Tagged: SCOTUS

Atheist freed from Nigerian psychiatric hospital – because of doctor’s strike!

A Nigerian man detained in a hospital psychiatric ward because he did not believe in God has been freed.

Mubarak Bala was released because of a doctors’ strike which has seen many patients discharged, a charity said.

Mr Bala said he now wanted to reconcile with his family who committed him to the hospital in Kano where he says he was held against his will for 18 days.

But he said he wanted to leave the predominantly Muslim north of Nigeria after receiving death threats.

A humanist charity which took up his case said that Mr Bala, a chemical engineering graduate, was freed on Tuesday but news of his release was not made public until he was in a secure location.

“There are still deep concerns for Mubarak’s safety in a part of the country where accusations of ‘apostasy’ can be deadly,” the International Humanist and Ethical Union said…

In a statement released on Friday, Mr Bala said he was now staying with some of his family, had been assured of his safety and wanted to put things behind him “for the sake of reconciliation”…

He said he retracted “some derogatory remarks I have made online, out of anger”.

His lawyer, Muhammad Bello Shehu, told the BBC Hausa Service this did not refer to his faith but to remarks he had made about his father who he accused of being an Islamic leader who could not afford to have a non-Muslim in the family.

After the 29-year-old was admitted to a psychiatric ward at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, he sought help from friends via email and social media until his phone was confiscated, according to IHEU.

Mr Shehu said that no further legal action would be taken but that Mr Bala wanted another doctor to evaluate him to put it on the record that he was not suffering from a mental illness as the hospital has concluded.

Good thing we live in a modern country where there is separation of church and state.

Oh.

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SCOTUS rules coppers must get a warrant to search cellphones

Coppers snooping cellphones

In an emphatic defense of privacy in the digital age, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police generally may not search the cellphones of people they arrest without first getting search warrants.

Cellphones are unlike anything else police may find on someone they arrest, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. They are “not just another technological convenience,” he said, but ubiquitous, increasingly powerful computers that contain vast quantities of personal, sensitive information.

“With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life,” Roberts declared. So the message to police about what they should do before rummaging through a cellphone’s contents following an arrest is simple: “Get a warrant…”

The Obama administration and the state of California, defending cellphone searches, said the phones should have no greater protection from a search than anything else police find. But the defendants in the current cases, backed by civil libertarians, librarians and news media groups, argued that cellphones, especially smartphones, can store troves of sensitive personal information.

“By recognizing that the digital revolution has transformed our expectations of privacy, today’s decision is itself revolutionary and will help to protect the privacy rights of all Americans,” said American Civil Liberties Union legal director Steven Shapiro…

In the cases decided Wednesday, one defendant carried a smartphone, while the other carried an older flip phone. The police looked through both without first getting search warrants…

A ride on horseback and a flight to the moon both “are ways of getting from point A to point B, but little else justifies lumping them together,” Roberts said…

The decision will protect cellphones from warrantless searches going forward, but it may not be of much help to defendants in pending cases, or those whose convictions are final, said lawyer Gerry Morris…He said that courts could allow evidence to be used from police searches of cellphones that were done in “good faith” and relied on the law as it stood when the searches were conducted.

Still a two-fold victory. We’ve acquired the sort of protection many folks – from geeks to civil libertarians – agree we need in a digital age. Now, the task remains to take the modernized version of privacy and stick in the eye of paranoids ranging from the White House and Congress to the NSA.

SCOTUS won’t stop gay marriage in Oregon

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a conservative group’s move to halt same-sex marriages in Oregon in a brief order Wednesday.

The Oregon attorney general has refused to challenge a judge’s ruling in May that found the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. The National Organization for Marriage has been attempting to win standing to appeal.

In a filing Tuesday with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who handles emergency matters for Western states, NOM said that in Oregon a position decided by voters in a referendum was “invalidated at the behest and encouragement of its elected officials.” Oregon held the vote in 2004 after Multnomah County, which includes the city of Portland, issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Kennedy referred the matter to the entire court, which issued a one-sentence decision denying the group’s request.

“The application for stay presented to Justice [Anthony] Kennedy and by him referred to the Court is denied…” In case you wondered what that sentence was.

19th Century legal minds encounter 21st Century tech inside SCOTUS


Scalia thinks HBO is broadcast free-to-air like a local TV channel

One U.S. Supreme Court justice referred to Netflix as “Netflick.” Another seemed not to know that HBO is a cable channel. A third appeared to think most software coding could be tossed off in a mere weekend.

These and other apparent gaffes by the justices during oral arguments have became a source of bemused derision, as tech aficionados, legal experts and others have taken to social media, blogs, YouTube and other outlets to proclaim the justices black-robed techno-fogeys.

“Everyone who’s anyone inside that courtroom is most likely an incompetent Luddite,” Sarah Jeong, a 25-year-old Harvard Law School student, wrote on her personal blog following a recent Supreme Court argument dealing with a copyright dispute over TV online startup Aereo.

When it comes to cutting-edge technology, Jeong told Reuters: “Mom and Dad are the Supreme Court.”

Parker Higgins, a 26-year-old digital rights advocate who works at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, spliced together audio of the Aereo argument for comic effect and posted it on a sound cloud and at YouTube.

About a minute long, it’s a compilation of the justices’ references to “the cloud,” highlighting some misuse of terminology and uncertainty about how the technology works.

Sometimes it’s just amusing and sometimes it’s really troubling,” Higgins said…

The court, via spokeswoman Kathy Arberg, declined comment on the recent criticism…

RTFA for the anachronistic examples, funny enough, scary enough on their own. Reuters rolls on into a tag predictably riddled with sophistry. Assuring everyone that final decisions will be tidy.

I wish I was confident that tidy equates to useful.

SCOTUS hearing arguments in mobile phone search case



Analysts say the court’s ruling will have a very broad impact on US criminal justice, because as many as 12 million people are arrested every year and many of them carry mobile phones

The US Supreme Court is hearing arguments over whether police may search a suspect’s mobile phone without a warrant during an arrest.

The high court is weighing appeals by two people convicted based on evidence found on their phones.

The defendants argue their constitutional protections against unreasonable searches were violated.

But the government argues phones are no more shielded from searches than other articles police find during an arrest.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that during an arrest, police do not need a warrant to empty a suspect’s pockets and examine whatever they find in order to ensure officers’ safety and prevent the destruction of evidence…

Under the fourth amendment to the US constitution, police and other government officials generally need to obtain a warrant from a judge before they can conduct a search. A warrant requires evidence that a crime has been committed by the suspect.

Lawyers for David Riley and Brima Wurie argue that allowing police to search mobile phones during the initial arrest would radically broaden police powers, because many arrests occur for minor violations and never end in conviction.

They say a phone’s contents cannot be used as a weapon and that police could seize the phone without searching it to avoid the destruction of evidence.

The defendants are also backed by privacy advocates who say mobile phones, especially smartphones, contain enormous quantities of sensitive personal information that have no bearing on the arrest.

The worst possible argument – IMHO – is the concept advanced by the state of California and the department of Justice. They say a person who is arrested has a lower expectation of privacy. Therefore, it’s OK to actively diminish any rights to privacy we’re supposed to expect under our Constitution.

Sophistry 101, folks.

Citizenship denied legal immigrant because she is an atheist


Idiots abound

A legal immigrant living in California was denied U.S. citizenship after she identified herself as a “conscientious objector” who will not bear arms for the United States because of her religious beliefs, or lack thereof, in her application.

The application was rejected by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services on the grounds that Adriana Ramiez’s unwillingness to bear arms “is not based on religious training or belief…”

The American Humanist Association has taken up Ramirez’s cause and will represent her in the appeal…

The AHA is seeking that the decision immediately be reversed.

“There is no legal basis to deny a citizenship application because one’s ethical values are secular,” said AHA attorney Monica Miller. “The letter is meant to clarify the mistake being made by officials at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’s San Diego office so that the application process can move forward.”

The ignoranuses in Immigration are like a lot of bureaucrats who never thought of looking outside the cubicle of their tiny little minds to see if this has already been sorted out by another government agency.

Bill Morico sued United States Selective Service during the VietNam War and won status as a non-religious conscientious objector in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court – setting the operative precedent.

A helluva union organizer for Hospital Workers Local 1199 – I might add.

Supreme Court Justice’ online game teaches students about civics

iCivics

Researchers at Baylor University studied the effectiveness of iCivics, a free online website founded by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that teaches civics concepts using 19 educational games…

The study shows iCivics is an effective tool for teaching civics concepts to primary and middle school students, they wrote in The Journal of Social Studies Research.

More than 250 students in two school districts in Waco, Texas, played iCivics games for six weeks, twice a week for 30 minutes.

The students were tested before and after the study period, and completed journal entries on their experience.

Students’ scores on a test of civic knowledge significantly improved after playing iCivics for the sample as a whole,” Baylor curriculum and instruction Professor Karon LeCompte said.

While most of the students in the tested grade levels showed improvement in their civics education, younger students exhibited the biggest gains, the researchers said.

“Students in grades 5 and 8 showed improvement in test scores with eight-grade students scoring nearly five points higher on both,” co-researcher Brooke Blevins said. “Students in fourth grade showed a marked improvement of nearly 10 points, the highest out of all of the grades…”

“Teachers indicated that their students loved the games and learned without even realizing they were learning complex civics concepts,” Blevins said.

I’m not surprised in the least that young people appreciate participation and responsibility in government, building a society. That is still at the core of this noble experiment called the United States of America. Regardless of the lies perpetuated by Confederates and cowardly make-believe conservatives.

Rock on Judge O’Connor! Any chance you’ll come out with a special version 2.0 for meatheads like Justices Thomas and Scalia?

SCOTUS won’t review Arizona’s unconstitutional abortion law – DOA

The Supreme Court declined Monday to revive an Arizona law that prohibited most abortions after a pregnancy had reached 20 weeks.

The court, as is its custom, gave no reason for declining to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that the law was unconstitutional because it violated standards established by the justices 40 years ago in Roe v. Wade.

About a dozen other states have passed laws similar to Arizona’s, hoping they would provide a way to challenge the court’s ruling that abortion must be generally available to women before a fetus reaches viability, which is generally considered to be around 24 weeks. Pregnancies last about 40 weeks.

It is the third time this term that the court has decided not to review a lower court decision that struck down a restrictive state abortion law. The other two came from Oklahoma, where new rules would have practically eliminated drug-induced abortions and required what opponents said would be unnecessary ultrasound tests…

About the only critter dumber than a fundamentalist politician committed to the War on Women – is the equally committed voter who doesn’t mind wasting taxpayer dollars on defending patently unconstitutional laws restricting women’s reproductive rights. Guess they’d rather spend money on 18th Century bible beliefs instead of education for their kids.

Come to think of it – the last thing they want is educated children.

“The Supreme Court soundly declined to review the Ninth Circuit’s sound decision that Arizona’s abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing precedent,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “. . . But women should not be forced to run to court, year after year, in state after state, to protect their constitutional rights and access to critical health care…”

Not all of the state laws imposing the 20-week limit have been challenged, because the procedure is so uncommon, she said. But laws in Georgia and Idaho have been blocked.

Judge rules New Jersey must allow same-sex marriage

A New Jersey judge ruled on Friday that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry, finding that failing to do so deprives them of rights that are now guaranteed by the federal government following a ruling by the Supreme Court in June.

It is the first time a court has struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage as a direct result of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and it comes as Gov. Chris Christie continues to oppose allowing gay marriage in the state. His administration may appeal.

“The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts,” wrote the judge, Mary C. Jacobson of State Superior Court in Mercer County. “Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution.”

For instance, Judge Jacobson wrote, civil union partners who are federal employees living in the state are not eligible for benefits stipulated in the federal pension system.

Couples in civil unions also may not enjoy the same federal tax benefits as married couples or the protections of the Family Medical Leave Act, she wrote…

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FISA court contradicts SCOTUS on our rights — in secret of course

On Tuesday, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) declassified an opinion in which it explained why the government’s collection of records of all Americans’ phone calls is constitutional, and that if there is a problem with the program, it is a matter of political judgment, not constitutional law…

…The opinion does not even mention last year’s unanimous US supreme court decision on the fourth amendment and GPS tracking, a decision in which all three opinions include strong language that may render the NSA’s phone records collection program unconstitutional. No court that had been briefed by both sides would have ignored the grave constitutional issues raised by the three opinions of Justices Scalia, Sotomayor, and Alito in United States v Jones. And no opinion that fails to consider these should calm anyone down…

In Jones, the government attached a GPS device to a suspect’s car and tracked all the car’s movements for four weeks. The government argued that since the car was visible on public roads, and could have been tracked in the open by a police officer, no warrant was needed. Just like phone metadata, the car’s movements were not in private – they were on public roads. The lower court had already excluded evidence from when the car was parked in its private parking lot. All nine justices found the tracking unconstitutional, and each of the opinions offer strong reasons to reject the Fisa court’s interpretation of the fourth amendment with regards to phone metadata…

The most sophisticated opinion about how “big data” changes what courts must do to protect against state surveillance was authored by Sotomayor, who also provided the fifth vote for the court’s main opinion. Responding specifically to the claim that GPS tracking involved only non-private information from public travel, Sotomayor wrote that with today’s technology even observing these purely public movements “generates a precise, comprehensive record of a person’s public movements that reflect a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious and sexual associations”.

As though writing about the NSA program itself, Sotomayor continued…”Awareness that the government may be watching chills associational and expressive freedoms. And the government’s unrestrained power to assemble data that reveal private aspects of identity is susceptible to abuse…

…All the Jones opinions offer a very strong argument that the dramatically lower cost of pervasive, sustained surveillance of publicly observable data in bulk implicates the fourth amendment, and that whatever its statutory basis, this program may well violate that amendment. That the FISC opinion did not even mention Jones is as clear a sign as we have that without fundamental reform, Americans simply cannot rely on the Fisa court’s lopsided process to protect our rights.

Lawyers – especially constitutional lawyers – understand how a change in context, in all or part of a process, changes a precedent. For Obama to play “Let’s pretend” with protecting our constitutional rights is a puppet show designed to gloss over the fears of the clueless, prop up the backbone of politicians and pundits who only need the word “legal” in a lie to make it acceptable.

If Obama was only playing the opposition game when he opposed George W. Bush’s playing loose with our freedoms – then he’s just another opportunist hack. If his opposition was legit and, now, the arguments from the NSA/CIA/Pentagon-types have convinced him to accept this crap – then he’s lacking backbone as much as any ordinary Blue Dog Democrat. Either way – instead of providing leadership which BTW doesn’t burn money by the boatload in wasted hours and flunkyland snoop facilities – he’s settling in to the status quo and “change” means that’s what he does to get along with the thugs who really own this nation.