Posts tagged United States Supreme Court
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…)
Perhaps heading the list entitled “Federal Laws that You Didn’t Know Existed” is the Federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) of 1994. It tells states what information driver’s license bureaus may legally disclose. Now enshrined as 18 USC § 2721, it says
A State department of motor vehicles, and any officer, employee, or contractor thereof, shall not knowingly disclose or otherwise make available to any person or entity: personal information …
and then, in a list of 14 exemptions,
4. For use in connection with any civil, criminal, administrative, or arbitral proceeding in any Federal, State, or local court or agency or before any self-regulatory body, including the service of process, investigation in anticipation of litigation, and the execution or enforcement of judgments and orders, or pursuant to an order of a Federal, State, or local court.
12. For bulk distribution for surveys, marketing or solicitations if the State has obtained the express consent of the person to whom such personal information pertains.
Does this give a legal team preparing a class action civil lawsuit the right to collect personal information from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)? (more…)
How far can police go in obtaining evidence without permission? There are some instances (called “exigent circumstances”) in which the law holds that Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the need for a search warrant, are commonly suspended. The limits of this idea will be tested in the Supreme Court today.
The case of Missouri v. McNeely asks whether a law enforcement officer may obtain a nonconsensual and warrantless blood sample from someone suspected of driving while intoxicated, under the argument that waiting the time needed to obtain a warrant would allow “the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream.” This, argues the State of Missouri, provides “exigent circumstances” which permit the State to override the driver’s Fourth Amendment rights. (more…)
The Supreme Court is scheduled to read its last decisions of the 2011–2012 term today, starting at 10:00 am EDT. That means that sometime this morning, the world will finally have an answer on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or “Obamacare”).
If you want to participate in the liveblog at SCOTUSblog, use this link. Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog has an excellent rundown of the arguments “in Plain English”.
Shortly after the decision is announced, we will post up an article outlining the key points in the decision. Any comments made here will be transferred to the new article, so if you want to start an argument now, or lay down a marker on the anticipated outcome, do that here.
Update 10:13 am: It looks like the PPACA was upheld in its entirety, by a 5–4 vote (Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas dissenting), with some limitations on Medicaid funding to states. Michael is working on the full article that will replace this one. Stay tuned.
- Quick Poll: What will Supreme Court Rule? (chilmarkresearch.com)
- Cloud looms over Obamacare decision (wnd.com)
- This Week’s Court Action is Just a Preview (leavenfortheloaf.com)
The Big Decision isn’t until tomorrow, but the Supreme Court has had a busy and productive session, with a plethora of cases that will have significant impact in the coming years.
One of the cases I previewed, Knox v. Service Employees International Union, will affect the ability of unions to involve themselves in the democratic process in America. If corporations are people, because people own corporations and get dividends from them, then surely unions are people, since the point of unions is to represent the interests of their members. That being the case, if corporations can provide unlimited funding for campaign contributions, under the assumption that they represent the interests of their shareholders, it seems reasonable for unions to do so as well. Or does it? (more…)