Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Fri 6/30 - This Supreme Court Will Be Viewed as a Dark Mark on History

Fri 6/30 - This Supreme Court Will Be Viewed as a Dark Mark on History

We have a lot of SCOTUS decisions, all of them bad. Affirmative Action killed, web designers can discriminate, student loan forgiveness in the crosshairs and then a nice simple OpenAI story.

On this day, June 30th, in legal history, the 26th Amendment was ratified making the legal voting age a uniform 18.

The amendment is straight and to the point, consistent of two sections and holding:

Section 1

The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

Section 2

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The history of the reduction of the voting age is inextricably tied to Vietnam. During the 1960s, there was a growing movement across the United States to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. This push was fueled in part by the Vietnam War, as young men between 18 and 21 were being drafted into the military. Advocates argued that if these individuals were old enough to fight, they should be old enough to vote. Facing legislative inaction, supporters of lowering the voting age included a provision in a 1970 bill that extended the Voting Rights Act. However, the Supreme Court ruled in Oregon v. Mitchell that Congress couldn't lower the voting age for state and local elections. To avoid confusion and costs associated with maintaining separate voting rolls, Congress proposed and the states ratified the Twenty-sixth Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 for all elections.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that universities cannot use race as a factor in admissions, overturning decades of precedent. The court's 6-3 decision stated that programs at Harvard College and the University of North Carolina violated the Constitution's equal protection clause. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, rejected the argument that these programs were necessary for campus diversity. The ruling is expected to lead to fewer Black and Hispanic students at top universities and require many schools to revise their admissions policies. President Joe Biden disagreed strongly with the decision, claiming it effectively ends affirmative action in college admissions.

Rather than recount the stretched logic and thinly masked reasoning behind the majority’s overturning decades of precedent, I’ll summarize Justice Jackson’s dissent. Justice Jackson highlights the existence of significant racial disparities in the health, wealth, and well-being of American citizens, which have been inherited from the past and continue to persist today. She argues that these disparities contradict the fundamental principle of equality and suggests that holistic admissions programs, like the one implemented by the University of North Carolina (UNC), are a necessary solution to address this issue. She joins Justice Sotomayor's opinion that race can be considered in college admissions to ensure racial diversity, emphasizing the universal benefits of such considerations. She counters the contention made by the plaintiff, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), that considering race in admissions is unfair, stating that it ignores the historical and ongoing impact of discrimination and the transmission of inequality across generations. Ultimately, Justice Jackson dissents from the majority's decision to restrict the use of race in admissions, arguing that it hampers progress without a legal, historical, logical, or justifiable basis. 

A particularly salient quote from Justice Jackson’s dissent:

With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces “colorblindness for all” by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life. And having so detached itself from this country’s actual past and present experiences, the Court has now been lured into interfering with the crucial work that UNC and other institutions of higher learning are doing to solve America’s real-world problems.

Supreme Court Rejects Use of Race in University Admissions (3)

“A Tragedy for Us All”: Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson's Dissent | The Nation

In a 6-3 decision, the US Supreme Court sided with a Christian website designer who argued that her freedom of speech entitled her to create wedding pages exclusively for opposite-sex couples. The court determined that anti-discrimination laws, including the specific Colorado measure involved in the case, must allow for exceptions for businesses engaged in expressive activities. 

Supreme Court Backs Web Designer Against Same-Sex Marriage (1)

The US Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on the legality of President Joe Biden's plan to cancel $430 billion in student loan debt, which aims to benefit up to 43 million Americans. The conservative justices expressed skepticism during arguments in February, considering legal challenges brought by six conservative-leaning states and two individual borrowers. The ruling has significant implications for the 26 million borrowers who sought relief after Biden announced the plan but faced opposition from lower courts. Biden's plan, fulfilling a campaign promise, seeks to cancel a portion of the $1.6 trillion federal student loan debt, but it faced criticism from Republicans who viewed it as an overreach of presidential authority. The plan would forgive up to $10,000 or $20,000 in federal student debt based on income and grant eligibility. The Biden administration argued that the plan is authorized under the 2003 HEROES Act, which empowers the education secretary to modify student financial assistance during emergencies. The legal challenge faced opposition from a federal judge in Missouri but was found to have proper standing by the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals. Additionally, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the plan exceeded the administration's authority. Public opinion on the debt relief plan is divided along partisan lines, with Democrats generally supportive and Republicans opposed. The Supreme Court's ruling will have significant implications for student loan borrowers and the Biden administration's efforts to address student debt.

Supreme Court to decide fate of Biden student loan forgiveness | Reuters

OpenAI Inc. is facing another class-action copyright lawsuit that alleges its popular AI chatbot, ChatGPT, is trained on books without obtaining permission from the authors. The lawsuit claims that ChatGPT's machine learning training dataset includes content that OpenAI copied without consent, credit, or compensation. OpenAI and other generative AI companies have been encountering intellectual property and privacy lawsuits, as regulators and Congress attempt to regulate the industry. This latest lawsuit follows a previous class-action suit against OpenAI, accusing the company's AI models of scraping personal information from the internet in violation of privacy laws. It also references a separate copyright suit filed in 2022 regarding OpenAI's AI coding assistant, Copilot. The plaintiffs in the current case, authors Paul Tremblay and Mona Awad, allege that ChatGPT has provided accurate summaries of their books, leading them to believe their works were copied without permission. The lawsuit mentions a 2020 paper from OpenAI, which states that a portion of the training dataset comes from "shadow libraries" like Library Genesis and Sci-Hub, which illegally publish copyrighted works. 

OpenAI Legal Troubles Mount With Suit Over AI Training on Novels

Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
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