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Alito’s Day, But Ginsburg Has The Last Word

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.”

 

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Two “Faux-nanimous” Supreme Court Decisions

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

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Four Down, Four To Go

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.

 

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U.S. v. Rock 'n Roll, No. 2776

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”.

Posted in History, Supreme Court, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

Final Week For Supreme Court?

The Court announced opinions in three more cases today, two of which are sketched below. I think that leaves eight, or nine if you count the two cell-phone search cases separately. More opinions on Wednesday and Thursday, and the possibility that the final opinion(s) won’t come until next Monday.

Justice Scalia announced a knobbly opinion in Utility Air v. EPA, from which both sides have claimed a win. And the Chief Justice, below, had the opinion in Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund on certification of a class action in securities fraud.

SCOTUSblog’s videographer, Fabrizio di Piazza, took this beatific photo of me this morning working on the sketch you see at the top of the post.

Sketching_photo

Thanks Fabri !!!

 

 

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. . . And Three More Thursday

Opinions in some of the less prominent cases continue to trickle out of the Supreme Court as each day a few more cameras set up outside the court in anticipation of the big ones.

Of the three opinions announced from the bench today the most noteworthy was Lane v. Franks, concerning the First Amendment rights of a community college employee who was fired after testifying at the corruption trial of a state legislator who had been on the community college’s payroll for a no-show position. Justice Sotomayor said public employees should not have to choose between “the obligation to testify truthfully and the desire to avoid retaliation and keep their jobs.”

There are about ten cases still undecided, most of them biggies.

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Three Opinions Today . . .

. . . thirteen yet to come (counting the two cell-phone search cases as one).

In Argentina v. NML Capital the Court sided with investors seeking to locate Argentina’s overseas assets in order to collect on bonds that went into default. Justice Scalia wrote for the majority while Justice Ginsburg, pictured here on the right, was the sole dissenter.

Justice Kagan, above, had the opinion in Abramski v. U.S., a case concerning “straw purchasers” of firearms. And Justice Thomas, below,  announced the unanimous opinion in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus that state laws criminalizing false statements made about a candidate in an election can be challenged on First Amendment grounds even before anyone is actually prosecuted.

 

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David 2, Goliath 1

Little POM Wonderful scored a victory at the Supreme Court yesterday allowing it to go ahead and sue giant Coca-Cola for misleading consumers into believing that its pomegranate-blueberry drink might actually contain more than just 0.5 percent of the juices. The result was not unexpected; during arguments in April, Justice Kennedy asked the lawyer for the Real Thing, “Is it Coke’s position that national uniformity consists in labels that cheat the consumers like this one did?”

The case is POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola, and I’m going to go have a Coke.

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“Chemical Carol” Not Guilty Under Treaty

Infuriated that her husband had sexual relations with her best friend, Carol Anne Bond smeared toxic chemicals she obtained at work and over the internet on her rival’s home and car. The chemicals were plainly visible, turning orange on contact with metal, and the object of her anger suffered, in all, only a minor burn to her thumb. Unfortunately for Bond, she also put the chemical on a mailbox which led to federal charges under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998. Fortunately for the Constitution the Supreme Court decided that the prosecution may have been a little over-zealous.

“The use of something as a ‘weapon’ typically connotes an instrument of . . . combat,” said Chief Justice Roberts in his opinion. “But no speaker in natural parlance would describe Bond’s feud-driven act of spreading irritating chemicals on Haynes’s door knob and mailbox as ‘combat’.” . . . “Nor do the other circumstances of Bond’s offense – an act of revenge born of romantic jealousy, meant to cause discomfort, that produced nothing more than a minor thumb burn – suggest that a chemical weapon was deployed in Norristown, Pennsylvania.”

Roberts also points out that unlike John Singer Sargent’s 20 by 8 foot painting of blinded mustard-gassed soldiers on a WWI battlefield, “There are no life-sized paintings of Bond’s rival washing her thumb.”

The case is Bond v. United States

 

Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , ,

Sketches of Two Opinions

The Supreme Court is now in that final stretch of the October 2013 Term when it remains, after all cases have been argued, to issue opinions before recessing at the end of June. Today the Court announced its decisions in four cases, two of which I sketched below.

Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion in Hall v. Florida, ruling that an IQ score one point above the threshold should not be enough to make someone eligible for the death penalty.

And in a case where the Secret Service was sued for moving protesters opposed to President Bush further away than another group supporting the president the Court sided with the Secret Service. Justice Ginsburg had the opinion in Wood v. Moss.

Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , , ,
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