Andrew Blotky - Big Supreme Court Cases

Andrew Blotky is a Stanford alumni for both undergrad and law school. He worked with Ron Wyden in the past (go Oregon!), he teaches a class on nonprofits at Stanford in Washington, and he works at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank / grassroots outreach / advocacy organization in Washington. His current work involves public outreach regarding the courts -- activists need to know that the courts are relevant to their work -- so he spoke about some of the recent big supreme court cases: the ruling on Arizona's SB 1070, the ruling on Obamacare, and the ruling on Citizens United.

He spent much of the time describing each case. On Citizens United, the court ruled that corporations, which are persons, have a right to free speech and that money counts as speech, so they are entitled to unlimited political expenditures. Apparently, though, that wasn't what the case was originally about: the court was originally just asked to decide whether one particular act of political spending was legitimate, but the justices asked the lawyers to reargue the case to make it about corporate money as political free speech. That's not a very common thing for them to do.

On SB 1070, the court got rid of most of it under Plenary Powers (only the federal government has authority to deal with immigration) but did not say that it was racial profiling because there weren't any examples put forward of people who had been racially profiled under SB 1070. One of the dissenting opinions criticized Obama's support of the DREAM Act even though that wasn't relevant to the case at all.

On Obamacare, the lawyers had three tactics to defend the individual mandate: interstate commerce, penalty, and tax. It was surprising that they didn't uphold Obamacare under interstate commerce (over the last while, Congress has been allowed to do pretty much anything under the clause in the constitution that says that congress can make laws that deal with interstate commerce), but they still upheld the law as a tax. One theory as to why the chief justice (usually conservative) sided with the liberals on this issue was he felt like there was a perception that the court was becoming increasingly politicized (exemplified, for instance, by the court asking for rearguing in Citizens United and by the criticism of the DREAM Act described above), which dampened its legitimacy, and he wanted to show that the court is there to decide on constitutionality of a law, not on its politics. Another part of the ruling held that if a state didn't want to expand Medicare, they didn't have to.

He also gave some advice about career paths and whatnot. Overall, he seemed like a very cool person.