Archive for the ‘Supreme Court’ Category

Supreme Court Limits Police Searches

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

As reported in the Washington Post, the Supreme Court has ruled that police may not enter a couple’s home without a warrant if one of them objects.

The 5 to 3 decision sparked a sharp exchange among the justices. The majority portrayed the decision as striking a blow for privacy rights and gender equality; dissenters said it could undermine police efforts against domestic violence, the victims of which are often women.

The decision in Georgia v. Randolph upholds a ruling of the Georgia Supreme Court, but other courts have held that police may search without a warrant if only one party gives consent.

There was not much unity in the court on this decision. Stevens, Ginsberg, Kennedy, and Breyer joined in the opinion written by Souter, but Stevens and Breyer also filed concurring opinions. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Scalia. Scalia and Thomas also filed dissenting opinions.

Supreme Court to hear case on evidence from 911 tape

Friday, March 17th, 2006

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether 911 tapes can be admitted when the caller is unable or unwilling to testify according to a story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 

“It’s probably one of the most significant criminal cases to go before the U.S. Supreme Court in the last decade,” said King County [Washington] Deputy Prosecutor James Whisman. “If it goes against us, our modern practices for dealing with domestic violence prosecution will be in serious peril.”

[Defense] attorney, Jeffrey Fisher, said the case is crucial for people who are accused of crimes because a core constitutional right is at stake — one that helps make sure the person pointing the finger is being truthful. 

“The Sixth Amendment allows a defendant to confront his accuser,” Fisher said. “Cross-examination is the best mechanism under the law for sifting out the truth.”

Since when is it up to a witness whether or not to testify?  Isn’t that why courts have subpoena power?  See the article below by Zach Carter to understand why it’s wrong to use an “end justifies the means” approach to justice.  (more…)

Supreme Court Remands Abortion Case

Wednesday, January 18th, 2006

In a Washington Post story, William Branigan reports that the Supreme Court said the decision of a New Hampshire court, upheld by the First Circuit, went too far in striking down New Hampshire’s law requiring parental notification for abortions.

The opinion, written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, broke no new ground on abortion, an issue that figured prominently in Senate confirmation hearings last week for federal judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., who has been nominated to replace her. It was the first time that an abortion case had reached the Supreme Court since 2000, when O’Connor cast the deciding vote in striking down a Nebraska law that banned a type of late-term abortion.

“We do not revisit our abortion precedents today, but rather address a question of remedy,” O’Connor wrote in the opinion on Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England . Framing the issue as the “appropriate judicial response” if regulating access to abortion would be unconstitutional in medical emergencies, she said, “We hold that invalidating the statute entirely is not always necessary or justified, for lower courts may be able to render narrower declaratory and injunctive relief.”

In a unanimous decision, the Court sent the case back for a more “modest remedy,” which apparently the respondents agreed was possible.

Since the New Hampshire law’s constitutional problems are limited to “only a few” provisions, O’Connor said, “So long as they are faithful to legislative intent . . . the lower courts can issue a declaratory judgment and an injunction prohibiting the statute’s unconstitutional application.”

This may be Justice O’Connor’s last decision, as she has already resigned and is expected to be replaced soon by Alito. 

Supreme Court Upholds Oregon Assisted-Suicide Law

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

The Washington post reports that the Supreme Court refused to overturn Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide law.

In a 6-3 vote, the court ruled that then-U.S. attorney general John D. Ashcroft overstepped his authority in 2001 by trying to use a federal drug law to prosecute doctors who prescribed lethal overdoses under the Oregon Death With Dignity Act, the only law in the nation that allows physician-assisted suicide. The measure has been approved twice by Oregon voters and upheld by lower court rulings.

The case involved the Federal Controlled Substances Act and whether it allowed the Attorney General to prohibit Oregon doctors from prescribing regulated drugs for purposes of physician-assisted suicide.

Writing the opinion of the court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the federal law bars doctors from using prescriptions to engage in illicit drug dealing but that “the statute manifests no intent to regulate the practice of medicine generally.” Moreover, CSA relies on “a functioning medical profession regulated under the states’ police powers,” he wrote.

“In the face of the CSA’s silence on the practice of medicine generally and its recognition of state regulation of the medical profession, it is difficult to defend the Attorney General’s declaration that the statute impliedly criminalizes physician-assisted suicide,” Kennedy wrote.

Roberts and Thomas joined in a dissenting opinion authored by Scalia, and Thomas also wrote his own dissent.  Roberts did not submit a separate opinion.


Justices Won’t Hear Appeal on Evidence

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

The Associated Press reports that the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of purported mobster Leonard Pulello and let stand a Third Circuit ruling which reversed a lower court’s order for new trial.

After Pulello’s conviction, his lawyers discovered that the goverment had failed to turn over evidence that could help Pulello contradict several witnesses against him. 

But the Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed, saying prosecutors had given Pelullo and his lawyers numerous chances to review the documents. The appellate court also said Pelullo should’ve known what was in the records because they were his.

The case is Pelullo v. the United States, 05-244.

Alito appears headed for confirmation

Thursday, January 12th, 2006

According to an Associated Press Story, Samuel Alito is about to be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, with the only question being how much support he would get from Democrats.

Alito said nothing to undermine his solid support by the Senate’s majority Republicans during three days of aggressive questioning by Democrats who challenged his credibility, judicial philosophy and independence.

A vote could come as soon as next Tuesday.

Judiciary Committee senators will meet on Tuesday to begin debating the 55-year-old federal judge’s nomination. Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., wants a committee vote that day, though Democrats could delay it for a week.

Supreme Court Allows Transfer of Padilla

Wednesday, January 4th, 2006

The Supreme Court agreed to let the U.S. transfer Padilla to Miami to face criminal charges.  It granted the government’s application to transfer in a one page order, but said Padilla’s petition for cert would be considered “in due course.”  You can read the order here.

You can read the AP account in the Washington Post.


Roberts Gives Year End Report for Supreme Court

Monday, January 2nd, 2006

Chief Justice Roberts continues tradition of Supreme Court Year End Report.

I recognize that it is a bit presumptuous for me to issue this Report at this time, barely three months after taking the oath as Chief Justice. It remains for me very much a time for listening rather than speaking. But I do not intend to start the New Year by breaking with a 30-year-old tradition, and so will highlight in this Report issues that are pressing and apparent, even after only a few months on the job.

According to the report our Justice System remains strong.

We celebrated on September 24th the 250th anniversary of the birth of Chief Justice John Marshall. If Marshall were able to observe the work of the federal courts today, there doubtless would be much that would surprise him. But he would see in the work of the men and women who took the same judicial oath he did the same commitment to uphold the Constitution and to fulfill the Framers’ vision of a judicial branch with the strength and independence to say what the law is, without fear or favor. Marbury v. Madison (1803).

However, according to Judge Roberts, the independence of the Judiciary is threatened by the appropriations process of the federal budget. He specifically mentions two areas of concern.

During fiscal year 2005, the judiciary paid $926 million to GSA in rent, even though GSA’s actual cost for providing space to the judiciary was $426 million. The disparity between the judiciary’s rent and that of other government agencies, and between the cost to GSA of providing space and the amount charged to the judiciary, is unfair. The federal judiciary cannot continue to serve as a profit center for GSA.

The second area of concern is low salaries for federal judges.

A more direct threat to judicial independence is the failure to raise judges’ pay. If judges’ salaries are too low, judges effectively serve for a term dictated by their financial position rather than for life.

Who’s the Funniest Justice?

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

The NY Times has a story about the number of laughs each Justice on the Supreme Court gets.

Apparently Justice Scalia is the funniest Justice at the Supreme Court, but we’re not sure why. On the other hand, Justice Thomas, who frequently joins in opinions with Scalia, is not at all funny.

The simple notation “[laughter]” does not, moreover, distinguish between “a series of small chuckles” and “a joke that brought the house down.” Nor, Professor Wexler said, does it separate “the genuine laughter brought about by truly funny or clever humor and the anxious kind of laughter that arises when one feels nervous or uncomfortable or just plain scared for the nation’s future.”