More Perfect Supreme Court decisions shape everything from marriage and money to public safety and sex. We know these are very important decisions we should all pay attention to – but they often feel untouchable and even unknowable. Radiolab's first ever spin-off series, More Perfect, connects you to the decisions made inside the court's hallowed halls, and explains what those rulings mean for "we the people" who exist far from the bench. More Perfect bypasses the wonkiness and tells stories behind some of the court's biggest rulings.
More Perfect

More Perfect

From WNYC Radio

Supreme Court decisions shape everything from marriage and money to public safety and sex. We know these are very important decisions we should all pay attention to – but they often feel untouchable and even unknowable. Radiolab's first ever spin-off series, More Perfect, connects you to the decisions made inside the court's hallowed halls, and explains what those rulings mean for "we the people" who exist far from the bench. More Perfect bypasses the wonkiness and tells stories behind some of the court's biggest rulings.More from More Perfect »

Most Recent Episodes

The Most Perfect Album: Episode 6

This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes. On first read the 16th and 22nd Amendments are at best sleepers and at worst, stinkers. In a list of Constitutional hits like the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, and birthright citizenship, the amendments covering taxes and term limits tend to fall by the wayside. But in Episode 6 of More Perfect's third season we take these forgotten gems and make them shine. The 16th Amendment sets up the income tax, sinking dread into the hearts of millions of Americans every April. But if the income tax is so hated, why did we vote to put it in the Constitution? And why do so many people willingly pay? In this episode we take on those questions and contemplate whether the 16th amendment might be less about money or law, than is about deciding what it means to belong. Next we move on to the 22nd Amendment and presidential term limits. If we as U.S. citizens are happy with our leadership, why shouldn't we be able to keep electing the same president for as many terms as we want? The ghost of George Washington comes back to give Franklin Delano Roosevelt some major side-eye as we explore the roots of the rule, and why it matters today. When you're done with the episode, check out songs by Post Animal and Pavo Pavo inspired by Amendments 16 and 22 on 27: The Most Perfect Album.

The Most Perfect Album: Episode 5

This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes. Amendments 13, 14, and 15 are collectively known as the Reconstruction Amendments: they were passed as instructions to rebuild the country after Civil War. They addressed slavery, citizenship, equality and voting rights for black people. This week, the More Perfect team explores the legacy of the amendments beyond the Civil War — the ways the promises of these amendments changed the country and the ways they've fallen short. First, More Perfect Executive Producer Suzie Lechtenberg and Legal Editor Elie Mystal explore the loophole in the 13th Amendment's slavery ban that's being used in a strange context: college football. We share songs about the 13th Amendment from Kash Doll and Bette Smith. Then, producer Julia Longoria shares a conversation with her roommate Alia Almeida exploring their relationship to the amendments. Inspired by the 14th's Amendment's grant of equal protection and citizenship rights, Sarah Kay's poem tells the story of her grandmother, a U.S. citizen who was interned during World War II in a Japanese American Internment camp. Despite the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause, the Supreme Court upheld the internment of U.S. citizens based solely on their Japanese heritage in a case called Korematsu v. United States. In 2018, the Supreme Court said Korematsu was "wrong the day it was decided." The Court went on to uphold President Trump's controversial travel ban in Trump v. Hawaii. "Korematsu has nothing to do with this case," wrote the majority. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor accused the majority of "redeploying the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu" when they upheld the ban. Finally, hear songs inspired by the 15th Amendment by Aisha Burns and Nnamidi Ogbonnaya.

The Most Perfect Album: Episode 4

This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes.Episode Four begins, as all episodes should: with Dolly Parton. Parton wrote a song for us (!) about the 19th Amendment and women (finally) getting the right to vote.Also in this episode: Our siblings at Radiolab share a story with us that they did about how the 19th Amendment almost died on a hot summer night in Tennessee. The 19th Amendment was obviously a huge milestone for women in the United States. But it was pretty well-understood that this wasn't a victory for all women; it was a victory for white women. People of color have faced all sorts of barriers to voting throughout our nation's history. This includes poll taxes, which were fees people had to pay in order to vote. The 24th Amendment eliminated federal poll taxes in 1964. We hear a song inspired by the 24th Amendment, created for us by Caroline Shaw. Kevin Morby made an excellent song for us about the 24th, too. Check it out here. Finally, Simon Tam, from the band The Slants tells the story of the Supreme Court case about their name, and talks about the song they wrote about the 18th and 21st Amendments for our album. (It's a jam!)

The Most Perfect Album: Episode 3

This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes. The first eight amendments to the U.S. Constitution are literal, straightforward, and direct. But when we get to Amendments nine, 10, and 11, things get... hazy. These are some of the least literal amendments in the Constitution: they mean more than they say, and what they say is often extremely confusing. So in the third episode of the new More Perfect season we take these three blurry amendments and bring them into focus, embarking on a metaphorical, metaphysical, and somewhat astronomical journey to find the perfect analogies to truly understand each one. Episode Three reaches for lofty metaphors of moon shadows, legal penumbras, and romantic relationships — as well as more guttural, frankly gross ones, like the human appendix, to describe the three amendments that define the nature of our union and the powers of the government and the people. And when you're done with the episode, listen to the songs by The Kominas, Lean Year, and Field Medic inspired by Amendments 9, 10 and 11 on 27: The Most Perfect Album.

The Most Perfect Album: Episode 2

This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes. The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments enshrine some of our most important civil liberties. They tell us about the rights we have when the government knocks on our door, including protections from "unreasonable searches and seizures," self-incrimination, "cruel and unusual punishments," and the right to "a speedy and public trial"-- among others. Episode Two looks at these amendments through the story of one man, Christopher Scott, who finds himself face-to-face with Dallas police officers as they investigate a violent crime. The role that these amendments play—and fail to play— in Christopher's encounter tells a profound story about the presence of the Constitution in our everyday lives. And when you're done with the episode, listen to the songs by Briana Marela, Torres, Sons of an Illustrious Father, Adia Victoria, Nana Grizol, and High Waisted inspired by Amendments 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 on 27: The Most Perfect Album. Special thanks to Gloria Browne-Marshall and David Gray.

The Gun Show Reprise

Last year in the wake of the attack in Las Vegas, reporter Sean Rameswaram took a deep dive into America's twisty, thorny, seemingly irreconcilable relationship with guns. It's a story about the Second Amendment, the Black Panthers, the NRA, and a guy named Dick Heller, who in 2008 brought the Second Amendment to the Supreme Court for the very first time.

The Most Perfect Album: Episode 1

This season, More Perfect is taking our camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes. Let's get started. If we're talking about the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, it only feels right to start at the beginning. The First and Second Amendments are arguably the most ferociously contentious amendments of them all, and the Third Amendment is the underdog that everyone underestimates but (maybe) shouldn't. With that in mind, Episode One dives into the poetic dream behind the First Amendment. This is the amendment that reflects the kind of country the Founding Fathers hoped we would be. Next, we examine the fiercely debated words of the Second Amendment, words that often feel like they divide our nation in two. And finally, we question whether the seemingly irrelevant Third Amendment might actually be the key to figuring out where our country is going. And when you're done with the episode, take a listen to the songs by Joey Stylez, Cherry Glazerr, Sateen, Flor de Toloache, Michael Richard Klics, Palehound, and They Might be Giants inspired by Amendments 1, 2 and 3 on 27: The Most Perfect Album.

We've Got a Surprise For You

This fall, More Perfect is doing something brand new: We're making an album! It's called 27: The Most Perfect Album. We've partnered with some of the best musicians in the world— artists like Dolly Parton, Kevin Morby, Devendra Banhart, Aisha Burns, and more — to create songs inspired by the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Alongside the album, we'll be launching SEASON THREE of our podcast, deep-diving into the history and resonance of the constitutional amendments with off-beat stories and lush sound.The album and podcast drop September 18, 2018. Get ready!

American Pendulum Reprise

What happens when the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, seems to get it wrong? Korematsu v. United States upheld President Franklin Roosevelt's internment of American citizens during World War II based solely on their Japanese heritage, for the sake of national security. In this episode, we follow Fred Korematsu's path to the Supreme Court, and we ask the question: if you can't get justice in the Supreme Court, can you find it someplace else?

One Nation, Under Money

An unassuming string of 16 words tucked into the Constitution grants Congress extensive power to make laws that impact the entire nation. The Commerce Clause has allowed Congress to intervene in all kinds of situations — from penalizing one man for growing too much wheat on his farm, to enforcing the end of racial segregation nationwide. That is, if the federal government can make an economic case for it. This seemingly all-powerful tool has the potential to unite the 50 states into one nation and protect the civil liberties of all. But it also challenges us to consider: when we make everything about money, what does it cost us?

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