Strict Scrutiny

Strict Scrutiny

Strict Scrutiny is a podcast about the United States Supreme Court and the legal culture that surrounds it. The show is hosted by three women, Leah Litman, Kate Shaw and Melissa Murray, who are three law professors, but they’re also swimmers, mothers (of humans and dogs), and celebrity gossip enthusiasts. They’re women who’ve practiced before and write about the Court in their professional lives. They have a different voice–one that celebrates the contributions and opinions of women and people of color. They provide intelligent and in-depth legal analysis alongside their unvarnished, respectfully irreverent takes. And they want to do it in a way that is accessible to a variety of listeners, including Supreme Court regulars, lawyers, law students, and members of the public who are looking for a window into the Court’s decisions, as well as its culture, personalities, and folkways. The hosts think SCOTUS is serious business—but they don’t take ourselves or the Court too seriously. They’ve got hot takes, jokes, and a lot to say.


November 28, 2022 78 min

Melissa, Kate, and Leah preview the cases that the Supreme Court will hear in December-- from election law shenanigans, to discrimination as protected speech, to making fraud great again. 

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On Saturday, the New York Times published a piece about a former anti-abortion leader's claim that he was told the outcome of a 2014 Supreme Court case before it was public. The story offers a glimpse at a years-long campaign by conservative activists to obtain access to and ingratiate themselves with Supreme Court justices. It's really wild and really disturbing-- so Leah, Kate, and Melissa convene for an emergency episode...

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Rebecca Nagle, host of Crooked Media's This Land, joins Melissa, Leah, and Kate to recap the arguments in Haaland v. Brackeen. The case revolves around the Indian Child Welfare Act, which lays out a set of preferences for where Native American children can be placed for foster care and adoption. The challengers, white foster parents trying to adopt Native American children, are claiming a violation of the Equal Protection Claus...

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November 7, 2022 94 min

Leah, Kate, and Melissa recap the many, many hours of oral arguments in the affirmative action cases SCOTUS heard last week.

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October 30, 2022 76 min

On Halloween, the Supreme Court will hear pair of cases challenging affirmative action in university admissions. Spooky! Janai Nelson, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, joins Melissa, Kate, and Leah to preview the cases.

  • Listen to an episode on race conscious remedies from our spin-off show, Irrational Basis Review
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    Kate talks with Deborah Tuerkheimer about her recent book, Credible: Why We Doubt Accusers and Protect Abusers. A former prosecutor and leading authority on sexual violence, Deb's book examines why we are primed to disbelieve allegations of sexual abuse--and how we can transform a culture and a legal system structured to dismiss accusers.

    This episode contains discussions of sexual violence. Please use discretion and take care o...

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    October 17, 2022 73 min

    Kate, Melissa, and Leah recap some of the cases argued at the Supreme Court last week: Reed v. Goertz, National Pork Producers Council v. Ross, and Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts v. Goldsmith.  Plus, there's a lot to catch up on in court culture, including judges trying to cancel cancel culture, and another round of Ginni Tonics.

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    October 10, 2022 76 min

    Melissa, Kate, and Leah welcome Sam Sankar of Earthjustice and Deuel Ross of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to recap  arguments the Supreme Court heard this week in two big cases. Sackett v. EPA is a challenge to the EPA’s authority to regulate wetlands, and Merrill v. Milligan is a Voting Rights Act case out of Alabama that’s really about whether Congress may ensure the representation and political power of voters of col...

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    October 3, 2022 73 min

    It feels like we're still processing the end of last term, but alas, the first Monday in October is upon us. Kate, Melissa, and Leah kick off season 4 of Strict Scrutiny with a look ahead at what's sure to be another heinous Supreme Court term. 

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    September 26, 2022 77 min

    For the University of Michigan's Homecoming weekend, we held a special live recording for our season finale. Michelle Adams joins Kate and Leah to wrap up the justices' summer shenanigans and provide a look forward at the collegiate affirmative action cases coming before the Supreme Court this term. Plus, Sommer Foster, co-Executive Director at Michigan Voices, joins to talk to us about Reproductive Freedom For All, the bal...

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    Leah talks with Wilfred Codrington III about his article, "Purcell in Pandemic," which appeared in the NYU Law Review. The Purcell Principle comes from a 2006 Supreme Court case about what makes an appropriate timeline for changing election laws. The principle wasn't clear to begin with, and has only gotten more confusing in litigation surrounding the 2020 election. Will we see it continue to play out in this year's...

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    Kate, Leah, and Melissa convene a panel to persuade you that the fight for progressive causes has to include state courts and state constitutions. To get the lay of the land and identify the challenges ahead, they welcome four guests: Miriam Seifter of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jessica Bulman-Pozen of Columbia Law School, Daniel Nichanian of Bolts, and Alicia Bannon of the Brennan Center.

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    With guests Jamelle Bouie and Carolyn Shapiro, Kate and Leah analyze the fan fiction that is the Independent State Legislature "Theory" (emphasis on the quotation marks), which threatens to take the main stage in an upcoming case about the power of state legislatures to set rules for federal elections. 

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    August 29, 2022 57 min

    Senator Sheldon Whitehouse joins Leah and Melissa for a deep dive into West Virginia v. EPA, the Supreme Court's major climate case last term.

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    Somehow, it's only been less than two months since the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade with their decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. But A LOT has happened since then. To further examine the fall-out, we assembled a stellar crew to help us get the lay of the post-Roe land: journalist Rebecca Traister, health law expert Michele Goodwin, and U.S. Congressman Mondaire Jones.

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    August 15, 2022 85 min

    Even though it's summer, there's a lot to catch up on in the legal world! Leah and Melissa talk with Grace Panetta, who co-wrote a piece for Business Insider on the GOP's plans for state constitutional conventions. And then they turn toward Kansas, where voters dramatically turned out to declare that reproductive freedom is an essential part of the state constitution. They're joined by several of the activists behin...

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    August 8, 2022 59 min

    Leah talks with Lee Kovarsky of the Capital Punishment Center at the University of Texas about the Supreme Court's treatment of death penalty cases.  Before 2020, there hadn't been a federal execution since 2003. In the last six months of the Trump presidency, there were 13. Lee tells us how that came to be, and what the justices' writings signal for future death penalty cases.

  • Read Lee's article, "The Trump Exec...
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    August 1, 2022 62 min

    It's a deep dive into law and religion in this conservative supermajority iteration of the Supreme Court. Kate talks with Micah Schwartzman of UVA and Nelson Tebbe of Cornell about some of the major religious liberty cases that have come before the Court in recent years, and what the Court may be signaling for the future.

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    July 25, 2022 57 min

    Melissa interviews journalist Joshua Prager about his book, The Family Roe: An American Story. Prager spent hours interviewing Norma McCorvey (aka Jane Roe), her daughters, and other key figures throughout the decades-long debate over abortion rights in America.

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    July 18, 2022 51 min

    While the Supreme Court gets all the focus, lower federal courts are just as much in need of reform. Unfortunately, rigging the courts is a game the GOP knows how to play. In this episode, Leah talks with Rakim Brooks of Alliance for Justice, and Brandon Hasbrouck* of Washington & Lee Law School, about how federal judges get picked, how Mitch McConnell has played the long game, and how the Democrats need to move forward in the ...

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