Like many other progressives, I was very excited about some of the Supreme Court decisions this term (healthcare, gay marriage) and deeply disturbed about others (Facebook threats should not be judged on a "reasonable person" standard, executions using new drugs can continue). One decision that did not receive as much attention but that is tremendously important, I think, is the Court's ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. In that decision, the Court held 5-4 that housing segregation, even if done unintentionally, violates the Fair Housing Act. In doing so, the Court affirmed that "disparate impact claims" about housing are legitimate. Although it is not clear that this will be the case, I hope that the decision paved the way for greater use of social science data by courts on other issues.
The Supreme Court has often rejected statistical evidence in support of disparate impact claims. For instance, in McKleskey v. Kemp, held that the significant body of research showing the racially disproportionate impact of Georgia's death penalty was inadequate to overturn that state's system of capital punishment. The court held that the ownership for proving that someone was a victim of discrimination fell on the petitioner, who must provide "exceptionally clear proof" of discrimination in his or her case.
Now that US and Cuba are opening embassies in each other's countries, what else needs to happen to support the process of détente between the two countries? During a visit to Cuba, Marjorie Cohn posed this question to René González and Antonio Guerrero, members of the "Cuban Five," whose release from US prison was critical to the historic détente. Their reply? End the embargo and close Guantánamo.