Event Recap – Supreme Court 2018: A Conversation with Dahlia Lithwick and Geoffrey Stone

Panelists Geoffrey Stone, Carol Levine, and Dahlia Lithwick

ACS Flyer - 2018 SCOTUS PanelOn July 16, the American Constitution Society and Courts Matter Illinois co-hosted an event at Chicago-Kent featuring a discussion with Dahlia Lithwick of Slate.com and Professor Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago on recent Supreme Court rulings.

The event began with opening statements to offer context on the significance of the Supreme Court and the political trends they’ve seen in the current court.

The event continued with discussion of six key cases, followed by an open question and answer section that included discussion of SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the implications of recent cases on other free speech and immigration issues.

You can find the full video of the event below, along with an outline of the cases they discussed and quotes from the live Twitter coverage of the event.


Opening Statements

Staff from Courts Matter Illinois opened the event by thanking all of the students and organizations that helped make the event happen and by introducing the speakers.

Dahlia Lithwick began by remarking on the changing characteristics of the court, on the movement from swing justices to a reliably conservative majority determining cases.

Professor Stone described his perspective on the Supreme Court — starting with watching the Warren Court in the late 1960s when he began law school — as an institution that was a champion of democracy, free speech, and the fundamental values of the Constitution.

He described the increasing political polarization and said he worries that it will become a threat to the credibility of the institution.

2018 Supreme Court Cases:

Case 1: Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

  • WATCH – skip to this discussion in the video: 16:57

Case 2: Trump v. Hawaii

  • WATCH – skip to this discussion in the video: 24:18

Case 3: National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra

  • WATCH – skip to this discussion in the video: 34:15

Case 4: Carpenter v. United States

  • WATCH – skip to this discussion in the video: 44:04

Case 5: Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31

  • WATCH – skip to this discussion in the video: 51:42

Case 6: Gill v. Whitford

(plus Benisek v. LamoneHusted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, and Abbott v. Perez)

  • WATCH – skip to this discussion in the video: 56:04


Kavanaugh Nomination

  • WATCH – skip to this discussion in the video: 1:08:25

Additional Questions

Q: Is there an intersection between the overruling of Korematsu in the travel ban case and the inevitable cases that the court will hear on Trump’s family separation policy?

  • A: WATCH – skip to this discussion in the video: 1:19:52

Geoffrey Stone: No one believes Korematsu was good law. Part of what made Korematsu so problematic was the internment of U.S. citizens, but that wouldn’t be relevant to the issues with children who aren’t U.S. citizens under the policy now.

Dahlia Lithwick: I don’t think it had any formal salience. The problem that beset Korematsu — that the Justice Department lied — is the same problem in the travel ban case.

Q: Given NIFLA v. Becerra, can OSHA force companies to post safety warnings, or is that an imposition on free speech?

  • A: WATCH – skip to this discussion in the video: 1:21:52

Geoffrey Stone: I think if you apply the precedent in a straightforward way, it’s unconstitutional.

Dahlia Lithwick: Justice Breyer, in his dissent, talked about the mandatory scripts for doctors, that if you can’t force a clinic to post information, then doctors can’t be forced to give warnings that have been medically debunked. Where those get struck down, it’s the speech interest of the doctor, not the incidental person who’s carrying a baby.

Q: Can you share any thoughts you have on Kagan’s dissent in Janus and the idea of the conservative justices’ weaponization of the First Amendment?

  • A: WATCH – skip to this discussion in the video: 1:24

Geoffrey Stone: I think what Justice Kagan is referring to is the expansion of free speech to include corporations, to deal with labor unions, to apply this argument to extend the conservative goals of their party.

Dahlia Lithwick: I would have said to watch the justices who seemed to move to the center on the issue, but nothing of the sort happened with this issue on the right side of the court. This year the split is with Sotomayor and Ginsburg, who are just bristling with anger, and Kagan and Breyer, who are willing to work with the others.


Megan O’Malley, a founder of Courts Matter Illinois, ended the event with a call to action:


Author: Emily Barney

Technology Training & Marketing Librarian

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