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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.

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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.

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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

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Coming Into The Backstretch …

… only 28 cases remain undecided.Justices Ginsburg's opinionDashing 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.

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Before the Justices Take the Bench

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 A little sketch, doodle really, of the Supreme Court press waiting for the Justices to come to the bench and announce the day’s opinions.
 From left to right, Mark Walsh of Education Week, Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal, the Washington Post’s Robert Barnes and Adam Liptak of the New York Times.
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Time for a Tricycle?

Sketch of SCOTUS bench with Justice Breyer absentJust kidding, I’m really very sorry to hear that Justice Breyer had fall from his bicycle over the weekend and broke his shoulder. Twice before he has had serious bicycle mishaps and has always climbed back in the saddle. I hope he continues to ride, and wish him a speedy recovery.

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Remind Me To Update My Will

 

6a00d8341cd0df53ef017eea82f71b970dAfter federal employee Warren Hillman divorced his wife Judy Maretta and married Jaqueline Hillman he never changed the beneficiary on his life insurance. When he died the approximately $125,000. benefit went to his ex-wife.

Maybe, as Justice Breyer asked, “he secretly wants to leave the insurance in the name of his first wife while pretending to the second wife it was just an oversight.”

Lyle Denniston covers the argument here.

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HIV, Prostitution and the First Amendment

Sri Srinivasan argues AID v Alliance for Open SocietyYesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether the U.S. government can require NGO’s working overseas to fight HIV and AIDS to espouse an anti-prostitution policy as a requirement to receiving funds.Bowker argues AID v Alliance for Open Society

The case is Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Scociety International.

You can read about it here.

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The Indian Child Welfare Act

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The Supreme Court Justices had a tough time yesterday trying to balance the interests of a child, known as Baby Veronica, with the shameful history of removing American Indian children from their families. The Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, enacted in 1978, gives tribes a strong role in the adoption of Indian children.

 

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In the case of Adoptive Parents v. Baby Girl an unwed mother gave up for adoption her child fathered by a part-Cherokee father. The father had expressed no interest in the upbringing of the child until he was informed of the adoption. After being raised by its adoptive parents for about a year the baby girl was transfered to her father who won custody in federal court under the ICWA.

 

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Mark Walsh has the story here.

 

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Of Chocolate Cookies, Baseball Bats and the Amazon

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In considering whether human genes may be patented the Justices of the Supreme Court searched near and far for analogies to help them grasp the complexities of bio-science. Here are a few sketches from the oral arguments along with a few choice quotes.

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Justice Sotomayor : “I can bake a chocolate chip cookie using natural ingredients – salt, flour, eggs, butter … And if I combust those in some new way, I can get a patent on that. But I can’t imagine getting a patent on the basic items …”

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Justice Alito : “To get back to your baseball bat example, which at least I can understand better than perhaps some of this biochemistry. I suppose that in … I don’t know how many millions of years trees have been around, but in all of that time possibly someplace a branch has fallen off a tree …. into the ocean and it’s been manipulated by the waves, and then something’s been washed up on shore, and what do you know, it’s a baseball bat.”

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Justice Breyer : “… so when Captain Ferno goes to the Amazon and discovers fifty new types of plants, saps and medicines …. although that expedition was expensive, although nobody had found it before, he can’t get a patent on the thing itself.”

And here’s a quick sketch of people lining up outside the Supreme Court in the rain Monday morning to get a seat for the arguments.
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SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston has the argument recap here.

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