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.
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.
A group of Navy lawyers picked the right day, yesterday, to be sworn in to the Supreme Court bar. The first case argued, Levi v. United States, involved a malpractice and medical battery suit against a Navy surgeon. But first, the Court had an opinion to announce that might have touched on Admiralty law, but didn’t.
In Lozman v. Riviera Beach the Supreme Court ruled that a houseboat is not a vessel subject to maritime law. In his opinion Justice Stephen Breyer noted that not every floating structure is a vessel. “To state the obvious, a wooden washtub, a plastic dishpan, a swimming platform on pontoons … or Pinocchio (when inside the whale) are not ‘vessels'”, Breyer said, “even if they are ‘artificial contrivances’ capable of floating, moving under tow, and incidentally carrying even a fair-sized item or two when they do so.”
The Court also heard arguments in a “takings” case, Koontz v. St. Johns River, of which I’ve posted a sketch below.
Not sure why the lawyer for the petitioner looks so happy. According to Lyle the argument did not seem to go his way.
Lyle Denniston’s take on the “takings” case here.
My sketches from the announcement of the Court’s opinion, and dissents, on the Affordable Care Act.
As they took their seats Justice Breyer was smiling; Sotomayor looked glum.
Justice Scalia was actually sitting as far back from Roberts as possible. Forgive the artistic license, but I wanted to get his expression in the frame.
Sketches of the Supreme Court announcing its opinion in Arizona v. U.S. The Court upheld in part and struck down in part Arizona’s law, SB 1070, aimed at curtailing illegal immigration. Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority…..
…..and Justice Scalia dissented.
The Tucson Citizen has the story here.