On the last day of the its term the Supreme Court today handed twin victories to the cause of marriage equality.
If there was an empty seat in the courtroom I couldn’t see it.
Justice Kennedy had the first opinion, U.S. v Windsor, in which the Court found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.And of course Justice Scalia read a lenghty dissent.
The second victory for same-sex marriage was by default in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts where the Court found that the petitioners in support of California’s Proposition 8 lacked standing, thereby allowing the lower court’s ruling to stand.
A 5-4 divided Court today struck down a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, effectively putting the burden on victims of voter descrimination to seek relief. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for a majority that included Justices Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy and Alito.In a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan, Justice Ginsburg wrote, “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the Voting Rights Act”.
Lyle Denniston’s take on the opinion is here.
On the first day of what promises to be a steamy week in Washington, at least outside the Supreme Court building, the Court announced its opinion in a long awaited affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas. When the case was argued back in October it appeared that the University’s use of race as an admissions factor might be struck down.Instead, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, the Court said such programs must meet the test of “strict scrutiny” as well as being“narrowly tailored”.
Surprisingly, for a case argued at the beginning of the term, there was but one dissenter in the 7-1 decision (Justice Kagan took no part), Justice Ginsburg.
“The Court rightly declines to cast off the equal protection framework …”, writes Ginsburg. “Yet it stops short of reaching the conclusion that (it) warrants.”
Justice Alito took a sip from his coffee cup.
For a day without a real blockbuster it turned out to be an unusually busy one for me.
Among the Supreme Court decisions today was one that overturned an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. In an opinion announced by Justice Scalia the Court found that the federal Motor Voter law preempts Arizona’s law.
In another opinion, this one from Justice Alito, the Court said that if you want to preserve your right to remain silent you’ve got to speak up.
I also finished a couple sketches I had started earlier, the Great Hall . . . . . . . and General Suter, the Clerk of the Court, calling up admissions to the bar.
Camera crews set up by the Supreme Court plaza on a steamy morning with thunderstorms, and even a possible derecho, forecast. Also in the forecast was the possibility of a major decision in one of the remaining twenty-three cases argued earlier in the term.
The Court did not dissapoint the court-watchers, delivering a far reaching opinion on the patenting of natural genes. In his opinion for the Court in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics Justice Thomas said, “Myriad did not create anything.” However the Court also found that a synthetic version of the gene created by Myriad was patentable.
There now remain nineteen undecided cases.
No opinions today on any of the big Supreme Court cases everyone has been watching and waiting for, but we did get :
Horne v. Department of Agriculture, in which California raisin growers won the right to challenge the constitutionality of regulatory fees…….
….. and Peugh v. United States, where the Court agreed with Marvin Peugh that the longer sentence he received under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines that were revised upward after he committed his crime were an ex post facto violation.
The Court also announce a third opinion, a class arbitration case, but I didn’t finish the sketch of Justice Kagan ….she sits so far away.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Kennedy today the Supreme Court said that taking a DNA sample from a suspect is the same as fingerprinting someone upon arrest, and that the purpose is indentification of the suspect “When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” said Justice Kennedy.
“That assertion taxes the credulity of the credulous,” said Justice Scalia in a dissent delivered from the bench. “In approving that suspicionless search, the Court has cast aside a bedrock rule of our Fourth Amendment …”
The case is Maryland v. King
… only 28 cases remain undecided.Dashing hopes of a long awaited decision on the affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas, argued last October the Court today announced only two opinions of less interest. At least they weren’t unanimous.
I got a last minute call to go to Philadelphia to sketch the sentencing of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell – a case I have not followed and therefore am thankfully unable to comment on – so I hit the road at 5:00 a.m. Arriving early I had a few minutes to do the sketch above before the courthouse openned.
After waiting several hours in the courtroom, sketching some of the evidence collected from Dr. Gosnell’s, the sentencing itself was very brief.
You can read about it here.
A couple sketches from the Supreme Court yesterday:
Justice Kagan annouced the Court’s unanimous opinion supporting Monsanto’s patent rights on its herbicide resistant genetically altered Roundup Ready seed.
NYT’s Adam Liptak has the story here.
It was also Justice Breyer’s first appearance on the bench since breaking his shoulder in a bicycle mishap two weeks ago.