Dahlia Lithwick

  • A Sold-Out Franchise

    When the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act this past February, pundits and reporters used an all-but-obligatory set of phrases to describe the legislation. They characterized the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as a “landmark” and the “crown jewel” of the civil rights era, and noted that it still represents the “high-water mark” for both civil rights and voting rights. Yet in some sense, all the lofty rhetoric has come to obscure the real story of one of the Johnson administration’s signal achievements. The Voting Rights Act is now

  • Health Scare

    Over the last week of March, the United States Supreme Court heard three days of arguments over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—President Barack Obama’s historic health-care reform law. This means that sometime during the last week of June 2012, the justices will hand down a decision in that case that, regardless of the finding, will move the court to the epicenter of the national debate about government and power. Based on those oral arguments, the high court seemed prepared to strike down at least the “individual mandate”—the requirement that nearly all Americans obtain

  • Writ and Wrongs

    Before September 11, 2001, the doctrine of habeas corpus—the principle that the state must explain why it’s hauled you off in leg shackles—was rarely the subject of legal dispute. Habeas cases were filed, and the writ was either granted or denied. But the claim that judges couldn’t hear such cases—that the government might detain great masses of people for years on end and without justification—wasn’t really open to debate. Habeas corpus is, after all, the only common-law doctrine enshrined in the Constitution. But after 9/11, the Bush administration began to round up foreigners, classify them