Posts Tagged ‘SCOTUS’
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…
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.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will become the first Supreme Court member to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony Saturday when she officiates at the Washington wedding of Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser.
The gala wedding of Kaiser and economist John Roberts at the performing arts center brings together the nation’s highest court and the capital’s high society and will mark a new milepost in the recognition of same-sex unions.
Such marriages were virtually unheard of a little more than a decade ago but now are legal in the nation’s capital, 13 states and in all or part of 17 other countries. After victories at the Supreme Court earlier this summer, a wave of litigation is challenging bans on same-sex marriages in states where they remain prohibited.
During a recent interview, Ginsburg seemed excited about being the first member of the court to conduct such a ceremony and said it was only a logical next step.
“I think it will be one more statement that people who love each other and want to live together should be able to enjoy the blessings and the strife in the marriage relationship,” Ginsburg said…
Earlier this summer, Ginsburg was in the majority in a pair of major gay rights victories at the Supreme Court. The court said the federal government may not refuse to recognize legally married gay couples and reinstated a lower-court ruling that found California’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional…
It is not uncommon for Supreme Court justices to officiate at weddings, most often for former law clerks or close friends or relatives. Ginsburg tied the knot for her son, for instance. Justice Clarence Thomas performed a ceremony for radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Bravo. The triumph of love continues to march across these sometimes United States.
In a breakthrough legal victory, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. In a 5-4 ruling, the court majority said the anti-gay law is discriminatory: “DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty.”
The decision was written by Justice Kennedy, who was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan…
First Update: The full ruling is online here (pdf)…
Second Update: From the ruling: DOMA is “unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
Third Update: Pete Williams’ initial read suggests this ruling is “broad” enough that marriage-equality proponents “to attack laws in other states.”
Fourth Update: Some of the reach of the ruling will depend on a deeper analysis of the decision itself, but keep in mind that the end of DOMA will have significant consequences. The Defense Department, for example, ended DADT, but could not apply equal benefits to gay servicemembers because of this law. Now that it’s been struck down, it’s no longer an issue.
Fifth Update: It’s worth clarifying that the DOMA ruling does not extend marriage equality to all 50 states, but rather, as Amy Howe explained on Scotusblog, that “same-sex couples who are legally married will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law– with regard to, for example, income taxes and Social Security benefits.”
Sixth Update: The other major Supreme Court case on gay rights was a challenge to California’s Prop 8. In this case, Chief Justice John Roberts and the court majority punted on procedural grounds, saying the defendants lacked the standing needed to defend the case in court. The full ruling is online here (pdf).
I’ve editorialized elsewhere about the number of times I still get to say, OVERDUE. Our Supreme Court is still essentially a Republican Supreme Court – often dominated by the inherent racism, class loyalty and bigotry of corporate America, tempered slightly by one or another of these four cowards worrying more about what history books will say about him than his buddies at the country club.
The decision is overdue and welcome. Civil rights for all Americans is a vision held by some of the framers of our Constitution who paid the groundwork during our fight to free ourselves from colonial England. Let us all celebrate.
Police may take DNA samples from people arrested in connection with serious crimes, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a 5-to-4 decision.
The federal government and 28 states authorize the practice, and law enforcement officials say it is a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes. But the court said the testing was justified by a different reason: to identify the suspect in custody.
“When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority, “taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
Justice Antonin Scalia summarized his dissent from the bench…“Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,” Justice Scalia said from the bench…
There’s a bit more blah, blah, blah from Scalia. He voices the paranoia already part of the DNA of jerkwater populists who can’t get their brains around the United States as a union, a whole nation, instead of a confederacy.
Monday’s ruling, Maryland v. King, No. 12-207, arose from the collection of DNA in 2009 from Alonzo Jay King Jr. after his arrest on assault charges in Wicomico County, Md. His DNA profile, obtained by swabbing his cheek, matched evidence from a 2003 rape case, and he was convicted of that crime…
Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that the “quick and painless” swabbing procedure was a search under the Fourth Amendment, meaning it had to be justified as reasonable under the circumstances. The search was reasonable, he said, given “the need for law enforcement officers in a safe and accurate way to process and identify the persons and possessions they must take into custody.”
Such identification, he said, “is no different than matching an arrestee’s face to a wanted poster of a previously unidentified suspect; or matching tattoos to known gang members to reveal a criminal affiliation; or matching the arrestee’s fingerprints to those recovered from a crime scene.”
An inevitable follow-on to this decision will be appeals and modifications to the law in the same vein as other nations ahead of the United States in considering and utilizing modern technology.
The UK high courts have ruled that DNA samples gathered as part of an arrest must be destroyed, the results expunged if the suspect is found not guilty of any offense at the time.
Biology has returned to the nation’s highest court. It’s not Darwin’s theory of evolution on the docket this time, but the nature of sex. Defenders of Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage, base their case on what they call the “objective biological fact” that procreation is an exclusively heterosexual process. Citing the 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone, they argue that marriage should be “founded in nature.”
Evolution or sexuality, the same religious conservatives bring their ignorance to court.
This invocation of nature echoes other voices. Last December, before Pope Benedict XVI resigned, he used his Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia to deplore what he called a “new philosophy of sexuality” that manipulates and denies nature. Roy S. Moore, re-elected last fall as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, once let rip with less measured language, exclaiming in a child-custody case that homosexuality was “a crime against nature and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” Meanwhile, Tennessee legislators have repeatedly sought the prohibition of any sexual education “inconsistent with natural human reproduction.” None of this is, in fact, new: Oscar Wilde’s trials hinged on the courts’ understanding of natural love and unnatural vice.
References to biology coat these arguments with a gloss of scientific rigor. But before we write nature into law, let’s take a stroll outside the Supreme Court’s chambers and check those biological facts. Descending the steps of the court, we enter Washington’s planted landscape, a formal park where nature stands alongside patriotic monuments and federal buildings. There is no shortage of counsel about biology here.
The grandeur of the National Mall is rightly famous. Less well known are the hermaphroditic sex lives of many of its inhabitants. Japanese cherry trees break bud in explosions of pink; male and female coexist at the heart of each flower. The American elms that frame the Mall’s lawns present a more reserved countenance to the world. But their inconspicuous lime-green flowers are biologically bisexual. Ginkgo, another tree common in Washington, follows a Prop 8-approved sexual separation, growing as discrete males and females. But even the ginkgo will sometimes surprise horticulturalists with a stray flower of the other sex.
The nation’s most influential pediatrician’s group has endorsed gay marriage, saying a stable relationship between parents regardless of sexual orientation contributes to a child’s health and well-being.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ new policy…cites research showing that the parents’ sexual orientation has no effect on a child’s development. Kids fare just as well in gay or straight families when they are nurturing and financially and emotionally stable…
The academy believes that a two-parent marriage is best equipped to provide that kind of environment. Their policy says that if a child has two gay parents who choose to marry, “it is in the best interests of their children that legal and social institutions allow and support them to do so.”
The policy cites reports indicating that almost 2 million U.S. children are being raised by gay parents, many of them in states that don’t allow gays to marry.
The academy announced its position Thursday. Officials with the group said they wanted to make the academy’s views known before two gay marriage cases are considered by the U.S. Supreme Court next week…
The pediatricians’ stance is not surprising. They previously joined other national groups including the American Medical Association in supporting one of the Supreme Court cases, which contends the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The academy also previously supported adoption by gay parents.
The academy’s statement notes that several other national health groups have supported gay marriage. Those are the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the American College of Nursing.
Dr. Ben Siegel, a Boston pediatrician and chairman of an academy committee that developed the new policy, said its focus is on “nurturing children. We want what’s best for children.”
Not that it means much to folks whose hearts and minds haven’t left the Dark Ages, yet. Fact remains, most bigots are as anti-science as they are anti-human beings living with basic civil rights.
In oral arguments before the Supreme Court last week, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. introduced a statistical claim that he took to imply that an important provision of the Voting Rights Act has become outmoded.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which is being challenged by Shelby County, Ala., in the case before the court, requires that certain states, counties and townships with a history of racial discrimination get approval (or “pre-clearance”) from the Department of Justice before making changes to their voting laws. But Chief Justice Roberts said that Mississippi, which is covered by Section 5, has the best ratio of African-American to white turnout, while Massachusetts, which is not covered, has the worst, he said…
As much as it pleases me to see statistical data introduced in the Supreme Court, the act of citing statistical factoids is not the same thing as drawing sound inferences from them…
Like other polls, the Current Population Survey is subject to sampling error, a result of collecting data among a random subsample of the population rather than everyone in the state. In states like Massachusetts that have low African-American populations, the margin of error can be especially high: it was plus-or-minus 9.6 percentage points in estimating the black turnout rate in 2004, according to the Census Bureau. Even in Mississippi, which has a larger black population, the margin of error was 5.2 percentage points…
The debate might be more constructive if we return to the substantive questions that I posed earlier. First, are the voting rates in Massachusetts and Mississippi representative of a broader trend? If so, it seems wrong to suggest that Chief Justice Roberts misconstrued the data merely because he failed to mention the margin of error. But if Massachusetts and Mississippi are outliers, then the chief justice may be guilty…Cherry-picking the evidence…is the greater statistical sin, in my view, since it involves making misleading rather than merely imprecise claims.
The bigger potential flaw with Chief Justice Roberts’s argument is not with the statistics he cites but with the conclusion he draws from them…
…The fact that black turnout rates are now roughly as high in states covered by Section 5 might be taken as evidence that the Voting Rights Act has been effective. There were huge regional differences in black turnout rates in the early 1960s, before the Voting Rights Act was passed. (In the 1964 election, for example, nonwhite turnout was about 45 percent in the South, but close to 70 percent elsewhere in the country.) These differences have largely evaporated now.
How much of this is because of the Voting Rights Act, as opposed to other voter protections that have been adopted since that time, or other societal changes? And even if the Voting Rights Act has been important in facilitating the changes, how many of the gains might be lost if the Section 5 requirements were dropped now?…
Statistical analysis can inform the answers if applied thoughtfully. But statistics can obscure the truth when they become divorced from the historical, legal and logical context of a case.
Roberts proved to the world that opportunism holds a higher priority in his pantheon of justice – in his testimony before Congress when he was being confirmed for office. Almost every decision since has reflected that opportunism, lack of forthcoming honesty. A few recent cases may illustrate qualms on his part – I hope.
Regardless, Nate Silver stands as the voice of expert testimony about statistics which the Republican Party learned to their recent dismay.
New York State’s $150-billion public pension fund has sued Qualcomm, seeking to force the chipmaker to reveal its political spending, according to the state comptroller.
The suit was filed late on Wednesday in Delaware Court of Chancery, after Qualcomm refused the request by the New York State Common Retirement Fund — a Qualcomm shareholder — to inspect records detailing the use of corporate resources for political activities, said state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees the fund.
“Without disclosure, there is no way to know whether corporate funds are being used in ways that go against shareholder interests,” DiNapoli, a Democrat who is up for re-election in 2014, said in a statement.
The suit opens a new front in the fight over corporate political spending, which has risen dramatically since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United.
That decision lifted restrictions on corporate political spending and led in part to an unprecedented $6 billion of spending on the recently held U.S. elections.
While other companies have agreed to increase their disclosure of political spending, Qualcomm has not…
Since at least August 2012, the pension fund has repeatedly attempted to get the information from Qualcomm, but the company has refused to divulge it, the suit claimed.
New York’s pension fund is “concerned that it cannot determine whether senior executives and directors of Qualcomm are spending corporate resources to support their favored political candidates” or on causes that aren’t focused on boosting shareholder value, the complaint said.
Other sources show that in 2012, Qualcomm spent more than $4.7 million on federal lobbying efforts, according to the complaint.
Delightful. Glad to see this approach/attack getting started.
Ever since the conservative flunkies on the Supreme Court decided “corporations are people, too” – and started the tsunami of corporate cash flowing into the coffers of SuperPACS – the American electorate has been stymied by Congressional hacks. This tactic is one that has been considered as having the potential to lift the veil of secrecy the same “justices” obediently handed over.
RTFA for the details.
The Supreme Court has seized center stage in a historic social policy debate over same-sex marriage by agreeing to review the validity under the Constitution of a federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
In an order, the court also announced that it would consider a challenge to California’s ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8, which voters narrowly approved in 2008.
Same-sex marriage is a hot-button issue in a country where 31 of the 50 states have passed constitutional amendments banning it while Washington, D.C., and nine states have legalized it, three of them on Election Day last month.
Yet even where it is legal, married same-sex couples do not qualify for a host of federal benefits because the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, passed by Congress, only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman.
Gays and lesbians married under state laws have filed suits challenging their denial of such benefits as Social Security survivor payments and the right to file joint federal tax returns. They argue the provision, known as Section 3, violates equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
The court could follow the model of some lower courts and rule narrowly…or it could demonstrate the courage of previous courts and come down on the side of equal civil rights for all Americans, recognize a right to marriage equality.
My concerns are obvious, the same experienced by any American confronting the political theater our legal system has become. There is no shortage of bigots and fools who would apply the heart of constitutional freedoms only to a limited number of citizens. Egalitarian law applied to all citizens doesn’t occur to many who base their beliefs on superstition instead of science, privilege instead of equal opportunity.
I have more confidence in the legal flunkies of the Right who sit on the Supreme Court bench being more concerned – for once – with their image and reputation in future legal histories than with bending to the sound and fury of their class. It would be even more pleasing to see them stand up for the spirit of our constitution.