not interested in becoming a zoo-keeper. That was not a problem. The zoo has been closed down. The Dominic Cummings era is over. Boris’s willingness to hire a completely different character, following the appointment of Simon Case as Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, suggests that the PM can recognise and value seriousness in others, even if he

The ‘Notorious RBG’ and her triumph over tribalism

Ruth the Moabite is the only Biblical figure to merit the description ‘eshet chayil’ – ‘a woman of valour’. One rabbinical exegesis sees Proverbs 31’s womanly virtues as a reference to Ruth: ‘Many women have done well, but you surpass them all.’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died aged 87 on Erev Rosh Hashanah, surpassed the expectations and limitations placed on women who came before her. But she did more than that: the Brooklyn-born lawyer fundamentally transformed the role of women in law and changed the law on women’s roles. Only the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States, she authored the majority opinion in cases such

The persistent myth of a non-political Supreme Court

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a terrible blow to Democrats, but there is an important point to be considered – the principled arguments Democrats made in 2016 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia prevail. Democrats insisted that the Scalia vacancy should be filled swiftly by President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, but the Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold hearings. Their pleas were not in vain, however, and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has now been persuaded by the logic and compassion of the Democrats’ case – and this time the president’s nominee will, probably, get a speedy hearing. It took four years, but Democrats will get the

Could a sex-strike solve Brexit?

Last week the Lawyers Group of the charity Classics for All held its fifth moot (cf. ‘meet’) in the Supreme Court, under the stern gaze of Lady Arden. Previous moots have tried Socrates, Brutus and Cassius, Antigone, and Verres, corrupt governor of Sicily. The Romans put such moots at the heart of their education. The purpose was to teach men how to win the political — and, even more, legal —battles necessary to climb the greasy pole to power. Pupils would be asked to make the best case they could for or against the sides involved in historical or mythical situations (suasoriae, e.g. ‘did Orestes legally kill his mother?’, ‘Should

Paul Dacre: Do I regret the ‘Enemies of the people’ front page? Hell no!

So what to make of the extreme language, veering from the histrionic to the hysterical, dominating political discourse? The words ‘surrender’, ‘treachery’ and ‘sabotage’ ricochet around Westminster. According to Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Supreme Court’s verdict is a ‘constitutional coup’. For the Sun it’s ‘an incendiary coup by political judges’. David Cameron describes Michael Gove as a ‘foam-flecked Faragist’. Boris Johnson is painted as the Antichrist. All of which puts into perspective my own somewhat hackneyed contribution to this lexicon of acrimony. It is nearly three years since the Mail’s headline ‘Enemies of the people’ detonated a national debate over whether judges were hijacking political powers. Written five minutes before deadline,

The balance of power in our constitution has been lost

Until recently, we used to comfort ourselves with the thought that the United Kingdom’s uncodified constitution was a great national strength. We didn’t need guidance laid down in one document because precedence, compromise and common sense were enough to ensure the smooth operation of power. As soon as a document is written, power passes from democratic institutions to courts where activist judges can interpret these documents in a political way. In Britain, this is not meant to happen. Our legal system has been seen, world over, as politically neutral, one of the most trustworthy in the world. So what are we to make of a Supreme Court granting itself powers