There was a long line and demonstrators, both pro-choice and pro-life (though no pro or anti-union for the Harris case that I could see) outside the Supreme Court this morning on the last decision day of the term.
Inside the courtroom the press was there in full force; retired Justice Stevens was seated on the opposite side in the VIP section; the section for members of the bar never quite filled up, but there were plenty of spectators.
The bleached faux-hawk in the public section caught my attention. I was told these visitors are teachers attending the Supreme Court Summer Institute.
Justice Alito had both opinions for the last day, Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn. He started with Harris in which the Court ruled that “partial public employees” such as homecare workers paid under Medicaid that do not belong to the union representing public employees do not have to pay a fee to the union to support collective bargaining.
Alito’s second opinion, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, drew the most attention. The decision gives for-profit family owned corporations the same rights as persons under The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) which prohibits “Government [from] substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion . . ” Two family owned Christian businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialities appealed under RFRA because they objected to the requirement under Obamacare that cover the costs of certain contraceptives for their employees.
Justice Ginsburg dissented. “The court forgets that religious organizations exist to serve a community of believers,” she wrote. “For-profit corporations do not fit that bill.”
“He looks like Moses” said the US marshal as he looked at the sketch I was working on. He did indeed look pretty wild as he was escorted into a DC courtroom looking perplexed. Two weeks ago he was seized on the Libyan coast and brought here aboard a U.S. warship.
“I never knew Santa Claus was a terrorist”, someone tweeted in response to my Twitter post of the above sketch.
Khattala will be back in court on Wednesday for a detention hearing. I wonder if the flak-vested heavily armed US marshals will again be out in full force around the courthouse?
Dahlia Lithwick, writing in Slate magazine, coined the term “faux-nanimous” for the kind of unanimous decisions the Supreme Court delivered today where concurring opinions read more like dissents. Read her article, you’ll like it. And I’ll just go ahead and post my pictures.
UPDATE: Another great article on the “faux-nanimous” opinions, this time from professor Garret Epps for The Atlantic
The Supreme Court had decisions on four more cases today, though only three opinions because the two cell phone cases were treated as one. In a unanimous decision the Court ruled that a warrant is required to search an individual’s cell phone.
In his opinion for the Court Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the founders fought.”
In another significant decision concerning technology Justice Breyer delivered the opinion in ABC v. Aereo in which the broadcast network’s copyright protection triumphed over Aereo’s innovative program delivery model that sought to bypass royalties.
That leaves four decisions in argued cases – three from January, one from March – to be announced. It is expected that the Court will meet two more days since the chief justice has not yet announced the final day as is custom.
My contribution to 2776: The Album. You may have seen the liner notes in last week’s New Yorker or heard Neko Case’s track, “These Aren’t The Droids”.