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Campaign Finance Back Before the Supremes

A long line of spectators and a smattering of demonstrators, some with halloween themed placards – as well as two suspected C-span interns with a crappy banner that demanded “Cameras in the Court NOW!” – were on the Supreme Court plaza this morning for the Court’s latest go at campaign finance.

The case, McCutcheon v. FEC, is brought by a wealthy Alabama businessman who is challenging the limit on total contributions during a two-year election cycle. Current law limits individual contributions to candidates to $48,600 and $74,600 to parties and PACs during the two-year cycle. That the law limits the number of candidates to whom he could donate $1776 Shaun McCutcheon considers a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech.

A lawyer for Senator Mitch McConnell argued that limits on the aggregate contributions should meet the test of strict scrutiny to pass constitutionality.

While Solicitor General Donald Verrilli warned that without the limits elections could be dominated by wealthy donors.

Lyle Denniston’s story here.

 

 

 

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

First Monday in October

The Supreme Court began the October 2013 term with a new Clerk and a not so good argument.

The new Clerk of the Court, Scott Harris can be seen standing on the left as the Justices take the bench.

The first argument of the new term, an age discrimination case from Illinois, ran into trouble right from the beginning when Justices began to question whether the case should even be before them. The lower circuit court, it seems, should not have ruled before the matter was brought to trial.

The last words from respondent’s lawyer, after being admonished by Justice Scalia, were, “we could have done a better job”.

Lyle Denniston has the story here.

 

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Getting Ready for SCOTUS

Brennan Center Supreme Court Preview

Here’s a little sketch of a panel discussing the upcoming Supreme Court term at NYU’s Brennan Center in DC. Pictured, left to right, are The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen, SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe, University of Baltimore Professor Garrett Epps and Nicole Austin-Hillery, Director and Counsel of the Brennan Center.

 

Posted in Supreme Court Tagged with:

Big Wins For Gay Marriage

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.

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

Supreme Court Waters Down Voting Rights Act

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.

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

Fisher Fails to Finish ‘Firmative Action

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.

 

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

Motor Voter, Right to Silence and More

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.

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

Opinion on Gene Patent

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.

Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with: , ,

California Raisins and Ex Post Facto

No opinions today on any of the big Supreme Court cases everyone has been watching and waiting for, but we did get :SCOTUS opinion: Horne v. Dept. of Agriculture

 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.Justice Sotomayor: Peugh v. U.S

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.

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

DNA Sampling No Different Than Fingerprinting

SCOTUS opinion: Maryland v. King

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 suspectJustice Kennedy Maryland v. King  “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.Justice Scalia: Maryland v. King

“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

Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with: , ,
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