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Retired constitutional law professor speaks about Supreme Court

Beachplace resident Bill Cotter talked about the Supreme Court and its decisions March 1, at Beachplace.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. March 16, 2016
Bill Cotter
Bill Cotter
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Think the next Supreme Court justice won’t be confirmed until the next president takes office?

It might be even longer than that.

“The Republicans are right; this is a very important decision,” said Longboat Key resident Bill Cotter. “Republicans will hold firm, and because of that, if they win the general election, there could be a senate filibuster. We might not have another Supreme Court justice for a long time.”

Cotter, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School and retired president of Colby College, gave a lecture to his Beachplace neighbors about the Supreme Court and its decisions March 1.

In 2014, 1.2 million cases started in the lower courts, and 53,000 were taken to courts of appeals. More than 7,000 were then appealed to the Supreme Court, which took just 73.

One of those cases was Zivotofsky v. Kerry, which was argued Nov. 3, 2014.

Menacham Zivotofsky was born to American parents in 2002, in Jerusalem. His parents wanted his passport to list Israel as his birthplace, and the U.S. Embassy denied the request because the country does not recognize Jerusalem as part of a sovereign country.

In a 6-3 decision last June, the Supreme Court decided the president has exclusive power of recognition and that Congress could not make a decision regarding the boundaries of Israel.

Cotter also spoke about Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 5-4 decision that gave same-sex couples the right to marry last June.

“The mindset about same-sex marriage changed completely from the middle of the ‘80s to the 2000s,” Cotter said. “There was not a single student I had in 2000 who disagreed with same-sex marriage. It shows the change in America.”

Cotter, who was a classmate of Justice Anthony Kennedy at Harvard Law School, believes changes to the law need to be made based on changes to the country and its people.

“We’ve changed with our times,” Cotter said. “It’s a living court and a living constitution.”


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