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.
Chief Justice Roberts stopped by the press room Tuesday morning to welcome back reporters. He said the Court would be announcing quite a few opinions, so be prepared to work through lunch.
Below are sketches of arguments the Court heard in Bowman v. Monsanto.
Monsanto sells its brand of genetically engineered soybean seed to farmers with the stipulation that they will not replant the crop seed. Indiana farmer Vernon Bowman abided by Monsanto’s rules when he planted his first crop, but for a second late-season crop he decided to plant seed purchased from a grain elevator figuring much of it would seed grown from Monsanto’s Rounup resistant strain. He was right, but Monsanto sued.
Bowman’s lawyer, Mark Walters, had a hard time convincing Justices that once Monsanto sold its seed the patent was exhausted. “The Exhaustion Doctrine permits you to use the goods that you buy,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. “It never permits you to make another item from the item that you bought.”
Monsanto’s lawyer Seth P. Waxman said the company “never would have produced what is, by now the most popular agricultural technology in America” if the patent had been so easily exhausted.
WaPo story 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.
Citing Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Homer and Dante, as well as Golding’s Lord of the Flies, in his opinion for the majority Justice Scalia said that violent speech, in this case video games, even when directed at children is still protected under the first amendment.
The case is Brown v. Entertainment Merchants.
In another First Amendment case where the speech in question is privately raised campaign money the Court struck down an Arizona law that would provide matching funds to candidates who accept public financing.
“Laws like Arizona’s matching funds provision that inhibit robust and wide-open political debate without sufficient justification cannot stand” wrote Chief Justice Roberts in his majority opinion.
Justice Kagan in her dissent, joined by Justices Ginsberg, Breyer and Sotomayor, and announced from the bench wrote: “Petitioners . . . are making a novel argument: that Arizona violated their First Amendment rights by disbursing funds to other speakers even though they could have received (but chose to spurn) the same financila assistance”. She added, “Some people might call that chutzpah.”
The consolidated cases are Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett and McComish v. Bennett.
A few chuckles at the Court yesterday ( see Dahlia Lithwick’s story in Slate ), so I thought I’d post a couple doodles I did as the Justices announced their opinions.
In his opinion in Staub v. Proctor Hospital Justice Scalia said it was a “cat’s paw case”.
He was quoting the Seventh Circuit’s Judge Posner, but the reference is to a fable by Jean de La Fontaine.
And Chief Justice Roberts, to explain why the Court unanimously found that AT&T does not posses personal privacy, even if it is a person, cited the distinct meanings of “corn” and “corny”, and “crank” and “cranky” ( see “Crafty Craft & Squirrel Squirrels” ). He concluded his opinion by saying, “We trust that AT&T will not take it personally”.
For the record, Justice Scalia does not posses a cat’s paw and the Chief Justice did not hold up an ear of corn.
Since corporations are “persons”, the lawyer for AT&T argued, it follows that corporations have “personal privacy”. But Chief Justice Roberts pointed out that the adjective may not have the same meaning as it’s root : “Totally different. Crafty doesn’t have much to do with craft. Squirrel, squirrely. ….Same root, totally different”.
Dahlia Lithwick writes about it here.