Attorney from Fort Mill admitted to U.S. Supreme Court

Special to the Fort Mill TimesJune 28, 2013 

— By Amanda Phipps

Landmark decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the final days of its 2013 session could have profound effects on S.C. residents, but they will have to wait a while before any impact is felt, according to one attorney with local ties who has knowledge of the high court.

Justices ruled in cases on voting rights and gay marriage that captured the attention of the entire nation.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which uses a coverage formula to decide which states need pre-clearance from the federal government before changing their election procedures, attorney and recently admitted SCOTUS member Walter Dusky said.

Dusky, a Fort Mill resident, was admitted to the Supreme Court on June 17 and sworn in on the same date. He works as a lawyer in North and South Carolina.

“It was an exciting moment to stand before the court and hear I was fit to be admitted,” he said. “Everything about the Supreme Court has meaning and history to it.”

History was made with the court’s decision regarding the Voting Rights Act.

While upholding the aspect of the law that requires states with a history of discrimination to get the government’s approval before making election changes, the court struck down the formula the act uses, citing an opinion that it is based on outdated information. The Court placed the responsibility of updating the coverage formula into Congress’ hands.

The court’s opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush.

“The map is based on decades-old date and eradicated practices,” Roberts said.

The Act’s formula originally affected nine states, including South Carolina.

For now, the court’s decision leaves the door open for S.C. and other previously affected states to change how they conduct elections without prior approval from the federal government.

However, the Rights Act will continue to protect against voter discrimination.

“No one doubts voting discrimination does go on,” Dusky said. “[The Act] is still there, it just needs to be revamped.”

DOMA ruling

Joy spread across the faces of same-sex marriage supporters as the Supreme Court declared the 1996 Defense Against Marriage Act unconstitutional because it violates the Constitution’s “equal protection” clause.

In the 5-4 decision, Dusky said the Court stated that DOMA “demeans those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage, declaring their marriage is less worthy, humiliating tens of thousands of children raised by same-sex couples.”

DOMA existed to block the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, Dusky said.

The court’s actions has given legally married same-sex couples the same federal benefits that other married couples are entitled to, Dusky said. These rights – more than 1,000, according to the Congressional Budget Office – include no payment of taxes on a spouse’s health coverage, filing joint tax returns and receiving spousal social security, retirement, and death benefits.

Since S.C. does not recognize same-sex marriage, the decision may not directly affect its residents. The decision does, however, open the door for people to start challenging S.C. and other states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, Dusky said.

California’s Prop 8

Same-sex couples in California can once again marry legally, thanks to the Supreme Court decision that “Prop 8” was not properly put on the ballot, Dusky said.

The Court ruled that those who put Prop 8 – a referendum outlawing same-sex marriage that a majority of California voters approved – on the ballot had no legal authority to appeal a lower court’s decision that struck it down as unconstitutional.

The DOMA and Prop 8 decisions reflected the issue of discrimination against a class of people, Dusky said.

Whether you are for or against gay marriage “wasn’t the issue at hand,” he said.

Like last year’s decision upholding the federal Affordable Care Act, each of the court’s rulings last week were split, 5-4 decisions.

“It mirrors how our nation is politically,” Dusky said. “[These decisions] are not as rock solid as you want them to be.”

Landmark decisions like those will continue, Dusky predicted.

“They tend to come up over and over again,” he said.

Dusky, 32, practices with Morton & Gettys Attorneys at Law. He was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 2006 and the North Carolina Bar in 2007.

Getting admitted to the Supreme Court was a longtime goal.

“It’s one of those things I just strived to do,” Dusky said. “This adds another tool in my belt.”

Even in his youth, Dusky was interested in law. He is the attorney coach for the Fort Mill High School mock trial team, of which he was active member before graduating from Fort Mill High. The team placed second in this year’s state competition.

Dusky is also a member of the York County Bar Association the S.C. Bar’s LRE Division.

He was also the S.C. Bar’s LRE Lawyer of the Year in 2010.

Dusky graduated from Winthrop University with a degree in political science in 2003 and received his law degree from Ohio Northern University in 2006.

Standing before the nine Supreme Court justices on June 17 was one of Dusky’s highlights.

“You can’t put a price tag on that,” he said.

That day, Dusky was the only person from South Carolina to be sworn in.

“Being admitted to the SCOTUS is a prestigious accomplishment,” he said. “Maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity to argue before the Court.”

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