Posts tagged Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court arguments ended in April, and we’ve already begun to hear decisions from this session. Some of the biggest cases remain to be decided, but this week the Court issued a decision on McBurney v. Young. I posted an article on the arguments back in February when the Court heard the case, but here’s a quick recap.
Mark McBurney made a freedom-of-information request of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Because McBurney had moved to Rhode Island, and because Virginia law prohibits honoring such requests from nonresidents, his request was denied. He sued on the grounds that the Privileges and Immunities and Commerce Clauses of the Constitution prohibit such restrictions.
The Commonwealth argued that the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is to allow citizens of a government to be aware of the activities of that government, and that Californians, who aren’t Virginians, are therefore not entitled to the information.
The Supreme Court unanimously agreed with the Commonwealth. Justice Samuel Alito issued the decision, with Justice Clarence Thomas issuing a concurring opinion. There is some interesting meat in the decision, which I discuss after the cut. (more…)
The Supreme Court is today hearing a challenge to another provision of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. Title VII protects an employee who has “made a charge, testified, assisted or participated in” revealing an employer’s unlawful discrimination as described by other parts of the Act. Under Title VII, the employer may not retaliate against the employee. The Act, however, does not spell out precisely what constitutes “retaliation,” nor how you can tell some kind of adverse action was done for legitimate reasons or as payback for having charged the employer with breaking the law.
What if an employer both has a “legitimate reason” and appears to be retaliating? Does the existence of a good reason mean it’s okay to fire someone, even if a desire for payback is also present? Putting all that aside, does an employer have the right to hire, fire, promote, or not-promote whomever the employer thinks will be best for business? If an employee accuses an employer of engaging in discrimination, wouldn’t some other possible hire be better for the company? Isn’t that in itself a legitimate reason to fire someone? (more…)
There have been a number of cases when Republicans opposed timely disaster relief when the catastrophe happened to other states, but demanded it when something bad happened in their own back yard. A perfect example is Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who voted against Hurricane Sandy relief in January, but is now trying to get federal money to help with the explosion of a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. I was preparing to write an article about this tendency, concentrating on Cruz, when I stumbled upon this article over at Fox News (yes, I do frequently read their site), describing one of the Senator’s complaints about President Obama. As I read, I sat in awe at the Senator’s dishonesty and Orwellian misrepresentations, and at the eager gullibility and almost breathless hero-worship of Fox News reportage.
Earlier this month, Senator Cruz released a “report” titled, “The Legal Limit: The Obama Administration’s Attempts To Expand Federal Power.” This paper describes six Supreme Court cases in which the Court unanimously ruled against the litigant supported by the Obama Administration. While it may be a surprise to many to see the Roberts Court to be united in a given ruling, it is hardly unusual for the Supreme Court to issue unanimous rulings, and every presidential administration sees its share of loses before the Court.
What is far more interesting, bordering on the breathtaking in its dishonesty, is the way Cruz misrepresented the issues in these six cases, and the motivations behind the position the Obama Administration held in each case.
While we have been focused on Supreme Court decisions on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage, a case has been wending its way through the courts that may have an even greater impact on human affairs.
The Court will hear arguments today in one of the most critical cases for human health and disease in the history of the Republic. Whether they use the opportunity to make a paradigm-shifting decision, or merely decide based on a narrow application of the law, is anyone’s guess.
The importance of this case is evinced by the 56 amici curiæ briefs filed in this case, from parties as varied as the American Association of Retired Persons and Nobel laureate James Watson.
The question, on its face, is simple: are human genes patentable?
It sounds like the start of a joke. It led to a murder, and is ending with a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The constitutional question before the Court deals with the Great Writ of Habeas Corpus, “which right the American Founders considered most basic, that is, indispensable to securing all the others.” The most important and fundamental right we have as Americans is not the right to bear arms, nor the right to assemble, nor freedom of the press or of religion or even of speech. It is “the Great Writ, which in 1969 the Supreme Court called ‘the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action’.”
Rights of habeas corpus have been recognized at least as far back as the fourteenth century. Habeas corpus is a Latin term which, freely translated, means, “Who has the body?” In this case, the “body” in question is not, as one might suppose, the body of a victim of a crime. No, the “body” here is the accused person.
The Great Writ of Habeus Corpus is a legal doctrine which says, in essence, that the government is not allowed to keep someone in custody without being able to show just cause. In other words, a person cannot simply be held without charges, without due process, or in violation of reasonable rights. If you’re held by a law-enforcement agency, they have to prove they have good reason to hold you.
The issue before the Supreme Court today deals with this most basic of human rights. Can the government hold an innocent man — or even prevent someone from being able to present his argument for innocence — simply because he waited too long to ask permission to prove he’s innocent? Would holding a person under such conditions violate the right of habeas corpus?
The Court will decide in the case of McQuiggin v. Perkins whether a convicted murderer may be denied the right to challenge that conviction because he didn’t mount his challenge within a predefined time frame, even when he claims to be able to show his actual innocence. (more…)
On February 22, the Supreme Court of the United States will meet in its regular weekly conference. On the agenda: whether to grant a writ of certiorari to Eric Leon Butt, Jr., who has been convicted on two charges of showing pornography to a minor.
Why do we care about a convicted sex offender, and why should this case even be considered by the Supreme Court?
It all began with cave paintings, but I’m getting ahead of myself…