Originally published 06/21/2013
Adam Winkler is a constitutional-law professor at UCLA.While the country waits (and waits and waits) for the Supreme Court to announce its decisions in what court watchers are calling the Big Four—the two gay-marriage cases, the affirmative-action case, and the Voting Rights Act case—one thing has already become clear by the court’s decisions: the Obama administration has had a lousy year in the high court. While the administration has certainly won some cases, more often than not the court has rejected the administration’s arguments. On Thursday, for example, the court announced three decisions, rejecting the Obama administration’s arguments in each one.In fact, this year may turn out to be one of the worst ever for the United States government at the Supreme Court.
Originally published 04/18/2013
Adam Winkler teaches law at UCLAThe day after the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Barack Obama fought back tears. “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,” he said. “The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten. They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.” When the president said Americans were “going to have to come together to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” it looked as if new federal gun laws were inevitable. Polls showed significant majorities in support of universal background checks and restrictions on military-style rifles, and many in Washington were beginning to question the power of the NRA after the gun rights group’s favored candidates fared poorly in the November elections.Today, just four months later, the Senate all but dashed any hope for meaningful reform from Congress. What happened? Where did the president, who was at the height of his political influence after his reelection in November, go wrong?
Originally published 03/07/2013
Adam Winkler is a professor at UCLA School of Law and the author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America.As political theatre, Senator Rand Paul's marathon, 13-hour filibuster to protest the Obama administration's dreadful drone policy was gripping. While filibusters have become commonplace these days, they usually only involve a simple notice that one intends to filibuster, which then puts the onus on the other side to round up the 60 votes for "cloture" to end the threat. Paul, however, chose to filibuster the old-fashioned way, by standing on the Senate floor and speaking, as Paul said, "until I can no longer speak." While Paul's valiant protest captured the attention of the political twitterati and evoked comparisons to the classic Jimmy Stewart filibuster film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, it raised an important question few people were asking: Is the filibuster unconstitutional?
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