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The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police officers usually need a warrant before they can search an arrested suspect's cellphone.

The 9-0 opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts held the right of police to search an arrested suspect at the scene without a warrant does not extend in most circumstances to data held on a cellphone. Still, there are some emergency situations in which a warrantless search would be permitted, the court said.

Ruling on two cases from California and Massachusetts, the justices acknowledged both a right to privacy and a need to investigate crimes. But they came down squarely on the side of privacy rights.

Seeing someone with a cellphone is such a common thing today, that "the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy," Roberts wrote. "We cannot deny that our decision today will have an impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime...Privacy comes at a cost."

California's laws on teacher tenure, layoffs and dismissals deprive students of their constitutional right to an education, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.

The ruling is a serious defeat for teachers' unions that overturns several California laws that govern the way teachers are hired and fired. 

The 16-page decision (attached below) may set off a slew of legal fights in California and other states, where many education reform advocates are eager to change similar laws.

"There is ... no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms," Judge Rolf M. Treu wrote. "Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students.

"The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience."

Enforcement of the much awaited ruling in Vergara v. California will be delayed pending an appeal by the lawsuit's defendants, the state and California's two major teachers unions.

Michigan can't block the opening of an off-reservation Indian casino because of a tribe's sovereign immunity, the Supreme Court has ruled.

A divided Court ruled 5-4 that the state could not block the Bay Mills Indian Community's casino about 90 miles south of its reservation. Michigan and 16 other states had urged the Court to allow the casino to be shuttered.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the Court that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act only allows a state to bring lawsuits challenging casinos operating on Indian lands. But the Bay Mills casino was opened outside the tribe's reservation, Kagan said, placing it outside the law's coverage.

The 5-4 decision divided the Court, but not along traditional ideological lines.

Joining Justice Kagan was Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Justice Thomas wrote the dissent, joined by Justices Scalia, Ginsburg and Alito.

Kagan noted that Michigan officials have other options for dealing with the casino, such as bringing a lawsuit against individual tribal officials or even prosecuting tribal members under criminal laws.

Supreme Court Upholds Prayer at Town Meetings

The Supreme Court has upheld the long-standing tradition of offering prayers at the start of government meetings, even if those prayers are heavily Christian.

The Court ruled that the town of Greece, New York was free to open its monthly public meetings with a prayer. Two residents, one Jewish and one atheist, claimed that because the prayers were almost always Christian, the practice amounted to government endorsement of a single faith.

The 5-4 ruling (attached below) was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, with the court's conservatives agreeing and its liberals, led by Justice Elena Kagan, dissenting.

Kennedy wrote that "ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define."

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the town's practices could not be reconciled "with the First Amendment's promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government."

The Supreme Court last considered the issue of government prayer in 1983, ruling that the Nebraska legislature did not violate the Constitution by opening its sessions with a prayer from a Presbyterian minister.

Texas Gay Marriage Ban is Unconstitutional: Fed. Judge

A Texas law barring same-sex marriage has been struck down and ruled unconstitutional. But Judge Orlando Garcia's decision (attached below) doesn't mean gay marriages can be held in the Lone Star State.

In the latest ruling in the national fight for gay marriage, Judge Garcia placed a stay on the decision, anticipating an appeal by the state. While there is a preliminary injunction on the state's ban, the stay means the ban will remain in effect for now.

"Today's court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent," Garcia held. "Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution."

Is Snowboarding Protected by the Constitution?

Does a ski resort's ban on snowboarding violate the 14th Amendment?

A group of snowboarders believes so. They have sued the Alta Ski Lifts Company, which operates the Alta ski resort in Utah, for banning snowboarders and only allowing skiers on the slopes.

The snowboarders' lawsuit (attached below) claims Alta, which operates on federally owned land, violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

"Discrimination without any rational basis perpetuates inequality by creating, fostering, and encouraging skier-versus-snowboarder attitudes that are hostile and divisive," argues the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.

The lawsuit asks for Alta's snowboard ban to be lifted, and for skiers to be forced to share the mountain. Only a handful of ski resorts ban snowboarders, including Deer Valley in Utah and Mad River Glen in Vermont.

Texas Abortion Law is Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules

Key parts of Texas' new abortion law have been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. The stunning legal ruling (attached below) came Monday, a day before dozens of abortion clinics were set to halt operations.

U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel barred Texas from enforcing two key provisions of abortion restrictions contained in the controversial new law.

Judge Yeakel held that requiring abortion doctors to gain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital was unconstitutional. The provision "does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the state in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman's health."

Judge Yeakel also barred Texas from enforcing a provision regulating the dispensing of abortion-inducing drugs for "women for whom surgical abortion is, in the sound medical opinion of their treating physician, a significant health risk."

The judge did, however, allow other parts of the law to stand, including a requirement for one extra office visit.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry promptly announced that state officials will continue efforts to enact the abortion law.

"Today's decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life..." Perry said in a statement. "We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly-elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texans."

A California law that bans the sale of foie gras made from force-feeding birds has been upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The 2012 California foie gras law prohibits the sale of products made from the force-feeding of birds to enlarge their livers. Foie gras is a delicacy featuring the fatty liver of a force-fed goose or duck.

A three-judge panel held that the lawsuit filed by foie gras producers was unlikely to succeed on constitutional grounds. Legally speaking, the lawsuit is being consistently shot down by federal courts in California.

The plaintiffs appear undeterred and vow to continue the legal fight.

"This isn't like fireworks, nobody is being harmed by foie gras," Marcus Henley, operations manager of a New York farm, told The Associated Press. He also noted some California consumers continue to legally order foie gras online.

Jurors Don't Need to Speak English: New Mexico Supreme Court

Jurors in New Mexico are not required to know English, the state's highest court ruled in a decision that serves as a reminder that non-English speakers have a right to serve on juries.

The New Mexico Supreme Court reminded lawyers and judges the state constitution explicitly allows non-English speaking citizens to serve on juries. The reminder came via the attached ruling that refused to overturn a murder conviction over the dismissal of a juror with limited English skills.

Justice Charles Daniels cautioned (in the attached decision) that the right of non-English speaking citizens to be jurors was affirmed by the state constitution.

"Accordingly, while we affirm defendant's convictions, we stress to trial judges and lawyers that they have a shared responsibility to make every reasonable effort to protect the right of our non-English-speaking citizens to serve on New Mexico juries," Daniels wrote.

Some jurisdictions make English comprehension a requirement to serve as jurors. Missouri and Iowa state courts, plus New York federal courts, require jurors to be able to read, write and understand English to serve, The Wall Street Journal reports. But New Mexico has always allowed non-English speakers to serve as jurors.

Allow Prayer at Town Meetings, Obama Argues in Supreme Court Brief

The Obama administration is backing Christian prayers before government meetings in a brief filed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers for the administration and two groups of lawmakers from the House and Senate (nearly all Republicans) separately made that argument in Supreme Court briefs this week.

Town councils should be allowed to open their meetings with a Christian prayer, the administration argued in the attached amicus brief.

The question is a divisive one: Should the Supreme Court relax the constitutional limits on religious invocations at government meetings?

Last year, the 2nd Circuit ruled the town of Greece, N.Y. crossed the line and violated the 1st Amendment's ban on an "establishment of religion." For years, the town supervisor had invited a local minister to deliver an opening prayer at the council's monthly meeting.

Two residents, one Jewish and one an atheist, sued as only Christians had been invited to lead the prayers.

The Supreme Court decision may well lead to a major change in the law on religion that could go beyond prayers at council meetings.