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."
In a 5-4 decision in the case of Berghuis v. Thompkins, the Supreme Court has ruled that suspects must explicitly assert their right to remain silent under the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona decision. [more inside]
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.
The Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision on US v Comstock has upheld continued detention of sex offenders who have served their time.
Yesterday, in a highly split decision with six separate opinions, the United States Supreme Court overturned a Ninth Circuit ruling in Salazar v. Buono. The issue at hand? Whether the location of the Mojave Memorial Cross represented an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The Ninth Circuit decided that it did, but its ruling has been called into question by the high court on several levels. [more inside]
FantasySCOTUS. For the Tenth Justice in all of us.
Alan Grayson (D - FL) has introduced a bill to tax corporate political campaign donations at 500% (via). The bill is called the "Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act."
The Business Plot of 1933 has reached a logical conclusion: the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations may spend freely (pdf) to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress.
Follow the money. I'll keep you in the right direction if I can, but that's all. Just... follow the money.
It's time to find out who owns your democracy, and how they bought it. Do you feel like US campaign finance is hopelessly shrouded in mystery? Fear not citizen, there's a website for that: The Center for Responsive Politics has made available a well-organized, highly detailed database of their analysis of US campaign finance to shine a bright nonpartisan light on the green underbelly of US democracy. [more inside]
Today began Judge Sonia Sotomayor's Senate confirmation hearings, with opening remarks from the Senators on the Judiciary Committee, introductions from NY Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, and an opening statement from Judge Sotomayor herself. Among the shouted protests from pro-life advocates in the gallery, highlights included Sen. Lindsay Graham's statement about what he thinks the advise-and-consent function of the senate should entail, and Sen. Al Franken's first real moment in the U.S. Congress.
Today, on the last day of this year's term, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Ricci v. DeStefano, the latest in the Court's line of decisions on Title VII and the role of race in employment decisions. The famous case centers on white firefighters' claims of race discrimination following the town of New Haven's decision to scuttle a promotion exam after white test takers performed disproportionately better than black firefighters. [more inside]
The New York Times is reporting that President Obama will nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor as Justice David Souter's replacement on the Supreme Court. Sotomayer, currently a judge in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, will (if confirmed by the Senate) be only the third female and the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog predicted Sotomayer as one of Obama's three most likely candidates back in January.
NPR is reporting that Supreme Court Justice David Souter will retire at the end of the current Court term, pending the approval of a replacement to be appointed by President Obama. Appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, Souter's replacement will presumably maintain the balance of ascribed "left-leaning" to "right-leaning" justices at 4-5, but will increase the number of justices on the bench appointed by a Democratic president to 3. At 69, Souter is in fact the youngest of the so-called "left-leaning" justices currently on the bench.
The previously-mentioned Summums want to place their own monument in a park which contains the Ten Commandments, making the Supreme Court's heads explode in a a hilariously weird oral argument[pdf]: "Scalia: I don't know what that means. You keep saying it, and I don't know what it means. [...] Breyer: Suppose that there certain messages that private people had like "eat vitamins"—and then somebody comes along with a totally different content, "ride the roller coaster," and they say this part of the park is designed to get healthy children, not put children at risk." [more inside]
Heller v. District of Columbia, the U.S. Supreme Court's first actual interpretation of the Second Amendment, has just come down. In a 5-4 decision, the Justices ruled D.C.'s comprehensive handgun ban to be unconstitutional. Antonin Scalia writes for the majority.
"The test for determining the scope of this provision must not be subject to manipulation by those whose power it is designed to restrain."
In a five-to-four decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that detainees at Guantanamo Bay have a constitutional right to habeas corpus review:
Security depends upon a sophisticated intelligence apparatus and the ability of our Armed Forces to act and to interdict. There are further considerations, however. Security subsists, too, in fidelity to freedom’s first principles. Chief among these are freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to the separation of powers.[...] Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part of that law.Decision, Summary, Analysis
Members of the Montana legislature (out of session) appear to be attempting to force the Supreme Court's hand in a fairly landmark gun-control case, Heller v. DC. Through an extra-session resolution, they are invoking contract law, by stating that the contract between the Montana people, through our Constitution, and the Federal Government will be ... ? ... if the Heller case is decided 'incorrectly'. What is at issue is one of the SCOTUS' seminal opportunities to rule concerning collective rights versus individual rights for firearm possession. [more inside]
Al Odah v. U.S. and Boumediene v. Bush go before SCOTUS Streaming on C-Span today. The Center for Constitutional Rights (great podcast) will argue before the Supreme Court today:
Immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision in Rasul, The Center for Constitutional Rights and cooperating counsel filed 11 new habeas petitions in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of over 70 detainees. These cases eventually became the consolidated cases of Al Odah v. United Statesand Boumediene v. Bush, the leading cases determining the significance of the Supreme Court’s decision in Rasul, the rights of non-citizens to challenge the legality of their detention in an offshore U.S. military base, and the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
"we upheld against proportionality attack a sentence of 40 years' imprisonment for possession with intent to distribute nine ounces of marijuana" - Justice Kennedy
DrugPolicyCases.com - Yakov Spektor, a New York-based attorney, combed through two decades of US Supreme Court opinions "to discern certain trends in the Court's treatment of various issues" related to the War on Drugs. The collection of opinions are organized by case, author and topic.
This happens a lot. I mean a lot. All over the place. All these stories are within the last five weeks. Inexcusable, some say. If they break in and cause damage, they have to pay, though, right? Not according to the U.S. Supreme Court, which says if your address is on the warrant, you get to pay, even if it's a mistake.
The Supreme Court issued its opinion Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly [pdf] today. Although superficially an antitrust case, the Court examined the standard of review under 12(b)(6) and concluded that the old "no set of facts" standard should be officially retired.