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Shelby County, AL v. Holder: The Crippling of the Voting Rights Act

In Shelby County, AL v. Holder, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision split on ideological lines, declared unconstitutional the formula used under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to determine which states and localities must receive pre-approval of their voting rights laws. This decision, which effectively ends the preclearance practice meant to preserve minority voting rights, will transform the right to vote for years to come. Once again, relying on the myth of racial progress, the Supreme Court failed to confront the racial balkanization in voting that exists, and it ultimately crippled the role that Voting Rights Act has in limiting it.

Fisher v. University of Texas: Affirmative Action Lives (Until Next Term, At Least)

In Fisher v. University of Texas, the United States Supreme Court decided by a 7-1 vote to send the case back to the Fifth Circuit to reconsider its decision. The Court held that the Fifth Circuit applied the wrong standard in evaluating the University of Texas’s affirmative action program. The Court held that the “strict scrutiny” standard for Equal Protection cases applies to how to judge such programs.

West Virginian Movie, "Angel's Perch," to screen in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, WV – Los Angeles-based Scrappy Cat Productions will screen their new film, “Angel’s Perch,” on Tuesday, July 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Carmike Morgantown Mall 12.

“Angel’s Perch” was filmed in West Virginia, showcasing the state’s people and natural beauty in partnership with the WV Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. The project has also provided members of the West Virginia University College of Law community with a unique opportunity to assist in the production of a feature-length film. WVU College of Law students, alumni and faculty have provided legal services to the film, making the production a uniquely West Virginian project.

Professor Tu on the Supreme Court Ruling on Human DNA Patents

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court has found that isolated DNA is not patentable, while cDNA (a version of DNA with the non-coding regions removed) is patentable. 

According to the court, DNA is really about information, and “Myriad [Genetics] did not create or alter either the genetic information encoded [in the genes] or the genetic structure of the DNA. [Myriad] found an important and useful gene, but groundbreaking, innovative, or even brilliant discovery does not by itself satisfy the [statutory patentable subject matter requirement].” 

The court found that the differences between naturally occurring DNA and isolated DNA don’t change the informational component of DNA relative to its naturally occurring state. Thus, simply isolatingDNA from the human genome is not patentable. However, the creation of cDNA in the laboratory does affect this informational component by removing the non-expressing portion (introns) of theDNA sequence, thus producing a non-naturally occurring DNA sequence. This change in the informational content is sufficient to render the cDNA sequence patentable. It is important to note that the court did not rule on method claims, new applications of knowledge about genes, or the patentability of DNA in which the order of the naturally occurring nucleotides has been altered. 

In the short term, the genetic diagnosis market will open up so that other laboratories can offer genetic tests without having to deal with an array of isolated DNA patents for individual sequences. This should result in cheaper tests that are available to more people. However, in the long term, the effects may be more negative. For example, in the absence of patents, biotechnology companies may move to trade secret to protect key discoveries. Alternatively, without patent protection, biotechnology companies may simply choose not to invest in research that lead to diagnostic products.

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