TIME politics

How a Little-Known Supreme Court Case Got Women the Right to Vote

Vote
MPI / Getty Images A poster, published by the League of Women Voters, urging women to use the vote which the 19th amendment gave them, from circa 1920

Happy birthday, Leser v. Garnett

Pop quiz: when did women in the United States get the right to vote?

If you answered June 4, 1919, or Aug. 18, 1920 — the dates on which the 19th Amendment was passed and ratified — then you’re almost right. Yes, the Amendment guaranteed that the right to vote could not be denied on account of sex. But the right wasn’t fully secured until this day, Feb. 27, in 1922. That’s when the Supreme Court decided Leser v. Garnett.

Here’s what the case was about: Two Maryland women registered to vote a few months after the 19th Amendment passed. Oscar Leser, a judge, sued to have their names removed from the voting rolls, on the grounds that the Maryland constitution said only men could vote, and that Maryland had not ratified the new amendment to the federal constitution — and in fact, Leser argued, the new amendment wasn’t even part of the constitution at all. For one thing, he said, something that adds so many people to the electorate would have to be approved by the state; plus, some of the state legislatures that had ratified the amendment didn’t have the right to do so or had done so incorrectly.

The Supreme Court found that both arguments flopped: when suffrage had been granted to all male citizens regardless of race the Amendment had held up, despite the change to the electorate, and the ratification powers Leser questioned had in fact been granted by the Constitution. (And in a few states where things were iffy, it didn’t matter because enough other states had ratified.)

So, while the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote, Leser made sure that the right could actually be used, even where the state constitution said otherwise. It’s not one of the more famous Supreme Court decisions in American history, but without it the electorate would be, well, lesser.

TIME Virginia

Virginia to Compensate Victims of Forced Sterilizations

Lewis Reynolds, 85, was involuntarily sterilized at age 13.
Bill Sizemore—AP Lewis Reynolds, 85, was involuntarily sterilized at age 13

Virginia is the second state to approve compensation for victims of the eugenics program

(RICHMOND, Va.) — Lewis Reynolds didn’t understand what had been done to him when he was 13.

Years later, after getting married, the Lynchburg man discovered he couldn’t father children. The reason: He had been sterilized by the state.

Reynolds was among more than 7,000 Virginians involuntarily sterilized between 1924 and 1979 under the Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act.

Advocates for the surviving victims won a three-year fight Thursday when the Virginia General Assembly budgeted $400,000 to compensate them at the rate of $25,000 each.

It’s welcome news, Reynolds said.

“I think they done me wrong,” he said. “I couldn’t have a family like everybody else does. They took my rights away.”

Eugenics is the now-discredited movement that sought to improve the genetic composition of humankind by preventing those considered “defective” from reproducing. Virginia’s Sterilization Act became a model for similar legislation passed around the country and the world, including Nazi Germany. Nationwide, 65,000 Americans were sterilized in 33 states, including more than 20,000 in California alone, said Mark Bold, executive director of the Christian Law Institute, which has been advocating the cause of the Virginia victims since 2013.

Virginia is the second state to approve compensation for victims of the eugenics program. North Carolina approved payments of $50,000 for each victim in 2013.

But the money from the state comes too late for most of those who were sterilized in Virginia, Bold said. There are only 11 known surviving victims, he said. Two have died in the past year, he said. Those who are left greeted the news with tears and hugs, Bold said.

The Virginia sterilizations were performed at six state institutions, including what is now known as Central Virginia Training Center in Lynchburg. When Reynolds was sterilized there, it was called the Virginia Colony for the Epileptic and Feeble Minded.

Reynolds was presumed to have epilepsy. As it turned out, he was exhibiting temporary symptoms from having been hit in the head with a rock.

Reynolds’ first wife left him after the couple learned they couldn’t have children. He married again, and this time the union lasted. His second wife, Delores, died seven years ago after 47 years of marriage.

There were times, he has said, when he and Delores would cry about their inability to have a family.

Nevertheless, he made the best of the life he had been handed.

He joined the Marine Corps and served in two wars. He was a military policeman and a firearms instructor, at one time teaching FBI agents how to shoot. He manned a 50-caliber machine gun in Korea. He retired from the corps after 30 years and found work as an electrician. At 87, he still takes occasional jobs wiring houses.

The Virginia eugenics law was upheld in the 1927 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., writing for the majority, famously declared: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

Revulsion over the state’s actions brought together lawmakers from across the political spectrum, united in the belief that it was time to write the final page in a shameful chapter of the state’s history.

The compensation measure was sponsored by Del. Ben Cline, a conservative Republican from Rockbridge County, and Del. Patrick Hope, a liberal Democrat from Arlington County.

“There was a growing consensus that we needed to act while we still had the opportunity to look these people in the eye and acknowledge the wrong that was committed against them so many years ago,” Cline said.

The original legislation called for payments of $50,000 each. Even that amount was inadequate to address the wrong that was done, in Bold’s view.

“But it’s symbolic,” he said. “Now the healing and forgiveness can begin.”

TIME Crime

Why These Indiana Teenagers Were Convicted of Murder Without Killing Anyone

The so-called 'Elkhart Four' were convicted under a little-used 'felony murder' law

The Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments on Thursday whether to hear a case involving three unarmed teenagers who were convicted of murder despite the fact that none of them actually killed anyone.

On Oct. 3, 2012, then-16-year-old Blake Layman broke into a neighbor’s house along with three other teenagers and 21-year-old Danzele Johnson. All of them believed the home was empty, but once inside, the homeowner, Rodney Scott, heard the teens and fired on them with a handgun, fatally hitting Johnson.

MORE: States Use Secret Psychological Tests to Predict Future Crimes

Layman and three other teens—now known as the Elkhart Four—were unarmed at the time, and it was the homeowner who in fact shot Johnson. But the would-be burglars were the ones charged with “felony murder,” which can be found in most states but is rarely used, and allows for murder charges for individuals who commit a felony that leads to a death. Three were convicted after trial, while one pled guilty to the charges.

The Indiana Supreme Court is now considering taking up the case. Last year, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the teenagers’ convictions but said that the sentences applied were too severe.

TIME Courts

Eddie Ray Routh Will Appeal Guilty Verdict in American Sniper Trial

He admitted to killing Chris Kyle and a friend but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity

While American Sniper hero Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield’s families praised Tuesday’s verdict finding Eddie Ray Routh guilty of their murders, his lawyer tells PEOPLE he plans to appeal.

Routh, 27, had admitted to fatally shooting the famed Navy SEAL and his friend Littlefield at a Texas gun range on Feb. 2, 2013, and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. During his capital murder trial, which began Feb. 11, his lawyer, J. Warren St. John, sought to prove that the former Marine was insane at the time of the murders.

“We are disappointed in the verdict,” he tells PEOPLE. “Mr. Routh is still suffering from schizophrenia. He had a belief in his mind that day. He believed that they were going to kill him. It was a real belief that he had. We’re disappointed the jury didn’t give that any consideration. They dismissed that.”

Routh was sentenced to life in prison without parole, but “he;s going to appeal it this week,” St. John says. “I am going to file it this week.”

St. John says he thinks Kyle’s “notoriety” hurt his client’s case.

American Sniper, the movie based on Kyle’s 2012 bestselling autobiography, became one of the biggest box office smashes of all time, earning more than $400,000,000 worldwide since its Jan.16 opening. The Clint Eastwood-directed film also garnered six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Bradley Cooper, who plays the man known as the most deadly sniper in U.S. history. (The movie won an Oscar for Best Sound Editing.)

Even though jurors were able to watch the Oscars on Sunday night, St. John says, “I don’t think the Oscars had anything to do with it. It was Mr. Kyle’s notoriety and all the things he accomplished. It was his reputation. If he was Joe average on the street, it might have turned out differently. They didn’t know Chris Kyle, but they think they did.”

On Wednesday morning, Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, thanked the jurors who found Routh guilty.

“God Bless the Jury And good people of Stephenville, Texas!!” she wrote on Facebook.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME Courts

Supreme Court Won’t Lift Stay in Florida Execution

(MIAMI) — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to lift a stay of execution of a convicted Florida quadruple-murderer while the justices review the drug mixture used in lethal injections.

The high court issued a one-page ruling Wednesday in Washington rejecting a request by Florida officials to allow the execution of Jerry Correll to proceed. Correll had been scheduled to die Thursday for the 1985 killings in Orlando of his ex-wife, daughter and two other people.

The stay was initially granted Feb. 17 by the Florida Supreme Court because scheduled executions in Oklahoma had been halted while the U.S. Supreme Court determines if a sedative used in executions is effective. Florida uses the same sedative, midazolam.

The Florida Supreme Court previously reviewed the use of midazolam and found it to be effective.

TIME Courts

Opening Statements in Boston Bombing Trial to Begin Next Week

US-ATTACKS-BOSTON-TRIAL-FILES
AFP/Getty Images Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is pictured in this undated image relased by the FBI.

Both sides set to begin their opening statements on March 4

(BOSTON) — A federal judge has qualified enough prospective jurors in the trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (joh-HAHR’ tsahr-NEYE’-ehv) to move on to the final stage of jury selection and opening statements next week.

A court official says the process of identifying a sufficient number of qualified jurors was completed Wednesday. Next week, prosecutors and Tsarnaev’s lawyers will be allowed to eliminate 23 jurors each for strategic reasons. A final panel of 12 jurors and six alternates will then be seated for the trial.

Opening statements from both sides are expected on March 4. Testimony will begin immediately after opening statements.

Tsarnaev is charged in the 2013 attack that killed three people and injured more than 260. He faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

Jury selection began Jan. 5.

TIME Courts

Defense Rests in ‘American Sniper’ Murder Trial

Former Marine Eddie Ray Routh enters the court after a break during his capital murder trial in Stephenville Texas
LM Otero—Reuters Former Marine Eddie Ray Routh enters the court after a break during his capital murder trial in Stephenville, Texas Feb. 19, 2015.

Eddie Ray Routh, 27, faces an automatic life sentence without parole if convicted

(STEPHENVILLE, Texas) — Attorneys mounting an insanity defense rested their case Thursday in the trial of the ex-Marine charged with gunning down “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle and another man.

Eddie Ray Routh did not testify during his trial for capital murder in the deaths of Kyle and friend Chad Littlefield at a shooting range two years ago. Jurors heard from a forensic psychiatrist who said Routh has schizophrenia and showed signs of psychosis in the weeks leading up to the slayings.

Prosecutors, who argue that any history of mental illnesses should not absolve Routh of being accountable for the deaths, indicated they would call two rebuttal witnesses Friday, The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/1vKXcnY) reported, an indication that the jury could soon have the case.

Routh, 27, faces an automatic life sentence without parole if convicted, since prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. The jury could also find him not guilty by reason of insanity. In that case, the court could initiate civil proceedings to have Routh committed.

The trial has drawn intense interest, partly because of an Oscar-nominated film based on Kyle’s memoir. Kyle served made more than 300 kills as a sniper for SEAL Team 3, according to his own count.

After leaving the military, he volunteered with veterans facing mental health problems, often taking them shooting. Kyle had taken Routh to the shooting range after Routh’s mother asked him to help her son.

About a week before the slayings, Routh had been released from the hospital after having a psychotic episode. Dr. Mitchell H. Dunn, testifying Thursday as a defense witness, said that after Routh returned to work, he thought two of his co-workers were cannibals who were going to harm him.

Routh’s friends and family have testified that his behavior in the weeks before the killings was increasingly erratic. They said he acted as if he believed that someone was going to hurt him and that the government was listening to him.

Dunn, who spent more than six hours interviewing Routh in April 2014 to determine his state of mind when he shot the men, testified that Routh described seeing neighbors and friends as turning into pig-human hybrids.

The doctor said Routh was displaying signs of schizophrenia as early as 2011, when he was first taken to the mental hospital. Routh left the Marines in 2010.

Dunn also looked at crime scene reports, police interviews and Routh’s medical records.

TIME Immigration

Texas Judge at Center of Obama Case No Stranger to Border Fights

Immigration Lawsuit Andrew S. Hanen
Brad Doherty—Brownsville Herald/AP U.S. Southern District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, left, recites the Pledge of Allegiance during the United States Courthouse naming ceremony in Brownsville, Texas, Nov. 14, 2005.

Andrew S. Hanen went from big city lawyer to South Texas judge

A federal judge in Texas became the latest supporting player to take center stage in the nation’s ongoing immigration drama. But for U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, the southern border with Mexico has always played a starring role.

On Monday night, Hanen ordered the Obama Administration to stop a plan to defer deportations for up to 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally while a lawsuit filed by 26 states plays out in the courts. The order drew praise from many Republicans as well as criticism from opponents who quickly cast him as a “staunch critic” of the president’s immigration policy.

“[The deferred deportation program] does not represent mere inadequacy; it is complete abdication,” Hanen wrote. “The [Department of Homeland Security] does have discretion in the manner in which it chooses to fulfill the expressed will of Congress. It cannot, however, enact a program whereby it not only ignores the dictates of Congress, but actively acts to thwart them.”

Hanen is no stranger to the issues involved. For the last 12 years, the problems that have occupied not only the Rio Grande Valley, but the wider nation — drug trafficking, political corruption, border disputes and now, immigration — have been center stage in his South Texas courtroom. Hanen, an appointee of George W. Bush, has presided over high profile racketeering trials involving state and local officials, sat in judgment on a parade of smuggling and drug cases, and ridden herd over eminent domain lawsuits prompted by the federal government’s desire to build a fence along the Texas-Mexico border.

Attorneys who have practiced in his court told Texas Lawyer on Tuesday that Hanen, who was a respected civil litigation attorney with one of Houston’s establishment law firms before becoming a federal judge in 2002, is a well-liked conservative with a libertarian streak.

The tumult paraded into Hanen’s Brownsville courtroom is a far cry from the hushed, lush surroundings of his early career. After graduating first in his class at Baylor Law School in 1978, Hanen, known to friends as “Andy,” went to work as a briefing clerk for one of the most esteemed figures in Texas judicial history, Chief Justice Joe Greenhill, the longest-serving justice on the Texas Supreme Court. Greenhill was a Democrat, but then so were the overwhelming majority of officeholders and Texas leading lawyers in those days. The two became close enough that Hanen was one of the speakers at Greenhill’s memorial service in 2011. After a year of clerking, Hanen joined Andrews Kurth, a powerful Houston-based firm whose alumni include former U.S. Secretary of State and Bush family consigliere James Baker.

Hanen began donating to Republican candidates in the 1990s, contributing small sums to U.S. Senator Phil Gramm. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush nominated him to the federal bench, but he was never confirmed. The younger Bush tried again with more success; in May, 2002, Hanen was confirmed to the bench of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas by a 97-0 Senate vote.

Since then, close observers say Hanen’s tenure has often been marked by a concern for signs of government overreach. “Sure, he’s a conservative, but he also has what might be called a libertarian bent, certainly with regards to property rights,” says Terence M. Garrett, a professor of government at the University of Texas, Brownsville.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security filed hundreds of eminent domain lawsuits in an effort to build the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Hanen has traveled to many of the disputed properties to look over the land and examine issues like access to water rights along the river. In January, Texas Lawyer noted Hanen had the most unresolved cases, some 136, on his docket in the district, thanks, in large part, to the DHS cases.

In some of the cases, Garrett says, Hanen’s rulings slowed the agency’s rush to build the fence which, he adds, was an unpopular undertaking among Valley residents from both sides of the political fence. “He caused DHS to at least respect the law,” Garrett says. Hanen told Texas Lawyer he could move the cases along faster by ordering the landowners into court, but he had chosen not to: “The added problem is, as a judge, you could force these things to trial, but it’s not fair to the land owner. … To make them go to trial with a lawyer when they are in the midst of negotiating with the government would cost them more than they will ever receive.”

The realities of life in South Texas also have spilled over into other cases before Hanen, prompting him to castigate federal authorities in a California immigration case for releasing a Salvadoran felon convicted in his court, and criticizing DHS for what he characterized as completing the act of smuggling by reuniting children from Central America with parents in the U.S. illegally.

Those earlier rulings prompted supporters of President Obama’s immigration plan to charge the 26 states attorneys general suing to stop it were judge-shopping when they filed in Brownsville. Hanen responded by implying that his proximity to the border made him particularly well-suited to understand the stakes. “Talking to anyone in Brownsville about immigration is like talking to Noah about the flood,” he said in January.

Indeed, U.S. Border Patrol statistics illustrate the wave of arrivals. In fiscal year 2014, some 256,393 individuals crossed into the Rio Grande Valley sector in which Hanen works, accounting for 52.6% the total crossings along the entire southern border. From Oct. 1, 2014, to Jan. 31, 2015, some 6,434 “unaccompanied alien children” crossed in the Rio Grande Valley sector, down a little from the 7,198 in the same period a year earlier, but still the largest number along the southwest border running from Brownsville to Yuma, Ariz. And the Rio Grande Valley sector has the most drug smuggling cases and the second-most immigration cases involving abuse and other associated felonies, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

Still, not all of the judge’s focus is on the border. In 2013, Hanen sentenced a state district judge, a state representative, a local district attorney and several plaintiffs’ attorneys to prison in a large racketeering scheme. Joel Androphy, a Houston defense attorney who has known Hanen since they were both active in the Houston Bar Association, represented one of the convicted.

“He’s not looking to become famous, he’s looking to do the right thing,” Androphy told Texas Lawyer, adding that he might not agree with him, but “I would trust his judgment.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 18

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. More than a decade ago, the international community tackled AIDS in Africa. Now we should do the same with cancer in the developing world.

By Lawrence N. Shulman in Policy Innovations

2. Finally, an app for kids to anonymously report cyber-bullying.

By Issie Lapowsky in Wired

3. Indians in the U.S. sent $13 billion home last year. A new plan aims to push some of that money into social good investments in India.

By Simone Schenkel in CSIS Prosper

4. Websites are just marketing. The next Internet is TV.

By John Herrman in The Awl

5. The U.K. may set up a digital court to settle small claims online.

By Chris Baraniuk in New Scientist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Courts

Texas Judge Says State’s Gay-Marriage Ban Is Unconstitutional

But they won't start issuing marriage licenses yet

A Texas judge ruled Tuesday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, in just the latest of numerous rulings striking down bans across the country.

Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman made the ruling as part of an estate dispute, in which a woman sought to have her eight-year relationship with her late partner accepted as common-law marriage, the Austin Statesman reports.

But the ruling doesn’t necessarily mean the county will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said she couldn’t begin issuing the licenses right away. “I am scrambling, trying to find out if there is anything I can do,” she said. “Right now, I think it’s no, but we are checking.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on same-sex marriage nationally later this year.

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