The Herald Bulletin

Overnight Update

State News

April 30, 2008

Voting case latest high-profile loss amid federal court tilt

By KEN KUSMER

Associated Press Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold Indiana’s Voter ID law marks the latest in a series of high-profile setbacks for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, but observers say the trend speaks mostly to the conservative bent of the federal judiciary.

Monday’s 6-3 ruling in which the court said states can require voters to produce photo identification came on the heels of failed ACLU-Indiana challenges this month of Indiana’s “In God We Trust” license plates and of a Bureau of Motor Vehicles policy to revoke driver’s licenses if information doesn’t match Social Security records.

It also followed a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last October tossing an ACLU-brought lawsuit challenging sectarian prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives because a group of taxpayers who sued over the practice did not have legal standing to do so.

Whether one supports the mission of the ACLU or opposes it, experts said, the losing streak underscores the conservative shift of the federal courts, especially since the confirmations of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito more than two years ago.

“There is a losing streak of sorts in some of these high-profile cases,” said Daniel Conkle, a First Amendment and constitutional law expert at Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington. However, that doesn’t diminish the ACLU’s role, he said. “A group like the ACLU plays an important function in society in bringing cases that might be controversial.”

Ken Falk, the ACLU-Indiana’s legal director, rejected the notion that he was on a losing streak. He noted he and his two colleagues at the ACLU-Indiana win many cases that go unnoticed by the media.

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