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An en banc Fifth Circuit ruled against Texas's controversial voter ID law today, affirming a district court opinion that found the law, known as SB 14, to have a discriminatory effect on minority voting rights in violation of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling came just in time as well. In April, the Supreme Court declined to intervene in the voter ID dispute, giving the Fifth Circuit until July 20th to act on the issue -- a deadline the Fifth just barely made.

That does not mark the end of the debate, though. The Fifth sent the case back down to the district court with instructions to craft temporary relief before this November's elections but, should the parties appeal, the case could be headed to the Supreme Court instead.

As the kids say, Justice Sotomayor is woke. In the era of #BlackLivesMatter, a time when Travon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner (and so many more) are household names, Justice Sotomayor is taking on the criminal justice system from the Supreme Court bench.

Over the past term, she has increasingly called out, often in solitary dissents, abuses in the criminal justice system. Hers is a voice concerned with not just the logic of the law, but the way it plays out in real life. And it is a voice not afraid to call things by their name, offering scathing critiques of how racism and abuses of power are reflected in excessive criminalization and the erosion of civil rights.

College admissions that consider applicants' racial background still do not violate the Equal Protection Clause, the Supreme Court ruled this morning. The ruling, in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, ends a long-running dispute about the University of Texas's admissions criteria, which considers "intangible characteristics" of the incoming student body, including diversity.

In a surprise move, Justice Kennedy wrote the majority for the Court, which split 4-3, with Justice Kagan recusing herself. In the past, Justice Kennedy has supported affirmative action admission policies in theory, but not in practice. After contentious oral arguments, many speculated that he would cast the deciding vote to end university affirmative action programs altogether, not to save them.

Supreme Court Won't Hear Assault Weapons Challenges

In the wake of the most deadly mass shooting in America's history, the US Supreme Court has declined to hear new challenges brought against assault weapons bans out of New York and Connecticut. Those bans were put into place following the tragic Sandy Hook shooting.

It seems to be a predictable pattern. A mass shooting takes place and the courts, for better or worse, refuse to hear challenges.

We might have found Justice Scalia's replacement. No, we're not talking about Merrick Garland, any of the potential justices proposed by Donald Trump, or even Justice Clarence Thomas, who broke his ten-year silence by piping up at oral arguments to defend Justice Scalia's approach to the Second Amendment. Nope, Justice Scalia's shoes may have been filled by a woman who shared the bench with him for the past seven years: Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Justice Scalia, you'll remember, was always at his best in his dissents, which were impassioned, wry, and often well-argued, even when patently offensive. But with her dissent in yesterday's ruling in Utah v. Strieff, Justice Sotomayor may have claimed the mantel of the Supreme Court's greatest dissenter.

Federal law makes it a felony for a habitual offender to commit domestic assault within Indian country, when the abuser has two or more prior convictions for domestic violence. And since the law seeks to protect Native American women from abuse, those predicate convictions can come from tribal courts.

But tribal courts are not required to provide lawyers for criminal defendants in many cases, including misdemeanor domestic assault charges. And while that would be a violation of the Sixth Amendment should it occur in state or federal court, that does not stop federal courts from relying on lawyerless tribal convictions as predicate offenses for the domestic violence law, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday.

Getting a judge removed from a case is no easy task. After all, under federal law, it is up to the judges themselves to determine, on their own, whether a conflict of interest could lead to their impartiality being questioned. Other than a judge's own conscience, there's little to require recusals in cases of potential judicial bias.

But the Supreme Court took a small step towards establishing some hard and fast constitutional rules yesterday. The case that brought about the change was about as stark an example of judicial conflict of interest as one can get. Terrence Williams, a man sentenced to death for the brutal killing of a church deacon, appealed his conviction to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, only to have it heard by that court's chief justice who had overseen his prosecution decades earlier.

Questions about race, intellectual disability, and the death penalty will return to the halls of the Supreme Court in the near future. Yesterday, the Court agreed to hear appeals in two capital punishment cases out of Texas.

The first, Buck v. Stephens, involves a defendant who was sentenced to death after a psychologist, called to the stand by his own lawyer, testified that black defendants were more dangerous than white ones. The second, Moore v. Texas, concerns whether Texas can rely solely on an outdated, 23-year-old standard for determining intellectual disabilities for purposes of capital punishment, to the exclusion of modern standards.

Prisoners can be a litigious bunch. Facing years of imprisonment and a dearth of engaging activities, scores of jailhouse lawyers file scores of (often pro se) claims, from civil rights suits, to writs of habeas corpus, to claims that Michael Vick stole their dogs.

But, pursuing those claims isn't easy. There are significant barriers set up to keep prisoners out of federal courts, not the least of which is the Prison Litigation Reform Act's administrative exhaustion requirement. And the Supreme Court shored up that particular barrier even more today, ruling unanimously that the Fourth Circuit's "special circumstances" exception to exhaustion was inconsistent with the PLRA.

Could the Supreme Court's next major civil rights case be about ... pooping? Possibly. The debate over where transgender students should be allowed to use the bathroom could soon come before the Supreme Court. Arguing that "time is of the essence," Fourth Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer recently urged prompt appeal to the Supreme Court after the Fourth declined a petition to rehear the case en banc.

Of course, while the bathroom is the battlefield in this particular fight, the conflict implicates much more than the potty. It's about the dignity and respect to be afforded transgender youth, the continued acceptance of LGBT people in modern society, and the breadth of gender-based civil rights protections.