U.S. Supreme Court - The FindLaw U.S. Supreme Court Opinion Summaries Blog

June 2012 Archives

Justice Kennedy Wants You to Fight Lies with Truth

Justice Anthony Kennedy ended the 2011 Term not as a swing vote, but as a philosopher. In his last majority opinion of the term, Justice Kennedy explained that the Stolen Valor Act, as written, violates the First Amendment, and that public should fight liars with words, not laws.

"The remedy for speech that is false is speech that is true. This is the ordinary course in a free society. The response to the unreasoned is the rational; to the uninformed, the enlightened; to the straight-out lie, the simple truth," Kennedy wrote.

The Importance of a Backup Plan: SCOTUS Upholds Individual Mandate

Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act in a 5-4 decision. Chief Justice John Roberts, surprisingly, was the swing vote on the Court.

In March, when everyone began handicapping the Affordable Care Act arguments, the question was whether the Court would justify the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause.

But the Obama administration didn’t win this case on its argument that the individual mandate was permissible under the Commerce Clause. It didn’t win based on the Solicitor General Donald Verilli’s backup argument that healthcare coverage fell under the Necessary and Proper Clause.

Ultimately, the Court upheld Obamacare on a third argument: The individual mandate is a tax.

Game-Changers: Miller v. Ala. and the Term's Top 5 Criminal Issues

The Supreme Court decided Miller v. Alabama on Monday, holding that the Eighth Amendment prohibits a mandatory minimum sentence requiring life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders. While a judge can still sentence a juvenile to life without parole, the Court expects such sentences to be few and far between.

The case is the latest in a series of rulings that have relaxed the maximum penalties for juvenile offenders: In 2010, the Court ruled that juveniles convicted of non-homicide offenses couldn’t be sentenced to life without parole, and in 2005, the Court banned the death penalty for persons who were under 18 when they committed an otherwise-capital offense.

Yes, Montana: Citizens United Applies to You, Too

In addition to its ruling in Arizona v. United States, the Supreme Court issued its tenth summary reversal of the term yesterday in American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock.

The case was a showdown between the Montana Supreme Court and the Nine on the merits of the Court's 2010 Citizens United v. FEC ruling. Last December, the Montana Supreme Court held in a 5-2 decision that the state had a compelling interest in continuing to enforce its Corrupt Practices Act, a voter-approved measure that has limited corporate campaign expenditures since 1912.

S.B. 1070 Opinion: You Win Some, You Lose Some, Arizona

Two. Three. Four. And Five.

Those are the relevant numbers in Monday’s Supreme Court decision on the Arizona immigration law.

The Court rendered its decision exactly two months after hearing oral arguments on whether federal immigration policy preempts Arizona S.B. 1070. Monday, the Court struck three of four key sections of S.B. 1070, Huffington Post reports. There were five justices in the majority.

Court Decides Fair Sentencing, Burden of Proof, 1st Am. Cases

As the remaining days of the 2011 Term unofficially dwindle into the single digits, the Court is almost finished disposing of its caseload. After the four cases resolved on Thursday, only five cases remain. Those include the Stolen Valor Act challenge, the Arizona immigration appeal, and that little matter of the Affordable Care Act.

But instead of looking ahead to what we’re inevitably going to be discussing next week, it’s time to live in the now and focus on today’s Supreme Court opinions.

Is Williams a 'Wink and a Nod' to Bypass Confrontation Clause?

Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Illinois Supreme Court in a 5-4 Confrontation Clause decision. The case, Williams v. Illinois, raised the question of whether an expert witness could testify about DNA testing results performed by a non-testifying analyst. The Supreme Court concluded that such testimony didn’t violate the Confrontation Clause.

This was by no means a straightforward decision, notes The Atlantic. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy. Justice Thomas concurred in the judgment only, but not the reasoning. Justice Kagan filed a dissenting opinion, which Justices Scalia, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor joined.

The Nine released four more Supreme Court decisions on Monday, bringing the outstanding opinion total for the 2011 Term down to ten. The four decisions are: Williams v. Illinois, Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham, Salazar v. Ramah Navajo, and Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band v. Patchak.

We're going to discuss these opinions in greater detail in the coming days. For today, we're just going to cover the highlights of each opinion.

Orders in the Court: What Is and What Will Never Be

This week, we're wrapping up the orders in the Supreme Court with a look at a notable cases that were both granted and denied certiorari.

So who will be heading to First Street come Fall, and who will slink back home in disappointment? Read on and find out.

Sri Srinivasan and the Future of the Supreme Court

Let's speculate about the future of the Supreme Court together.

The New York Times reported last week that only 44 percent of Americans approve of the Court. Barring some kind of magic hat trick in the Affordable Care Act decision, that number is bound to decline.

Civil Servants Must Bring Draft Claims Before Merits Board

Federal courts do not have jurisdiction to hear lawsuits from fired civil servants who want to challenge the constitutionality of their firing.

The Supreme Court announced Monday in a 6-3 opinion that the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) precludes district court jurisdiction over civil servants' claims that they were fired for failing to sign up for the draft. The court reasoned that it is fairly discernible that Congress intended the CSRA's review scheme to provide the exclusive avenue to judicial review for covered employees challenging adverse employment actions, reports The Associated Press.

Orders in the Court: Habeas Corpus and Article III Standing

The big Supreme Court news today is a recent New York Times/CBS News poll showing that only 44 percent of Americans approve of the Nine. The Times notes that the Court's popularity may have slipped because people think that the Court's opinions, like Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, are influenced by personal or political views.

Perhaps a new batch of 2012 Term cases will spike the Court's approval rating. Here are three cases that we've been thinking about this week.

The Early Bird Gets ... No Refund in Indianapolis

The Supreme Court takes bureaucratic hassle into account when making tax refund decisions.

The Court ruled in a 6-3 decision on Monday that Indianapolis does not have to refund sewer project costs assessed to residents who ended up paying more than their neighbors due to a change in the City’s financing plans, because the City had a rational basis for distinguishing between property owners who had already paid their share of project costs and those who had not, reports The Washington Post.

The rational basis, in this case, is that it would be an expensive administrative nightmare to rectify the situation.

Secret Service Gets Qualified Immunity for Retaliatory Arrest

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Secret Service agents were entitled to qualified immunity for arresting a man who expressed his disdain for Bush-era war policies to Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Court, in a unanimous opinion, concluded that it was not clearly established that an arrest supported by probable cause could give rise to a First Amendment violation at the time the man was arrested.

Justice Stevens Snags Medal of Freedom, Criticizes Citizens United

Retired-Justice John Paul Stevens has had quite a week, between national honors and the national discourse.

Tuesday, President Obama awarded Justice Stevens the Medal of Freedom for his dedication to the Constitution. The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor in the country. During the ceremony, Obama praised Justice Stevens practical approach the law, reports The Wall Street Journal.