US Supreme Court

Remembering the first woman to argue before the US Supreme Court

The first woman to argue a matter before the US Supreme Court, Belva Lockwood, was also directly responsible for ensuring that the first black lawyer was able to argue in the Supreme Court some time later. Belva Lockwood's landmark first case, Kaiser v Strickney, was argued 140 years ago this week.

 

This week marks the 140th anniversary of the day that Kaiser v Stickney was argued in the US Supreme Court. Though not a case of any great significance in itself, it is remembered as the first time that a woman lawyer was heard in that court.

Major decision on gay rights by US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court this week delivered a judgment in which the majority held it was unlawful, under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to dismiss anyone on grounds of ‘sex’ – and that this included firing anyone because they were gay or transgender. Three judges disagreed, saying the law dealt with ‘sex’ – not ‘sexual identity’ or gender.

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June 2020 started out as a bad month for the world’s gay community and other sexual minorities. Because of Covid-19 the usually enormous Pride marches and celebrations held in June were called off. There were also concerns that the rainbow flag, long the symbol for Pride marches and protests, was now being used in the UK and elsewhere to show community support for health workers helping people who have Covid-19.

First-class vs economy-class access to the law: what the US Supreme Court says

A new decision from the US Supreme Court has a strong message for other courts, lawyers and everyone who works with court documents and with legislation, annotated or otherwise. The judgment restates the principle that no-one may claim copyright on decisions of the courts because the law belongs to 'the people' who have a right to know its content. But the judgment goes further and holds that government-commissioned annotations, like headnotes made on legislation, are also not subject to copyright.

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It is a principle that some jurisdictions still can’t quite accept: that decisions written by judges don’t belong to the judges who authored them, or to the Chief Justice, or to the government of the country where the judge lives. No, these decisions belong to ‘the people’, and ‘the people’ must have access to these judgments. Otherwise, how will people know what the courts have said, and thus what the law is that they must obey?

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