This morning, the Supreme Court released an opinion (pdf) in Heien vs. North Carolina, finding that because the Fourth Amendment requires government officials to act reasonably, not perfectly, and gives those officials “fair leeway for enforcing the law,” an officer in North Carolina did not act unconstitutionally when they stopped and searched a car driving with a broken brake light, even though North Carolina law requires only one vehicle brake light to be working. [more inside]
When the Supreme Court agrees to hear a case, they often receive dozens of amicus briefs, or "friend of the court" briefs; SCOTUS "opinions are increasingly studded with citations of facts they learned from amicus briefs." "The trouble with amicus facts... is that today anyone can claim to be a factual expert."
During oral arguments this week on the Marvin Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States case, Justice Antonin Scalia chastised attorney Steven Lechner for reading from his script. Justice Stephen Breyer broke the tension with these words: "It's all right." [more inside]
Jennie Linn McCormack "isn’t the only woman in recent years to be prosecuted for ending her own pregnancy. But her case could change the trajectory of abortion law in the United States": The Rise of DIY Abortions. [more inside]
In less than an hour, the Supreme Court will hand down its final judgment in what has become one of the most crucial legal battles of our time: the constitutionality of President Obama's landmark health care reform law. The product of a strict party line vote following a
year century of debate, disinformation, and tense legislative wrangling, the Affordable Care Act would (among other popular reforms) require all Americans to buy insurance coverage by 2014, broadening the risk pool for the benefit of those with pre-existing conditions.
The fate of this "individual mandate," bitterly opposed by Republicans despite its similarity to past plans touted by conservatives (including presidential contender Mitt Romney) is the central question facing the justices today. If the conservative majority takes the dramatic step of striking down the mandate, the law will be toothless, and in danger of wholesale reversal, rendering millions uninsured, dealing a crippling blow to the president's re-election hopes, and possibly endangering the federal regulatory state.
But despite the pessimism of bettors, some believe the Court will demur, wary of damaging its already-fragile reputation with another partisan 5-4 decision. But those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know. Watch the SCOTUSblog liveblog for updates, Q&A, and analysis as the truth finally comes out shortly after 10 a.m. EST.
This morning marked day two of marathon proceedings in what's likely the most momentous and politically-charged Supreme Court case since Bush v. Gore: the effort to strike down President Obama's landmark health care reform law. While yesterday was a sleepy affair of obscure technical debate, today's hearings targeted the heart of the law -- the individual mandate that requires most Americans to purchase insurance by 2014. With lower courts delivering a split decision before today, administration lawyers held some hope that at least one conservative justice could be persuaded to uphold the provision, which amortizes the risk that makes universal coverage possible. But after a day of deeply skeptical questioning by swing justice Anthony Kennedy and his fellow conservatives [transcript - audio], the mandate looks to be in grave trouble, with CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin going as far as calling the day "a train wreck" for the administration. But it's far from a done deal, with a third day of hearings tomorrow and a final decision not expected until June.
FBI General Counsel reveals that around 3,000 warrantless GPS trackers were removed after the ruling in U.S v. Jones clarified their illegality (judgement PDF) (previous FPP). The ruling that a mosaic of surveillance technologies may form an issue when considered individually and the FBI's view of likely future judgements on the matter is particularly interesting in the light of the forthcoming cert/standing findings regarding warrantless eavesdropping.
On Monday the SCOTUS said juveniles who commit crimes in which no one is killed may not be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Thomas, ever the orginalist, apparently said they should only consider practices at the time the Bill of Rights was adopted. Stevens, however, noted people as young as 7 were put to death in the 18th century. "Knowledge accumulates," he wrote. "We learn, sometimes, from our mistakes." So, did they really put kids that young to death? Well, Probably Not. A look back at all the death sentences handed down for children under age fourteen by a well documented court in London found in every case (over 100 in all) the initial death sentence was eventually changed to transportation, imprisonment, and/or whipping. No child criminal was actually put to death.
FantasySCOTUS. For the Tenth Justice in all of us.