Posts tagged United States Supreme Court
The Supreme Court will today heart oral arguments in Salinas v. Texas. This case will address an enormous outstanding question on Fifth Amendment rights. We all know that someone accused of a crime in American is allowed to remain silent both during questioning after being arrested, and at trial. The question is, do the same rights against self-incrimination apply before an arrest and an accusation is made? As was asked in a 1980 decision, the Court has not yet ruled on “whether or under what circumstances pre-arrest silence” while being questioned by law enforcement is entitled to protection.
The question before the Court is pretty straightforward:
Whether or under what circumstances the Fifth Amendment’s Self-Incrimination Clause protects a defendant’s refusal to answer law enforcement questioning before he has been arrested or read his Miranda rights.
Today, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments concerning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
In a typical example of Orwellian mislabeling, the Act does nothing to “defend” marriage, and the case before the court — United States v. Windsor — is not being advanced by the United States. The Act was about denying marriage to same-sex couples, not about “defending” marriage from any sort of attack or decline. The suit before the Court is being brought by a handful of Republican legislators in an effort to deny survivor benefits to the deceased spouse of a New York woman, in contradiction to usual Republican dislike of estate taxes (another victim of Orwellian renaming — such taxes are commonly termed “death taxes,” except in this particular case). (more…)
Tomorrow, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Today, the Supreme Court hears arguments on Hollingsworth v. Perry, a big case which has been anticipated for some time. Unlike most cases, the transcript and audio will be made available before noon on the west coast.
This case is the Loving v. Virginia of same-sex marriage. Or, at least, it might be. But things are not always as they seem at first blush.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States heard the case of Shelby County v. Holder. The petitioner is subject to a provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which requires preclearance for local election procedures.
It was, at one time, probably the most powerful tool in the toolbox used by Congress to push the South towards racial equality.
At that time, county clerks and other public officials would actively block Negroes from voting:
When I first went up to try to register to vote, it was only three of us but we was met by some of the deputies. This kinds put a little fear in your mind. Old Man Sims, who was practically blind, was in front, and the dogs was just charging at his legs, but he couldn’t see. We still had the courage to proceed into the courthouse. When we go in the courthouse we had to go in the circuit clerk’s office — that’s where we went to try to get the forms and try to fill ‘em out to register to vote. We proceeded filling out the forms. It was what grade you were, how old, were you a citizen and a whole lotta questions. Some I thought was just pathetic — how many bubbles in a bar of soap? That was under Henry B. McClellan. We stayed in there so long till I was leaning on the counter, and he asked me did I want to go to jail. And I said, ‘No, the only thing we came up here for was to try to register to vote.’
— Mr. TC Johnson, Holmes County, Mississippi (more…)
Imagine a prison guard at a federal prison rapes an inmate. Can the United States be held responsible for that guard’s actions?
That is the question before the Supreme Court today. There are situation in which the government can be sued when a prison guard, acting within the scope of his or her employment, commits an “intentional tort” — that is, knowingly and purposely violates the civil rights of an American citizen. When not on duty, a prison guard can be sued like anyone else for harming another person (for instance, by raping someone), and the government is not liable then. Is the government ever liable when an employee is on duty and doing an assigned job, but somehow abuses the power entrusted to that employee?
The answer is: usually not. The government normally can’t be sued due to the actions of a government employee who is doing his or her job, even if that person does something which would normally be illegal. This is called “sovereign immunity”.
But when on duty, and when exercising the authority granted by being a prison guard, the government sometimes, in certain circumstances, is considered liable for the actions of that guard. This is called “a waiver of sovereign immunity.”
The question here is whether the government can be held liable for sexual assault when the guard is not specifically exercising authority to “execute searches, to seize evidence, or to make arrests for violations of Federal law.” (more…)
Today’s case is one of those with a surprisingly large disconnect between the facts that led to trial and the decision being addressed by the Supreme Court. The facts that led to the trial have to do with informed consent in a medical procedure. But the Supreme Court is examining a question of jurisdiction and immunity.
The jurisdiction and immunity questions aren’t new to our Supreme Court Watch series. We’ve covered cases with that topic three times before. The immunity discussions keep arising because those boundaries are far from clear. Today is another instance where the boundary may be undefined. (more…)