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The Long and Short of Prison Beards

Arkansas prisons limit the length of inmates’ beards to a quarter inch. One of those inmates, a Muslim whose faith requires a full beard, tried to compromise by only growing his beard to a half inch but that was still too long for the warden. Contraband might be concealed in the half-inch beard, or the inmate could change his appearance to evade detection by shaving the beard.

None of those arguments were even considered plausible by the justices when the case, Holt v. Hobbs, was argued today. Justice Alito suggested using a comb on the beard “to see if a SIM card – or a revolver – falls out.” And Scalia asked why not take a photo of the inmate before he grows the beard?

“You’re really just making your case too easy”, the chief justice told petitioner’s lawyer, Douglas Laycock pictured above.

Arkansas Deputy Attorney General David A. Curran didn’t have much to show why the courts should defer to the bureau of prisons.

All bets are that the Court votes 9-0; not even close to a close shave.

 

 

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

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.”

 

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

Taxpayers Lose Standing

In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court today ruled that ordinary citizens cannot challenge an Arizona program that gave a dollar-for-dollar credit to taxpayers who donated to a School Tuition Organizations, or STOs, which in turn direct money to religious activities.SC110404_Kennedy

In reading the opinion of the Court, Justice Kennedy said the taxpayers lacked “standing“.

Bloomberg has story here.

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