Blog 8: The Insular Cases

The Supreme Court of the Unites States will hear a case about the Insular Cases of Puerto Rico on October 15. But, back up, what are the insular cases? Although it’s a comedy show, John Oliver did a good job of laying out what the insular cases are in his show, Last Week Tonight — before he got into the island’s voting rights.

Maybe I’m writing this too preemptively, but I hope that we see coverage of this issue in U.S. media once the Supreme Court makes their decision. I have been seeing some pre-coverage of it, though, which is not always the case with issues about Puerto Rico.

This week Slate published an op-ed by a Puerto Rican lawyer from the ACLU. In it, he argues that the U.S. Supreme Court needs to strike down the insular cases. He says “On the surface, the case concerns a constitutional challenge to the board overseeing Puerto Rico’s debt restructuring. But deep questions going to the heart of the long relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico lurk just beneath. And the Supreme Court’s past reliance on offensive racial assumptions to answer those questions will again be on display.” This case might be a chance for Puerto Rican’s to challenge the Financial Oversight Board that manages their debt.

Additionally, The New York Times also ran an op-ed whose author said “Next week, the Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a case that could radically undermine the ability of over four million American citizens — in Puerto Rico, other territories and even the District of Columbia — to elect their own chief executives.” His take is somewhat different, focusing on Puerto Rican’s own ability to elect leaders and how that might be struck down by the court.

Whatever happens, my eyes are on the Supreme Court on Oct. 15.