Freddie Lee Hall, as a child, had been classified as "mentally retarded"; he is illiterate, cannot cook for himself, bathe independently, clean his clothes, and is unable to handle his own finances. Halll was sentenced to death for murdering Karol Hurst, a 21-year-old pregnant woman who was abducted leaving a Leesburg, Fla., grocery store in 1978. His guilt is not at issue; what is at issue, before the Supreme Court this morning, is whether the Florida Supreme Court's definition of mental retardation (having an IQ of 70 or less) was correctly applied to Hall, who has tested at an IQ of 71. [more inside]
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]
Yesterday, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear two challenges to the Affordable Care Act's mandate that women's contraception must be covered. The cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, ask the Court to focus on whether the pregnancy-related care coverage can be enforced against profit-making companies — or their individual owners — when the coverage contradicts privately held religious beliefs. [more inside]
Supreme Court to consider lifting campaign contribution limits. Reversing McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission would allow unlimited individual campaign contributions.
In Conversation: Antonin Scalia "On the eve of a new Supreme Court session, the firebrand justice discusses gay rights and media echo chambers, Seinfeld and the Devil, and how much he cares about his intellectual legacy ("I don’t")." [more inside]
A new study from Harvard Law School (get the full paper here) reports that nearly half of the links cited in Supreme Court opinions are rotten (sometimes cleverly so).
A new web-service built through collaboration by many of the largest libraries in the world, Perma, currently in Beta, will enable users to create citation links that will never break.
SCOTUS declares DOMA Unconstitutional, 5 - 4. The gay rights movement saw a significant victory at the Supreme Court Wednesday, where the justices struck down part of a law barring federal benefits to married same-sex couples. In a 5-4 ruling, the court struck down a provision of the 17-year-old Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denies federal benefits -- like Social Security benefits or the ability to file joint tax returns - to same-sex couples legally married. The impact of the DOMA case, United States v. Windsor, is clear for the nation's approximately 130,000 married same-sex couples. Section 3 of the law, the provision that was struck down, denies same-sex couples federal benefits. That provision impacts around 1,100 federal laws, including veterans' benefits, family medical leave and tax laws.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit has upheld Ultramericial's patent on the process of users viewing video ads online in order to view content. The court ruled that the abstractness of the patent does not invalidate it. [more inside]
The reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity. The Supreme Court issued a decision[pdf] in the affirmative action case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin today. [more inside]
"We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated," Justice Clarence Thomas writes in the court's decision following a unanimous ruling in the case of Association for Molecular Pathology et al. v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., et al.. "Myriad did not create or alter either the genetic information encoded in the BCRA1 and BCRA2 genes or the genetic structure of the DNA. It found an important and useful gene, but groundbreaking, innovative, or even brilliant discovery does not by itself satisfy the §101 inquiry." [more inside]
After a decade or so of legal back-and-forth between Utah-based Myriad Genetics and medical researchers, the ACLU, and the Public Patent Forum, the US Supreme Court will hear a case next week which attempts to address whether genes — isolated (derivative) or original — can be patented. The stakes are high on both sides: opponents use Myriad's actions to argue that giving short-term monopoly control over humanity's genetic constituency is not in the public interest, while proponents defend the use of patents to spur private research in biotech, alternative energy and other nascent industries.
Yesterday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed Senate Bill 97, the Scottsboro Boys Act allowing for posthumous pardons. Bentley has said he wanted to close a chapter of state history. The Scottsboro case led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision against excluding Blacks from juries. [more inside]
Earlier today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the California Prop 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry. SCOTUSblog has a round-up of their analysis of today's arguments here. NYT article. LA Times article. [more inside]
The Supreme Court has held that the First Sale Doctrine applies to copyrighted material manufactured and sold abroad. (Previously) [more inside]
"Better known as the “Jane Roe” in the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, Norma McCorvey has led a conflicted life. Forty years ago, she was at the center of the court decision that famously legalized abortion. Today, she is a zealous anti-abortion advocate." Why did McCorvey turn against the cause she once championed? Tracing the life of an Accidental Activist. Via
In conjunction with the publication of her autobiography, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor sat down with NPR's Nina Totenberg for an extended interview. 1: Sotomayor reflects on her upbringing, her family, and the formative years of her life. 2: Exploring her educational background and her motivations toward excellence. 3: Her post-education career and the path toward her being appointed to the Supreme Court. Audio links and transcripts available for all links. [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]
Hobby Lobby, a craft store with 525 U.S. locations, has announced that it will defy a federal mandate to provide health coverage for all employees that includes emergency contraceptive coverage, and will pay a fine of $1.3 million every day. [more inside]
In a private conference this morning, the Supreme Court of the United Stated discussed ten petitions relating to the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8. [more inside]
Today, the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that "we conclude that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act violates equal protection and is therefore unconstitutional" [PDF of decision]. Plaintiff Edie Windsor has also petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear her case. [more inside]
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court returned from summer vacation, and among other things, it heard the second oral argument of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.. Esther Kiobel and eleven other Nigerian plaintiffs are accusing oil companies of complicity in a brutal crackdown on protesters that included torture and murder; during the first round of arguments, "some of the court's conservative justices signaled a willingness to shield corporations from liability in U.S. courts over allegations that they had aided or acquiesced to foreign governments that abused their own people." Meanwhile, a group called People Against Legalizing Murder has launched MurderisBad.com - which Shell has allegedly blocked from its employees.
But it is already too late. CNN has been carefully orchestrating its transformation into a shockingly efficient news distribution company. They have been planning to saturate every screen in reach with this story as fast as possible, and the producer’s initial go-ahead pulled the trigger. On the air, Wolf Blitzer is sending the coverage to the Courthouse steps. And as planned the reporter is putting her phone down to go on the air, which cuts herself off from the only CNN employee with access to the opinion. We’re getting wildly differing assessments: SCOTUSblog compiles first-hand accounts of the minutes between 10:06 and 10:15am on June 28, when CNN and FOX misreported and retracted that the mandate had been struck down.
Sixty-nine photos of US politicians in high school with a few others mixed in.
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.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Today the Supreme Court announced their 5-4 decision for Miller v. Alabama and found that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles who commit murder are unconstitutional. [more inside]
Today, the 9th Circuit said a majority of its 26 actively serving judges has voted not to revisit a three-judge panel's 2-1 decision declaring the voter-approved ban to be a violation of the civil rights of gays and lesbians in California. Now that en banc rehearing was denied, the proponents have 90 days to file a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court, seeking review of the decision striking down Proposition 8. Oral argument would follow a few months later, and then a final decision would be issued by June or July 2013.
Remember Kentucky v. King from last year? The mis-reported conclusion was that police could enter a home without a warrant to prevent destruction of evidence based on hearing movement after knocking. A week ago the supreme court of Kentucky published (pdf) its revisiting of the case given instructions from the US supreme court, and found in favor of King (via): [more inside]
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.
On June 3, 1961, a poor drifter named Clarence Gideon was seen getting into a cab with a bottle of wine, some smokes, and some cash in his pockets as he left the Bay Harbor Pool Room. Police had been called to investigate a broken cigarette machine and promptly found and arrested Gideon. Unable to afford an attorney and forced by the trial judge to represent himself, he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. After having his petition for a writ of Habeus Corpus denied by the Florida Supreme Court, he petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court. 49 years ago today, the court ruled unanimously in his favor, setting a lasting, fundamental precedent. His case was sent back down to Florida, and with proper representation, he was acquitted.
Mary Brown, a 56-year-old Florida woman who owned a small auto repair shop but had no health insurance, became the lead plaintiff challenging President Obama's healthcare law because she was passionate about the issue. Brown "doesn't have insurance. She doesn't want to pay for it. And she doesn't want the government to tell her she has to have it," said Karen Harned, a lawyer for the National Federation of Independent Business. Brown is a plaintiff in the federation's case, which the Supreme Court plans to hear later this month. But court records reveal that Brown and her husband filed for bankruptcy last fall with $4,500 in unpaid medical bills. Those bills could change Brown from a symbol of proud independence into an example of exactly the problem the healthcare law was intended to address. [more inside]
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.
The Supreme Court of the United States has held only one criminal trial in its history: United States v. Shipp. [more inside]
In a unanimous decision [PDF], the Supreme Court has ruled on United States v. Jones and found that placement of a GPS tracker on a car by police is a violation of the fourth amendment—but is the ruling as clear-cut as it seems? [more inside]
"Neither the Copyright and Patent Clause nor the First Amendment, we hold, makes the public domain, in any and all cases, a territory that works may never exit. "
Unanimous SCOTUS ruling: Anti-discrimination laws (such as the ADA) do not apply to church employees with religious duties. Full ruling: PDF, HTML
My Guantánamo Nightmare. Lakhdar Boumediene was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for seven years without explanation or charge until his case made it to the Supreme Court, leading to a decision which bears his name and his release ordered by a federal judge. The NYTimes has his and another account from another former detainee: Notes From a Guantánamo Survivor. [Via]
Last week Montana's Supreme Court ruled 5-2 to essentialy ignore Citizens United. Even Justice James C. Nelson one of the 2 dissenters had this to say about the Citizens United decision:
"Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people — human beings — to share fundamental, natural rights with soulless creatures of government,"Of course the prediction is an overturn of the Montana ruling, but some hope that now given the real world examples of the modern SuperPac Justice Kennedy will at least revisit some of his earlier justification. (the ruling in question: Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Attorney Generalpdf)
Prometheus Labs v. Mayo Clinic has the potential to make decision procedures about medical treatment patentable. [more inside]
Roger Guimera Manrique and Marta Sales-Pardo have shown that "U.S. Supreme Court justice votes are more predictable than one would expect from an ideal court composed of perfectly independent justices." [more inside]
Yesterday, the Supreme court granted certiorari to several of the challenges to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Here's a great roundup of several news stories. I like the NPR story for a quick summary of the issues. The Court will hear a total of 5.5 hours of oral argument, and a decision is expected by the end of the current term, in June.
"The Justices all sit in high-backed leather swivel chairs, and Thomas has set his so that he can recline so far that he appears almost to be lying down. He stares at the ceiling. He rubs his face. He does not appear to be listening. He closes his eyes and sometimes appears to be asleep. The over-all effect is rude, if not contemptuous." The New Yorker profiles Justice Clarence Thomas, his wife Ginni's Tea Party connections and what they might mean for the inevitable SCOTUS ruling on Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and looks back on his confirmation hearings. Previously, Justice Thomas and Ginni; Obama and healthcare; SCOTUS.
US Supreme Court finds Cali. law restricting sales of violent videogames to adults violates First Amendment. [more inside]
Acting Solicitor Gen. Neal Katyal, in an extraordinary admission of misconduct, took to task one of his predecessors for hiding evidence and deceiving the Supreme Court. The misconduct took place 'in two of the major cases in its history: the World War II rulings that upheld the detention of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans.' 'Scholars and judges have denounced the World War II rulings as among the worst in the court's history, but neither the high court nor the Justice Department had formally admitted they were mistaken — until now. "It seemed obvious to me we had made a mistake. The duty of candor wasn't met," Katyal said.' [more inside]
How “secure” do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?Supreme Court OKs More Warrantless Searches [more inside]
Third, class arbitration greatly increases risks to defendants. Informal procedures do of course have a cost: The absence of multilayered review makes it more likely that errors will go uncorrected. Defendants are willing to accept the costs of these errors in arbitration, since their impact is limited to the size of individual disputes, and presumably outweighed by savings from avoiding the courts. But when damages allegedly owed to tens of thousands of potential claimants are aggregated and decided at once, the risk of an error will often become unacceptable. Faced with even a small chance of a devastating loss, defendants will be pressured into settling questionable claims.—Justice Scalia delivers the opinion of the Court, and a knife in the back of class-action suits. [more inside]
The Supreme Court has ruled 8-1 in favor of categorizing Westboro Baptist Church's funeral protests as protected speech under the First Amendment. [more inside]
'Conservative justices appear to agree police should be allowed to enter a suspect's residence without a warrant if they suspect evidence is being destroyed.' 'Police officers who smell marijuana coming from an apartment can break down the door and enter if they have reason to believe the evidence might be destroyed, several Supreme Court's justices suggested Wednesday.''Scalia said the police couldn't go wrong by knocking loudly on the door. "Criminals are stupid," he said, and they often cooperate with police when they are not required to do so. They might open the door and let officers inside, or if not, the police can break in.''In the past, the high court usually has said police cannot enter a home or apartment without a search warrant because of the 4th Amendment's ban on "unreasonable searches and seizures." But during arguments in a drug case, the court's conservatives said they favored relaxing that rule when police say they have a need to act fast.' [more inside]
The latest attempt to mitigate the impact of the Citizens United decision has failed, with an attempt to pass transparency rules for corporations funding political advertising failing to reach cloture. Obama comments on this vote in his most recent weekly address. Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010) held that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment. [more inside]
Court Affirms Ban on Aiding Groups Tied to Terror. "In a case pitting free speech against national security, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld a federal law (PDF) that makes it a crime to provide 'material support' to foreign terrorist organizations, even if the help takes the form of training for peacefully resolving conflicts."