MONEY 401(k)

How the Supreme Court Just Improved Your Retirement

The Supreme Court just ruled on an obscure aspect of ERISA. It could be great news for your retirement nest egg.

The Supreme Court just handed millions of retirement savers a helping hand.

You many not know much about ERISA, the body of rules that governs retirement accounts. But chances are you have a 401(k). That means Monday’s Supreme Court decision could indirectly lower investment fees you’re paying. And that’s great news.

On Monday the Supreme Court made it easier for 401(k) investors to sue employers over needlessly costly 401(k) investments. The actual point of contention in the case, known as Tibble vs. Edison, was pretty obscure. It involved how the statute of limitations should be applied to a breach of fiduciary duty.

But because ERISA law is so complicated, companies almost always choose to fight such suits on technical grounds. This time around, the typically business friendly U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of investors, unanimously overruling the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result, employers will be forced to think a little harder about whether similar arguments are likely to prevail in the future.

But the fact is, employers have grown increasingly proactive about regulating plan fees. The reason: Tibble vs. Edison is just a high-profile example of a series of lawsuits launched in the past decade over employers’ failure to police exorbitant retirement plan fees. And many large employers have already reacted to the threat by urging investment firms to lower fees for their employees. As a result, 401(k) plan fees have come down, and investors have had greater access to low-cost options like index funds.

With the Supreme Court weighing in on investors’ side, you can expect that trend to continue.

 

TIME Supreme Court

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Emphasizes ‘Constitution’ at Gay Wedding

Allison Shelley—Getty Images U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at an annual Women's History Month reception hosted by Pelosi in the U.S. capitol building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on March 18.

The Court may rule on same-sex marriage in June

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg presided over another same-sex wedding in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, just over a month before the Court may decide whether gay marriage is constitutional.

The New York Times reports that Ginsburg, sporting her traditional black robe and white collar, officiated the nuptials of Michael Kahn and Charles Mitchem at the Anderson House during an afternoon ceremony. While doing so, she was said to have put special emphasis on the word “Constitution” in closing that the two were now wed by the powers vested in her by that document.

What Ginsburg intended with that reference is unclear, but it did bring a loud applause. The Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage could come in June.

[NYT]

Read next: What’s at Stake as the Supreme Court Returns to Gay Marriage

TIME sweden

Sweden’s Supreme Court Rejects Julian Assange’s Sexual-Assault Appeal

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures during a press conference inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on August 18, 2014.
John Stillwell—AFP/Getty Images WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures during a press conference inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on August 18, 2014.

The Swedish court finds "no reason" to lift detention order

Sweden’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to revoke an arrest warrant regarding allegations of sexual assault.

The order was originally brought by Swedish prosecutors in 2010 following allegations Assange raped one woman and assaulted another. The 43-year-old has always denied the claims, insisting the encounters were consensual, reports Agence France-Presse.

“The supreme court notes that investigators have begun efforts to question Julian Assange in London. The supreme court finds no reason to lift the arrest warrant,” Sweden’s top court said in a statement.

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 after he fled there in order to avoid extradition to Sweden. Assange believes that if Britain extradites him to answer the charges, Sweden would then extradite him to the U.S., where he faces an investigation and many years in prison over the release of thousands of top secret diplomatic cables in 2010.

[AFP]

TIME 2016 Election

Top Huckabee Aide Steps Back from Gay Marriage Support

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff in Waukee, Iowa on April 25, 2015.
Scott Olson—Getty Images Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff in Waukee, Iowa on April 25, 2015.

He supported it in 2013 but not this year

Bob Wickers, the veteran GOP pollster and strategist and the top consultant to Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign, has stepped back from an outspoken role in support of same-sex marriage as he prepares to lead the evangelical icon’s presidential campaign.

Wickers, who worked on Huckabee’s 2008 and Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaigns, signed onto a 2013 friend of the court brief encouraging the Supreme Court to overturn California’s same-sex marriage ban. But his name was absent two years later when a larger group of top GOP operatives signed an amicus brief encouraging the Supreme Court to extend same-sex marriages nationwide.

Asked about his seeming walk-back at a dinner that the presumptive Huckabee campaign organized for reporters who traveled to Arkansas, Wickers declined to offer an on-the-record explanation. But his shift mirrors that of David Kochel, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign-designate, who signed the 2013 brief but dropped off the 2015 list.

Huckabee, who has discussed ways to circumvent the Supreme Court’s expected decision, is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriages.

While campaign staffers frequently differ from their bosses on a range of positions, the divide on same-sex marriage highlights a challenge within the Republican Party, which is struggling to balance rapidly shifting demographics and public opinion with an ever-more-ardent conservative base.

TIME millenials

Poll: Millennials Distrust Justice System, Soften on Democrats

Youth still favor Democrats, Clinton, but margins tighten

Nearly half of young American voters do not have confidence in the justice system, according to a new Harvard survey of millennials.

The poll of 18-29 year olds released Wednesday by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) found an even 49%-49% split among the age group on the question of the system’s “ability to fairly judge people without bias for race and ethnicity.” The nationwide #BlackLivesMatter movement finds broad support among millennials, but less so among white 18-29 year olds, of whom only 37% support the demonstrations. Less than a majority believe the protests will result in effective change to policing practices.

Millennial voters overwhelmingly support efforts to require police officers to wear body cameras to record interactions with their communities, while 60% support policies to require police departments to demographically reflect the neighborhoods they serve. But the age group is split 49%-49% on whether eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses would make the system fairer.

Despite growing up in an age of two wars, 57% of 18-29 year olds would support deploying ground troops to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). The poll also found a significant bump in favor of American interventionism among the age group, though a majority still believe that the UN and other countries should take the lead in handling international crises.

Young Americans remain a solidly Democratic constituency, but by smaller margins than previous cycles. The poll found that 55% of the age group would prefer a Democrat to win the White House next year, with 40% supporting a Republican for the post. The gap between the parties is significantly smaller than President Barack Obama’s 2012 margin with the same cohort of 60% to 37%.

In the primaries, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds an overwhelming lead with the age group, while millennials are widely split on the Republican side, with Ben Carson leading with 10%, followed by Sen. Rand Paul, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Obama’s approval rating among the age group jumped 7 points from October, to his highest approval rating since 2013.

While trust in government institutions has declined since 2010, millennial trust of the military, the Supreme Court, the president, the UN, the federal government, and Congress all increased from 2014 by a significant margin—with the military the only entity with a rating above 50%.

The web-based poll of 3,034 18-29 year olds was conducted by the IOP and KnowledgePanel from March 18 through April 1 and has a margin of error of ±2.4 percentage points.

TIME Supreme Court

The Man Whose Marriage Was Debated by the Supreme Court

Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the marriage equality case, speaks outside of the Supreme Court of the United States on April 28, 2015 in Washington.
Paul Morigi—Getty Images for HRC Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the marriage equality case, speaks outside of the Supreme Court of the United States on April 28, 2015 in Washington.

The sun rises behind Jim Obergefell as he stands below the Supreme Court steps early Tuesday, and it frames his head in a perfect halo.

To his surprise, he had managed to sleep — “for 3.5 hours, 3 hours more than I expected,” he says — before waking up at 4:30 a.m. to arrive at the court at 6:15. He recalled how the Capitol across the way, was pink and gray against the early blue sky, as he approached the courthouse. “As it started to get lighter, the white marble of the Supreme Court was just — it was kind of magical,” he says as he waits for the Court doors to open. “It really was.”

He shows me his wedding ring. It is two bands, his ring and his late husband John Arthur’s, fused together, with a channel cut inside to hold some of Arthur’s ashes, sealed in with gold. Arthur died in 2013 of Lou Gehrig’s disease — the same ALS illness that millions fought last summer via “ice-bucket challenges” — and Obergefell, who was raised Catholic, has been fighting ever since to be listed as his spouse on his death certificate. Ohio, where he and his late husband live, neither allows gay marriage nor recognizes marriages, like theirs, performed in other states.

In just a few hours, Obergefell would sit near the front of the country’s highest court, supported by his late husband’s aunt and alongside fellow plaintiffs from Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky. Together, their cases, argued under Obergefell v. Hodges, asks what is perhaps this generation’s greatest civil rights question: do same-sex couples should have the Constitutional right to marry?

The Justices considered two questions over the two and a half hours the court was in session. First, does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? And second, does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was performed out-of-state?

None of the lawyer’s arguments on either side were particularly new, and neither were any of the justices’ questions. What made the case compelling was hearing the same old debate play out in the highest court of the land with so much at stake.

Justice Samuel Alito asked why allowing same-sex marriage wouldn’t lead to two men marrying two women. Justice Antonin Scalia wondered if clergy would be required to perform wedding ceremonies for unions to which they object. Chief Justice John Roberts asked if denying gay marriage was sexual discrimination. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that the definition of marriage has already changed.

By the time the court emptied into the plaza outside, the warm midday sun had fully risen over hundreds of supporters and protesters awaited, some cheering, some yelling, others just there amid the signs and coffee cups that littered the ground like the end of a long day at the state fair.

Legal scholars will now pore over the transcript and the briefs, examine the merits and point out the flaws. But no matter the decision the Court hands down in two months, Obergefell matters most for the people, like Obergefell himself, that it represents. “Right now is what creates the urgency for the court to decide whether the states are denying people basic equality,” Mary L. Bonauto, the lawyer who argued for the right of same sex marriage at the Court, says.

Perhaps that’s why one moment, minutes before attorney Douglas Hallward-Driemeier finished his closing argument, meant the world to Obergefell himself. “Douglas mentioned my name and John’s name, and our marriage, and why we were there,” he says, his voice catching, ever so slightly. “That was when it all sunk in.”

Ohio may not recognize Obergefell’s marriage yet, but for a brief moment in the Supreme Court Tuesday, attention was paid.

TIME Supreme Court

The Supreme Court’s Conservatives Switch Sides in Gay Marriage Logic

Supreme Court Gay Marriage
Jose Luis Magana—AP Demonstrators stand in front of a rainbow flag of the Supreme Court in Washington on April 28, 2015.

Supreme Court justices met Tuesday for the second time in two years to debate the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans. The case could lead to a decision that would outlaw the bans across the country this June

Should the Supreme Court take into account the opinions of the rest of the world when reading the Constitution? In the past, some conservative justices have argued it should not, but they seemed to take the opposite tack Tuesday when debating gay marriage.

“Do you know of any society, prior to the Netherlands in 2001, that permitted same-sex marriage?” Justice Antonin Scalia asked an attorney representing gay couples who wanted their marriages to be recognized. “You’re asking us to decide (whether to approve same-sex marriage) for this society when no other society until 2001 ever had it.”

Jumping off that question, Justice Samuel Alito noted that even though there have been cultures that “did not frown on homosexuality” — such as ancient Greece — they did not recognize same-sex marriage either.

And Chief Justice John Roberts talked about how limiting marriage to a man and a woman was “a universal aspect of marriage around the world.”

The implication was clear: Other countries haven’t recognized same-sex marriage, therefore the United States doesn’t need to either.

In the past, Scalia in particular has taken a dim view of that same logic when applied to other topics. In 2005, Justice Anthony Kennedy cited international law in a majority opinion which held that imposing the death penalty on Americans under the age of 18 was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.”

“The overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty is not controlling here, but provides respected and significant confirmation for the Court’s determination that the penalty is disproportionate punishment for offenders under 18,” he wrote in a footnote to Roper v. Simmons.

That inspired a sharp rebuke in a dissenting opinion from Scalia, who argued that the court should not “take guidance from the views of foreign courts and legislatures.”

“I do not believe that the meaning of our Eighth Amendment … should be determined by the subjective views of five Members of this Court and like-minded foreigners,” he wrote.

In politics, this kind of reversal is typically greeted with condemnation, catcalls of “flip flopping” and hypocrisy. But Eugene Volokh, a constitutional law professor at UCLA, said that it wouldn’t be fair to level the same accusations against the justices.

Oral arguments like Tuesday’s hearing are more freewheeling, he said. The justices aren’t necessarily laying out eternal principles as they are trying on different arguments for size, seeing what kind of reaction they got. Sometimes, like guests at a long-running dinner party, they’re just trying to needle each other or make something akin to an inside joke with each other.

Volokh noted that Kennedy, who is expected to be the swing vote in favor of gay marriage in this case, had cited a decision in the European Court of Human Rights and a committee report to the British Parliament in a 2003 decision overturning sodomy laws, a key precedent in this case.

“There might be a little bit of tweaking going on here,” he said. “In a way he’s saying, you were willing to look at international matters there, are you willing to look at them here now?”

There’s also a substantive case to be made. Conservative justices such as Scalia believe that the Constitution makes America unique and separates our legal traditions from the rest of the world, which means the opinions of other countries don’t matter when you’re interpreting, say, the Eighth Amendment, but they might matter if you were trying to show that there’s nothing prejudiced about banning gay marriage.

Still, the accusation of flip flops stings in politics for a reason. Supreme Court justices can argue for American exceptionalism one week and for following world opinion in another, but it won’t help them in the truly highest court in the land: the court of public opinion.

TIME Supreme Court

What’s at Stake as the Supreme Court Returns to Gay Marriage

Supreme Court Gay Marriage
Andrew Harnik—AP An American flag and a rainbow colored flag flies in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, April 27, 2015, as the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage on Tuesday.

The fight over gay marriage may be nearing an end

Just two years ago, the Supreme Court debated the constitutional implications of same-sex marriage. As it returned to the issue Tuesday, the underlying facts that it will take into consideration have changed substantially.

When the court heard arguments on two cases in March of 2013, gay marriage was still a live issue. Just 11 states recognized same-sex marriage, while a majority of Americans had only recently begun to tell pollsters that they approved.

Today, 37 states recognize gay marriage, many of which did so after federal judges took the logic of the Supreme Court’s previous rulings further. The trend toward acceptance has only solidified, reaching a record 61 percent of Americans in one recent poll.

The justices themselves have personally mirrored this trend, with liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan officiating at gay weddings since the last decision.

Court watchers predict that a slim majority of justices — led by swing vote Anthony Kennedy — will finish what they started two years ago, finding a way to get all 50 states to recognize gay marriage. The question, then, is how they will do so.

The case they are considering, Obergefell v. Hodges, is named for James Obergefell, who married his now-deceased partner in Maryland, where gay marriage is legal, but cannot have his marriage recognized in Ohio, where it is not.

The court has several options to resolve the case. The justices could narrowly decide that states such as Ohio have to recognize marriage certificates from beyond their borders as a matter of legislative courtesy. Or they could more broadly decide that marriage is a constitutional right that no state may deny to gays and lesbians, forcing even reluctant states to issue same-sex marriage licenses of their own.

As with any court decision, there are a myriad of options in between, including multiple conflicting and overlapping opinions signed by different justices. But the underlying question will remain whether laws singling out gays and lesbians for different treatment—say, by barring them from marrying—deserve extra scrutiny in the same way that laws singling out ethnic or religious minorities do.

On that question, the Supreme Court has managed so far to avoid an answer, pegging opinions that expanded the equality of gays and lesbians on different arguments. It may do so again, or the justices may take the first step toward broader recognition of gay rights.

Either way, the fight over gay marriage may be nearing an end, but the debate over gay rights continues.

TIME justice

Evangelicals Divided as Supreme Court Considers Gay Marriage

Supreme Court Gay Marriage
Andrew Harnik—AP A rainbow colored flag flies in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, April 27, 2015, as the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage on Tuesday.

A longtime opponent of same-sex marriage, Pastor Samuel Rodriguez gave a benediction at the last Republican National Convention, sits on the executive board of the National Association of Evangelicals and will host two likely presidential candidates, Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee, at a gathering of 1,000 Hispanic leaders in Texas on Wednesday.

But if you ask the founder of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference how Republicans should react if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to legalize gay marriage nationwide this year, he doesn’t toe a very hard line. “The Republican position will not be, ‘We will fight arduously to turn back what the Supreme Court has ruled,’ ” he said. “I don’t think you will hear that at all, as a matter of fact.”

Some of Rodriguez’s fellow Republican and social conservative leaders agree, but not all. In fact, it’s hard to find a single strategic plan for opponents of same-sex marriage, many of whom plan to gather Tuesday at the Supreme Court, where the justices will meet for the second time in two years to debate the constitutionality of gay and lesbian marriage bans. The case could lead to a decision that would outlaw same-sex marriage bans this June.

Tony Perkins, the head of the conservative Family Research Council, says that if the court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, the proper strategy is to mount a campaign against judicial overreach modeled after the pro-life campaign against the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which found women had a constitutional right to an abortion. Decades after the decision, opponents of abortion continue to make legislative gains in statehouses across the country. “That issue is far from resolved and this will continue to be an issue in the political world from presidential races all the way down,” Perkins says.

Others like Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, say that the right move is to elevate the issue of marriage in the coming Republican primary contest. “From our view a bad decision will only reinforce how important it is to elect candidates who are going to be wise in appointing judges and justices,” Moore told TIME. “I don’t think a candidate who supports gay marriage could be nominated by the Republican Party right now.”

There is a third group of Christian leaders that have been encouraging even more drastic action: An effort by governors and legislatures to resist a Supreme Court ruling that strikes down bans on same-sex marriage. “Lincoln did not enforce Dred Scott decision,” Huckabee wrote in a recent email distributed by evangelical activist David Lane, referencing a court decision on slavery that helped spark the Civil War. “[A]nd there are several cases where Presidents (Jefferson and Jackson for example, which must be a challenge to Dems who celebrate Jefferson/Jackson Dinners) determined that the courts were wrong and refused to surrender to one of the three branches of government.”

“I’m stunned at the sitting Senators and Governors (Republican no less) who act as if when the SCOTUS rules, it’s forever settled,” Huckabee continued, using an acronym for the Supreme Court of the United States. “The 3 branches are EQUAL. The judicial cannot make nor enforce law.”

Read more: New Strategy Against Gay Marriage Divides 2016 Field

Those views could make for some interesting conversation among participants at Rodriguez’s conference this week. For Rodriguez, who has also been focused on issues like prison and immigration reform, the best strategy forward is to move away from the court’s decision and to start working to protect religious people and institutions who will continue to define marriage as between a man and a woman. “The major pivot will be social conservatives will say, ‘The future of American Christianity is at stake,’” Rodriguez said. “We have been labeled as bigots and homophobes when we are not, and oh boy, this election is about religious liberty and the future of American Christianity.”

But that vision assumes social conservatives speak with one voice, an outcome that is far from certain on the eve of Supreme Court arguments.

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