Friday, July 4, 2014

Supreme Court, 2013-14 Term: Quick Recap (Part 1: civil rights and liberties)

The Court finished its term Monday. The decisions announced that morning, in the cases dealing with the contraceptive mandate and union dues, were the final two in a veritable whirlwind the past few weeks.

Out of the 70 or so decisions rendered this term, let's take a quick look at some of the most significant. "Quick" as in a very brief bare-bone recap of each. And "significant" as in cases involving issues of liberty and order, rights and responsibilities, equality and justice that are basic to a free society--the ones most of us are interested in, not just lawyers and businesses.

We'll do this quick recap in 2 parts, civil and criminal. Later, we'll look at these cases more closely. I.e., votes, meaning, impact, precedential ramifications, etc.
(We'll also be reviewing some of the significant decisions rendered by the New York Court of Appeals this year .)

Burwell v Hobby Lobby--Obamacare Contraceptive Mandate--[5-4] Closely held corporations whose owners have sincere religious objections to paying for insurance coverage for abortifacients are entitled to an exemption.
(My take--agree: Are we serious about religious liberty or not!)

Town of Greece v Galloway--Town Prayer--[5-4] Town Board officials do not violate the Non-Establishment of Religion by beginning meetings with sectarian prayers delivered by invited clergy.
(My take-- disagree: Government should stay out of religion.)

Harris v Quinn--Union Dues--[5-4] A state may not compel independent personal care providers to pay dues to a single private union designated by the state.
(My take--agree: Independent workers being forced by government to pay dues to a particular private organization with which they disagree?)

McCullen v Coakley--Abortion Protests--[9-0 / 5-4 on broader meaning] A law prohibiting any protesting or counseling within 30 feet of an abortion clinic violates free speech.
(My take--agree: It's fine to prohibit violence, harassment, or interference, but not pure expressive activity.)

Equal Protection
Schuette v Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action--Affirmative Action--[6-2 (Kagan recused)] Michigan law prohibiting racial preferences in colleges admissions does not violate constitutional equal protection.
(My take--disagree: A hateful law that has little to do with merit selection, banning consideration of racial minority or diversity but leaving countless other non-merit preferences untouched.)

Separation of Powers
National Labor Relations Board v Canning--Presidential Recess Appointments--[9-0 / 5-4 on broader meaning] The President may not exercise the recess appointment power while the Senate is in a pro forma session in which it at least has the ability to conduct business.
(My take--disagree: When the Senate declares a session purely to preclude recess appointments, but not for the purpose or intention of conducting any business, it is a fiction and not a session in any real sense.)

Next post: criminal cases.