UT law professor predicts possible outcomes of Supreme Court same-sex marriage cases

Speaking at a CLE hosted by the Austin LGBT Bar Association, Sanford Levinson—a professor of constitutional law and government at the University of Texas—said that it was clear as early as 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas which way the U.S. Supreme Court would rule on same-sex marriage and that the 2013 Windsor decision only made this more certain. The court will convene April 28 to hear oral arguments in four cases challenging state bans on same-sex marriage.

Ruling against these bans is what “everybody expects the court to do,” Levinson said, noting that the real question has always been why the court decided to take up the matter at this time. Levinson noted that he previously had predicted that the court would take up same-sex marriage by 2020, so it’s interesting to examine why it is doing so now. He also posited that other questions include what the vote count will be as well as who will write the opinion and what reasoning the opinion’s author will employ.

Professor Sanford Levinson of the University of Texas School of Law. Photograph courtesy of Christina Murrey and Texas Law.

 

Many observers expect the court to rule 5-4 with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing the majority opinion, which would likely be full of quotable passages on the importance of marriage to identity and life, Levinson said. “It would be Kennedy’s legacy.” But, he continued, there is a small possibility that the court will rule 6-3 with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the majority in order to control the opinion.

As to the question of timing, Levinson said that Supreme Court justices—particularly Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg—are mindful of deciding when they will take on such contentious and important issues, sometimes opting to say a case doesn’t have standing.

Ginsberg, for example, has indicated that she believes that the court moved on Roe v. Wade when public opinion wasn’t far enough in favor of such a ruling and that the reproductive rights movement has paid the price. And, she thought in 2013 that the country wasn’t ready for a same-sex marriage decision, Levinson said. “That’s not the case any more. It’s very clear that the majority of the public supports gay marriage,” he said. “This will be the last same-sex marriage case, maybe forever, at the Supreme Court. There literally will be nothing else to say.”

But, Levinson noted, there will potentially be some important cases to follow the same-sex marriage decision, including cases addressing the right to enter polygamous marriages. “We could be in for some really interesting debates on that issue,” he said.

Ms. JD guides women lawyers to create their dream careers

With the theme Passion Forward, the sixth annual Ms. JD Conference on Women in Law aimed to empower women attorneys to pursue their ideal careers. The event, which was held in Austin from Feb. 21 to Feb. 22 and cosponsored by the Center for Women in the Law at the University of Texas School of Law, featured several interactive sessions on relevant and important topics for legal professionals. A California-based nonprofit, Ms. JD was founded in 2006 by law students at several of the nation’s top schools, including UT law school, to strengthen the presence and role of women lawyers. It organizes events around the United States several times a year, conducts original research, and provides an online library of articles and blog posts.

Above: Attendees at the Ms. JD Conference on Women in Law, held in Austin on Feb. 21, participate in a networking and icebreaker game.

 

During the first session of the Ms. JD conference, titled “Find Your Passion,” attendees reflected on their Myers-Briggs test results in order to have a clearer understanding of what type of professional work would complement their personality type, strengths, and preferences. The second session, “Display Your Passion,” provided instruction on how to promote oneself professionally and included discussions on effective, short social media writing, creating successful news op-eds and blog posts (as well as some of the pitfalls of such activities), and involvement in local bar associations and nonprofits. In the third session, attendees had the opportunity to work with professional trainers—such as the chief diversity officer of New York Law School and an attorney with Microsoft Corporation—on how to turn their passions into a personal brand. More information is available at ms-jd.org.

 

New lawyers inducted at Austin ceremony

The Supreme Court of Texas held an induction ceremony for new members of the State Bar of Texas on Monday at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.

Tom Owens, the high scorer on the July 2013 bar exam, addressed the crowd before Chief Justice Nathan Hecht led licensees in the lawyer's oath. State Bar of Texas President Lisa M. Tatum and Texas Young Lawyers Association President Kristy Blanchard welcomed the new lawyers to the profession.

The ceremony also featured the presentation of two awards. Megan Sheffield of the University of Texas School of Law received the Access to Justice Law Student Pro Bono Award, which honors a law student from an accredited Texas law school who has most enhanced the delivery of quality legal services to poor Texans and underserved communities.

St. Mary’s University School of Law received the Access to Justice Law School Commitment to Service Award, which honors an accredited law school in Texas that has made significant and innovative strides toward increasing access to justice.

Pictured: Tom Owens, front right, and other new attorneys take the lawyer's oath Monday at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. 

For more photos from the ceremony, visit the State Bar of Texas on Facebook or Flickr.