SCOTUS hears voter ID case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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Arguments played out in the Supreme Court of the United States this morning on the legality of Indiana's voter identification law.

The nine justices heard an hour of arguments at 10 a.m. in the combined Hoosier cases of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, No. 07-21, and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita, No. 07-25. Both challenge the state's three-year-old voter photo ID law that's been upheld by both U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Stakes are high. Courts have upheld voter ID laws in Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, but struck down Missouri's. Indiana has the strictest statute in the country, and the future of all these types of laws could come by late June, just in time for the general election in November.

Justices could use the case to guide courts on weighing claims of voter fraud against those of disenfranchisement, and many legal scholars point to this being the most significant voting-related case since the Supreme Court's bitterly divided decision Bush v. Gore, which clinched the 2000 presidential election for George W. Bush.

Indiana Solicitor General Tom Fisher argued for the state attorney general's office, and U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement also argued on behalf of the government. Washington, D.C., attorney Paul M. Smith - a partner at Jenner & Block who's argued a dozen times before the court - took on the petitioners' side for the Indiana Democratic Party and American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

Petitioners' attorneys, Ken Falk with the ACLU of Indiana and William Groth for the Democratic Party, sat in court and observed.

Indiana Lawyer could reach neither Groth nor Fisher for comment following the proceeding, but Falk said he wasn't surprised by the tone of the arguments.

Justices focused mostly on aspects of whether the burden is real and what justification exists for the law, Falk said. Several asked how attorneys could argue no potential fraud or disenfranchisement exists, and how many people this law could hinder. A general consensus from justices seemed that some people would be burdened, Falk said. Smith argued "quite forcefully" that no justification exists, he said.

"All three who argued got questions from the court that were all over the place and went back and forth," Falk said, noting that it's nearly impossible to predict an outcome.

Falk said the packed courtroom included a handful of Hoosier officials and attorneys, including Marion County Clerk Beth White, Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, and Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter. Indiana Tax Court Judge Thomas G. Fisher also attended to watch his son's arguments.

After arguments, Falk was meeting with Senators Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to discuss the future of voter identification statutes in the country, according to the ACLU-Indiana's Web site.

More coverage of the arguments can be found online at the Indiana Lawyer Web site, as well as in the Jan. 23 print edition of the newspaper.

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  1. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well