Radiolab - More Perfect

Serials Radiolab - More Perfect

: Radiolab - More Perfect Website

: Podcast

: 19 episodes

Radiolab's More Perfect is a series about the Supreme Court. More Perfect explores how cases deliberated inside the rarefied world of the Supreme Court affect our lives far away from the bench.

American Pendulum Reprise

American Pendulum Reprise

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: Jun 26th, 2018

What happens when the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, seems to get it wrong? Korematsu v. United States upheld President Franklin Roosevelt’s internment of American citizens during World War II based solely on their Japanese heritage, for the sake of national security. In this episode, we follow Fred Korematsu’s path to the Supreme Court, and we ask the question: if you can’t get justice in the Supreme Court, can you find it someplace else?
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One Nation, Under Money

One Nation, Under Money

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: Jan 30th, 2018

An unassuming string of 16 words tucked into the Constitution grants Congress extensive power to make laws that impact the entire nation. The Commerce Clause has allowed Congress to intervene in all kinds of situations — from penalizing one man for growing too much wheat on his farm, to enforcing the end of racial segregation nationwide. That is, if the federal government can make an economic case for it. This seemingly all-powerful tool has the potential to unite the 50 states into one nation and protect the civil liberties of all. But it also challenges us to consider: when we make everything about money, what does it cost us?
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Justice, Interrupted

Justice, Interrupted

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: Dec 19th, 2017

The rules of oral argument at the Supreme Court are strict: when a justice speaks, the advocate has to shut up.  But a law student noticed that the rules were getting broken again and again — by men.  He and his professor set out to chart an epidemic of interruptions.  If women can’t catch a break in the boardroom or the legislature (or at the MTV VMA’s), what’s it going to take to let them speak from the bench of the highest court in the land?
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The Architect

The Architect

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: Dec 7th, 2017

On this episode, we revisit Edward Blum, a self-described “legal entrepreneur” and former stockbroker who has become something of a Supreme Court matchmaker: he takes an issue, finds the perfect plaintiff, matches them with lawyers, and helps the case work its way to the highest court in the land. His target: laws that differentiate between people based on race — including ones that empower minorities. More Perfect profiled Edward Blum in season one of the show. We catch up with him to hear about his latest effort to end affirmative action at Harvard. 
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Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man

Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man

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: Nov 30th, 2017

On a fall afternoon in 1984, Dethorne Graham ran into a convenience store for a bottle of orange juice. Minutes later he was unconscious, injured, and in police handcuffs. In this episode, we explore a case that sent two Charlotte lawyers on a quest for true objectivity, and changed the face of policing in the US.
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Sex Appeal

Sex Appeal

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: Nov 23rd, 2017

“Equal protection of the laws” was granted to all persons by the 14th Amendment in 1868. But for nearly a century after that, women had a hard time convincing the courts that they should be allowed to be jurors, lawyers, and bartenders, just the same as men. A then-lawyer at the ACLU named Ruth Bader Ginsburg set out to convince an all-male Supreme Court to take sex discrimination seriously with an unconventional strategy. She didn’t just bring cases where women were the victims of discrimination; she also brought cases where men were the victims. In this episode, we look at how a key battle for gender equality was won with frat boys and beer.
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Citizens United

Citizens United

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: Nov 2nd, 2017

Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission is one of the most polarizing Supreme Court cases of all time. So what is it actually about, and why did the Justices decide the way they did? Justice Anthony Kennedy, often called the “most powerful man in America,” wrote the majority opinion in the case. In this episode, we examine Kennedy’s singular devotion to the First Amendment and look at how it may have influenced his decision in the case. 
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Enemy of Mankind

Enemy of Mankind

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: Oct 24th, 2017

Should the U.S. Supreme Court be the court of the world? In the 18th century, two feuding Frenchmen inspired a one-sentence law that helped launch American human rights litigation into the 20th century. The Alien Tort Statute allowed a Paraguayan woman to find justice for a terrible crime committed in her homeland. But as America reached further and further out into the world, the court was forced to confront the contradictions in our country’s ideology: sympathy vs. sovereignty. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Jesner v. Arab Bank, a case that could reshape the way America responds to human rights abuses abroad. Does the A.T.S. secure human rights or is it a dangerous overreach?
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The Heist

The Heist

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: Oct 16th, 2017

The Supreme Court may not have been conceptualized as a co-equal branch of the federal government, but it became one as a result of the political maneuvering of Chief Justice John Marshall. The fourth (and longest-serving) chief justice was "a great lover of power," according to historian Jill Lepore, but he was also a great lover of secrecy. Marshall believed, in order for the justices to confer with each other candidly, their papers needed to remain secret in perpetuity. It was under this veil of secrecy that the biggest heist in the history of the Supreme Court took place.  The key voices: Jill Lepore, professor of American history at Harvard University The key links: "The Great Paper Caper," The New Yorker (2014) Felix Frankfurter, Supreme Court justice 1939 to 1962 Leadership support for More Perfect is provided by The Joyce Foundation. Additional funding is provided by The Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation. Supreme Court archival audio comes from Oyez®, a free law project in collaboration with the Legal Information Institute at Cornell. 
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The Gun Show

The Gun Show

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: Oct 12th, 2017

For nearly 200 years of our nation’s history, the Second Amendment was an all-but-forgotten rule about the importance of militias. But in the 1960s and 70s, a movement emerged — led by Black Panthers and a recently-repositioned NRA — that insisted owning a firearm was the right of each and every American. So began a constitutional debate that only the Supreme Court could solve. That didn’t happen until 2008, when a Washington, D.C. security guard named Dick Heller made a compelling case.
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Who’s Gerry and Why Is He So Bad at Drawing Maps?

Who’s Gerry and Why Is He So Bad at Drawing Maps?

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: Oct 3rd, 2017

“It is an invidious, undemocratic, and unconstitutional practice,” Justice John Paul Stevens said of gerrymandering in Vieth v. Jubelirer (2004). Politicians have been manipulating district lines to favor one party over another since the founding of our nation. But with a case starting today, Gill v. Whitford, the Supreme Court may be in a position to crack this historical nut once and for all. Up until this point, the court didn’t have a standard measure or test of how much one side had unfairly drawn district lines. But “the efficiency gap” could be it. The mathematical formula measures how many votes Democrats and Republicans waste in elections; if either side is way outside the norm, there may be some foul play at hand. According to Loyola law professor Justin Levitt, both the case and the formula arrive at a critical time. “After the census in 2020, all sorts of different bodies will redraw all sorts of different lines and this case will help decide how and where.”
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American Pendulum II

American Pendulum II

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: Oct 2nd, 2017

In this episode of More Perfect, how two families grapple with one terrible Supreme Court decision. Dred Scott v. Sandford is one of the most infamous cases in Supreme Court history: in 1857, a slave named Dred Scott filed a suit for his freedom and lost. In his decision, Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney wrote that black men “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”  One civil war and more than a century later, the Taneys and the Scotts reunite at a Hilton in Missouri to figure out what reconciliation looks like in the 21st century.
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American Pendulum I

American Pendulum I

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: Oct 1st, 2017

What happens when the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, seems to get it wrong? Korematsu v. United States is a case that’s been widely denounced and discredited, but it still remains on the books. This is the case that upheld President Franklin Roosevelt’s internment of American citizens during World War II based solely on their Japanese heritage, for the sake of national security. In this episode, we follow Fred Korematsu’s path to the Supreme Court, and we ask the question: if you can’t get justice in the Supreme Court, can you find it someplace else?
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Object Anyway

Object Anyway

: Website

: Jul 16th, 2016

At the trial of James Batson in 1983, the prosecution eliminated all the black jurors from the jury pool. Batson objected, setting off a complicated discussion about jury selection that would make its way all the way up to the Supreme Court. On this episode of More Perfect, the Supreme Court ruling that was supposed to prevent race-based jury selection, but may have only made the problem worse.
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Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer

Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer

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: Jul 1st, 2016

We think of the Supreme Court justices as all-powerful beings, issuing momentous rulings from on high. But they haven’t always been so, you know, supreme. On this episode, we go all the way back to the case that, in a lot of ways, started it all. 
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The Imperfect Plaintiffs

The Imperfect Plaintiffs

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: Jun 28th, 2016

On this episode, we visit Edward Blum, a 64-year-old “legal entrepreneur” and former stockbroker who has become something of a Supreme Court matchmaker. He’s had remarkable success, with 6 cases heard before the Supreme Court, including that of Abigail Fisher. We also head to Houston, Texas, where in 1998, an unusual 911 call led to one of the most important LGBTQ rights decisions in the Supreme Court’s history.
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More Perfect presents: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

More Perfect presents: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

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: Jun 17th, 2016

On this episode, a three-year-old girl and the highest court in the land. From the Radiolab archives, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl is the story that inspired More Perfect's creation.
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The Political Thicket

The Political Thicket

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: Jun 10th, 2016

The question of how much power the Supreme Court should possess has divided justices over time. But the issue was perhaps never more hotly debated than in Baker v. Carr. On this episode of More Perfect, we talk about the case that pushed one Supreme Court justice to a nervous breakdown, brought a boiling feud to a head, put one justice in the hospital, and changed the course of the Supreme Court – and the nation – forever.
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Cruel and Unusual

Cruel and Unusual

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: Jun 2nd, 2016

On the inaugural episode of More Perfect, we explore three little words embedded in the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “cruel and unusual.” The Supreme Court has continually grappled with what these words mean, especially as they pertain to one of our most hot button issues as a country: the death penalty.
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