Contributing Op-Ed Writer: A Question of Legitimacy Looms for the Supreme Court

The path of the Janus case to the Supreme Court exemplifies the politics of the issue. The case was initially filed in 2015 in Federal District Court in Illinois not by an Illinois public employee but by the newly elected Republican governor, Bruce Rauner. He is a former private equity executive with a personal fortune of $500 million who spent millions on a campaign in which opposition to organized labor played a substantial part.

States are free to ban the agency-fee system or, for that matter, public employee unions entirely. But with both houses of the Illinois Legislature controlled by Democrats, Governor Rauner could not achieve his goals legislatively. It turned out that he couldn’t achieve them judicially, either; the Federal District Court threw him out for lack of standing; whoever the agency fee might be injuring, it wasn’t the governor.

But the court then permitted three state workers, including Mark Janus, to rescue the lawsuit by intervening as plaintiffs. That was an unusual move by the court, since logically there was at that point no lawsuit remaining in which the three could intervene. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit questioned the intervention, but allowed it and ruled against the new plaintiffs on the merits.

Lisa Madigan, the state’s Democratic attorney general, joined with the union last summer in opposing the plaintiffs’ Supreme Court appeal. The union argued vigorously that the case was jurisdictionally flawed from the outset and that the Supreme Court therefore lacked the authority to hear it. Ordinarily, the justices shy away from a case that looks jurisdictionally sketchy. But this train had already left the station, and there was no stopping it this time.

Thousands of teachers in Arizona rallied outside the Capitol on the second day of their walkout.CreditMatt York/Associated Press

It’s now been six years since Justice Alito, in a case called Knox v. Service Employees International Union, first revealed his eagerness to find the right vehicle for overturning Abood and effectively issued an open invitation to anti-union forces to bring him the right case. It seemed an aggressive move then. It still does but, watching the world outside the Supreme Court, I have a different thought. Is it just possible that the court’s timing is off?

Here’s what I mean. Remarkably, in the past few months, the public seems for the first time in years to be appreciating its public employees, especially teachers. Teacher walkouts in red states like West Virginia and Oklahoma received widespread attention and resulted in higher salaries. The winner of a competitive Republican primary for governor in Idaho pledged support for higher education spending and was endorsed by the teachers’ union.

Tonys Briefing: Tony Awards 2018: What to Watch For

But watch for a small musical with little name recognition and no razzle dazzle to triumph over its much better known and better funded competitors.

“The Band’s Visit,” an achingly delicate 90-minute show about an Egyptian police orchestra that for a single night is stranded in an Israeli desert town, is likely to beat out “Mean Girls” and “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” — the most nominated shows — for the coveted best new musical prize. (“Frozen” is the fourth nominee.)


Tony Shalhoub, Ari’el Stachel and Katrina Lenk were all nominated for their performances in “The Band’s Visit.”

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Also noteworthy: “The Band’s Visit” would be the fifth best new musical in a row to come out of the nonprofit theater world. The show began its life Off Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company before transferring last fall.

The show, adapted from a 2007 Israeli film, features songs by David Yazbek and a book by Itamar Moses; it was directed by David Cromer, and the lead producer is Orin Wolf.

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The boy wizard is a stage star.


The “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” ensemble.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Harry Potter conquered publishing. He broke box-office records on film. And now he’s off to a strong start on Broadway.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” a magically theatrical two-part drama that is designed as a sequel to the seven books, is expected to win the Tony for best new play.

The play is unlike any nonmusical event that preceded it, as a spectacle and as an investment. And the theater industry, despite some leeriness about creeping commercialism, has embraced it because of the talent brought to the story and the staging.

“Cursed Child” was written by Jack Thorne, based on a story by J.K. Rowling, who wrote the novels; John Tiffany, who directed the play; and Mr. Thorne. The lead producers are Sonia Friedman, Colin Callender and Ms. Rowling.

The play began its life in London, won a boatload of Olivier Awards and is still running there, and the producers are already planning a third production in Melbourne, Australia.

The New York production cost a record-breaking (for a play) $35.5 million to capitalize and tens of millions more to clear out the Lyric Theater (which Cirque du Soleil had been using) and redo it (quite beautifully, by the way).

He’s born to win (without even competing).


Bruce Springsteen has extended his Broadway concert run through December.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Bruce Springsteen is getting a special Tony Award just for being Bruce Springsteen.

Well, actually, it’s a little more complicated: He’s being recognized for his ecstatically reviewed and totally sold-out show, “Springsteen on Broadway,” during which he sings stripped-down versions of some of his best-known songs and tells stories from his memoir. The show opened in October and is scheduled to close in December.

Other prizes that were announced before the broadcast: the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber — one of the most successful musical theater writers and producers in history — is getting a lifetime achievement award, as is Chita Rivera, a revered Broadway dancer and actor whose credits include originating the role of Anita in “West Side Story.”

Mr. Lloyd Webber has already won seven Tony Awards, including for “Cats” and “The Phantom of the Opera”; Ms. Rivera has won as a performer in “The Rink” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

And a New York Times photographer, Sara Krulwich, has already become the first journalist recognized with a Tony Honor for Excellence in Theater, for her decades of photographing Broadway shows. Her award was given on Monday.

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At the Governors Ball, Winners and Even a Happy Also-Ran


Emma Stone, Lego Oscar in hand, embracing the Oscar-winning Julianne Moore.Credit Valerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

One of the perks of being on the West Coast for an awards show is that it’s beholden to East Coast time. Which means when things finally wrap up after dragging on for far too long, it’s only, like, 9 p.m. Delighted to have a first awards season behind her, and having endured a surprise red carpet rainfall (the tent sprang massive leaks), the Bagger was torn between a determination to head home, stat – what else is there to say to people after three months of nonstop talking about the same thing, for heaven’s sakes? — and wanting to let off some steam.

So, it was on to the Governors Ball, which is in a red-velvet-lined ballroom in the same complex as the Dolby Theater and involved cutting through a chilly and puddly outdoor mall, gown trailing a snail-like wet streak. Waiters passed by with mini chicken pot pies, caviar and crème-fraîche-daubed baked potatoes, and smoked-salmon toasts cut into Oscar shapes.


At the ball the Lonely Island guys, left, who performed “Everything Is Awesome” on the telecast, met up with Common, a best-song Oscar winner, and Questlove, right.Credit Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The winners and a few also-rans were there: Ethan Hawke split early, giving a curt “hello.” Patricia Arquette was huddled around a table with her people – her daughter, her sister Rosanna, and her boyfriend, the artist Eric White. Felicity Jones, glorious in her Alexander McQueen dress (no, the Bagger, in the spirit of #AskHerMore, didn’t ask what she was wearing – the Bagger just happened to overhear) was toting one of the Lego Oscars that had been floating around the show. Laura Dern, who walked the red carpet earlier with her father, Bruce Dern (they did the same for his Oscar nomination last year), was there with her two children. “Don’t you think your mom is the best actress ever?” an enthusiast asked her son. “Um, yeah,” the pretty-much-cornered kid replied.

The presence of the higher octane belles and beaux of the ball was signaled by a scrum of people and camera operators. One such crowd formed at the back of the ballroom as the night’s big winner, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, arrived with his family and writers and producers.


Eddie Radmayne with his wife, Hannah Bagshawe, at the Governors Ball.Credit Valerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Eddie Redmayne zipped by, heading to get his statue engraved; so did Julianne Moore, dancing a little to the live music — led by yet evocative of easy listening – arm-in-arm with her husband, Bart Freundlich. Michael Keaton was floating around, too. “I wish you had won,” Mr. Keaton was told by a passer-by. “So do I!” he replied. Yet if disappointment ran deep, it didn’t show.

Others were off to the très exclusive Vanity Fair party in Beverly Hills, but not the Bagger (they didn’t extend an invite), who hopped into a limo with a few Fox executives on their way to the Fox Searchlight party. The studio, whose films won eight Oscars on Sunday, celebrated in a West Hollywood bar-restaurant and had all the dancing and merrymaking one would expect from a celebration of winners.

But back to the limo waiting area of the Oscars, which is a scene in itself: valets read the numbers of arriving rides through a megaphone to match car with customer, like an auctioneer. There are chaises and heat lamps and cappuccinos served from a gleaming four-foot-high machine.

Mr. Iñárritu asked the Bagger if she would mind snapping a photo of him and his wife and two children, which she did, to the auteur’s apparent satisfaction.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker to Face Off in Illinois

But Mr. Rauner, 61, survived a challenge from Jeanne Ives, a Republican legislator and Army veteran who took a hard-right stance on social issues and attacked him for being insufficiently conservative.

Mr. Rauner appealed for unity in a speech on Tuesday night, imploring Republicans, independents and Democrats to give him another term in office to institute needed change.

“Let’s work together to bridge the divide,” he said. “The election in November will be a choice, a clear choice, a choice between someone who will stand up to the machine and someone who has long been part of it. Between someone who will fight for hardworking families and someone who will protect the political insiders.”


J.B. Pritzker and his lieutenant governor candidate, Juliana Stratton, after winning the Democratic primary.

Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Mr. Pritzker, who has donated close to $70 million to his own campaign, fell short of 50 percent of the Democratic vote, but still outpaced Chris Kennedy, a businessman and a son of Robert F. Kennedy, and Daniel Biss, a suburban state senator.

In an acceptance speech before a crowd of supporters here on Tuesday night, Mr. Pritzker, 53, called for universal health care, fair wages, protections for labor unions and the legalization of marijuana.

He vowed to be a champion for the needy, for children, and for immigrants who have come to Illinois seeking a better life.

“This campaign is about a fight for economic security, about jobs and wages,” Mr. Pritzker said. “I choose to fight for the struggling. I choose to fight for the black and brown communities across our state, for the one thing, the one and only thing you’ve asked for for so long — fairness.”

“Are you ready for a fight?” he said, drawing wild applause.

Mr. Pritzker and Mr. Rauner are fighting to lead a state with deeply entrenched problems. Whoever wins will have to contend with Illinois’s vastly underfunded pension systems; worries about residents fleeing the state; and a sagging economy downstate, where manufacturing jobs have disappeared, leaving many residents unemployed and financially struggling.

Both men have moved in elite Chicago circles of business and philanthropy for decades, yet they did not share a personal relationship. In an interview last month, Mr. Pritzker said he barely knew Mr. Rauner, and was better acquainted with his wife, Diana Rauner, who runs a public-private partnership focused on early childhood.

Mr. Rauner, a native of Chicago’s wealthy north suburbs who made a fortune as the chairman of a private-equity firm, presented himself to voters in 2013 as an outsider, a Harley-riding political newcomer with a folksy affect who would fix Illinois’s financial problems and make the state more attractive to companies.

Mr. Rauner’s tenure has been marked by a budget impasse that paralyzed Illinois, especially social-service agencies, arts organizations and public universities that depend on state funding. It was finally resolved last July when Democrats in the State Legislature overrode Mr. Rauner’s veto, ending the stalemate and passing a budget.

During his first run for office, he rarely mentioned social issues like abortion and managed to attract sizable support from independents and Democrats. As governor, he angered religious conservatives by signing a bill that expanded abortion coverage for women on Medicaid.

Illinois Primary Election Results

See full results and maps from the Illinois primaries.

Last week, he vetoed a piece of legislation that would have required gun dealers to obtain state licenses, a move that was widely seen as an appeal to Republicans in rural downstate Illinois.

Ms. Ives, a member of the Illinois House, positioned herself as the true conservative in the race. But she trailed Mr. Rauner in fund-raising, raising $4 million to his $100 million. She criticized Mr. Rauner over abortion rights, immigration and his handling of a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at a state-run veterans home that has left 13 people dead since 2015.

In the campaign’s final days, the Democratic Governors Association sneaked into the fray, running a television ad attacking Ms. Ives as “too conservative” — presumably a veiled attempt to give Ms. Ives a boost in the hopes that she could overtake Mr. Rauner in the primary.

In the closely watched congressional primary, Mr. Lipinski, a conservative Democrat, just barely edged out Ms. Newman, who drew on the Trump-era appetite within the party for more confrontational and liberal officeholders as she gave Mr. Lipinski the biggest scare he has had since he was elected in 2004.

Wielding support from an array of progressive groups, Ms. Newman assailed Mr. Lipinski for his opposition to such liberal priorities as abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.

After attempting to ignore the challenge, Mr. Lipinski scrambled to put down the insurgency with a late blitz of commercials and mailers highlighting his more orthodox positions and roots in Chicago’s so-called Bungalow Belt.

He succeeded his father in the seat, which has sent a Lipinski to Washington since 1982. But the same southwest side and suburban Chicago precincts that were mainstays of the city’s Democratic machine are quickly evolving. A growing Hispanic population and the influx of upscale white voters have transformed what were once working-class Irish and Polish neighborhoods. The remaining, machine-aligned precincts in the city were critical in lifting him over Ms. Newman.

“I would like Mr. Lipinski to have a very painful evening, so we’re going to wait,” Ms. Newman told supporters after taking the stage around 10:45 p.m. local time Tuesday, adding that she would say more on Wednesday.

While Ms. Newman fell short, her attempt at harnessing the new wave of activism on the left illustrated the way forward for party insurgents, particularly in overwhelmingly Democratic districts.

Republicans have nominated a perennial candidate with Nazi sympathies to face Mr. Lipinski, but the seat is not competitive.

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