Supreme Court Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court - The FindLaw U.S. Supreme Court Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Civil Rights Law Category

What a week! And we were worried that we'd be topic dry once the Supreme Court's summer session hit.

As is our usual Friday bit, we're going to do a roundup of Supreme Court-related headlines. This time, Utah is seeking a stay on "interim" marriages (same-sex couples married before the Supreme Court's grant of a stay), the Tenth Circuit rules against Oklahoma's ban, and Florida gets its first pro-gay marriage opinion.

And then there's California: foie gras and the death penalty.

She came, she saw, she got remanded. And now, she'll petition the Supreme Court for another grant of certiorari after the Fifth Circuit once again ruled against her.

Abigail Fisher didn't get into the University of Texas at Austin. Others, who were arguably less qualified, did under the university's "holistic" approach to admissions, which considers race as a positive, but not dispositive factor. She's now lost twice at the Fifth Circuit, so why might the Supreme Court be her best hope?

It's because a handful of justices are really are itching to end affirmative action.

Gay marriage is coming to the Supreme Court, sooner rather than later. And for the dozens of cases proceeding nationwide, expending resources to litigate on a state-by-state basis, the answer can't come soon enough.

How soon are we talking? Could it happen this year? And which state(s) will be the ones to get there? Utah will obviously be the first to file certiorari, as we noted last week, but will the court take the first case in the cert. pool?

Last week, the Supreme Court decided that closely-held corporations had religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), which were violated by the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act ("ACA"), in the much-publicized Hobby Lobby decision. In reaching that decision, the Court noted that filing a Form 700 accommodation "constitutes an alternative that achieves all of the Government's aims while providing greater respect for religious liberty."

Yet, days later, the same Court granted an emergency injunction of a non-profit Illinois college contesting the Form 700 accommodation, which according to them -- the solitary act of filling out a form -- violates their religious liberties.

All eyes have been on Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court's decision on the contraceptive mandate. But what about the other Supreme Court decision from the Court's final day, also authored by Justice Samuel Alito?

Is Harris v. Quinn a decision that we shouldn't be overlooking?

If we had told you that today's Obamacare birth control mandate would be a matter of statutory interpretation, and that five conservative justices would vote against the mandate in the name of corporations' religious rights, would that at all surprise you?

Today's decision was exactly that: closely held corporations have religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and therefore, can't be forced to provide birth control to their employees through Obamacare-mandated health coverage. The decision is based on the text of the statutes themselves, as well as the holding that there are less restrictive means for providing birth control: having someone else pay for it by extending the exception for religious nonprofits to closely held corporations with religious owners.

Huh?

This is a weird opinion. That's not to say that it is correct or incorrect: facing a balance between free speech rights of peaceful anti-abortion protestors and a woman's right to obtain reproductive health services, the Court sided with free speech unanimously, while five justices suggested that there might be other avenues for protecting those headed in to abortion clinics.

But just a few years ago, the Court upheld a buffer zone in Colorado, one which was barely mentioned in the McCullen opinion. Also, the opinion bends over backwards to hold that the statute is content-neutral, only to strike it down anyway under a lower standard of scrutiny as insufficiently tailored, all while Justice Scalia protested in concurrence.

Once, twice, three times unanimous. In a highly uncontroversial lot of opinions, the Supreme Court tackled a long list of tasks: limiting abstract software patents, clarifying that a public employee can't be fired over compelled testimony, and providing a reasonable means to challenge the motive behind the tax man's subpoenas.

We know -- it's not exactly the big, bad cases you were hoping for, but like all special snowflakes, these opinions will have an impact in the real world.

Now we're getting to the good stuff. Last week, we helped your insomnia by recapping the juice man's juiceless juice and incomprehensible cross-ideological splits -- not the sort of stuff that anyone but SCOTUS diehards can sit through without being rendered unconscious through boredom.

Fortunately, Monday has arrived, and with it, a questionable gun straw-purchaser holding, an opinion that will allow Ohio's terrible political speech restriction to be challenged, and maybe, just maybe, the collapse of a nation's economy thanks to SCOTUS and Wall Street vultures creditors.

Mondays aren't all bad. Sure, they mean traffic, a return to work, and a desperate need to run to Chotchkie's, but for Supreme Court junkies, at least while the Court is in session, Mondays can bring an orders list full of certiorari grants and denials, plus merits opinions.

We've got all of the above today, and better yet: it's mostly interesting. The Court has declined to address the reporter's shield or privilege in an appeal from a New York Times reporter and author, but will address the touchy matter of gerrymandering congressional districts. The Court also double-reversed the Federal Circuit again, and handed down an opinion in the housewife's revenge via chemical weapons case.