Tuesday’s argument in City of Los Angeles v. Patel, a Fourth Amendment case, presents a particularly difficult example of a common Supreme Court question: should the Court rule narrowly on the case before it, or answer far broader questions? That question does not always have obvious ideological parameters (although the Fourth Amendment context may color the Justices’ views in this case), and Tuesday’s argument may be most interesting for the perspective it may provide on each Justice’s jurisprudential approach. Continue reading »
Seldom do the last five words spoken in a Supreme Court argument sum up, coincidentally, the whole hour of discussion, but that happened on Monday. An Ohio prosecutor, Matthew E. Meyer of Cleveland, commented just before sitting down at the end: “It’s just not the same.” He did not mean it this way, but it wrapped up the idea that the Court will look very differently at a case when it involves a three-and-a-half-year-old boy who had been physically abused. The evident anxiety over that lad’s plight dominated the hearing in Ohio v. Clark.
The Supreme Court strongly believes that states need wide authority to experiment with the ways they govern themselves, but the Justices found on Monday that this may run afoul of the Constitution, if that document is understood literally. What seemed like a majority shied away from the idea that the voters of a state could seize power away from their legislature, and lodge that authority elsewhere in government more pleasing to the people.
At issue in the case was the fate of a civic reform, adopted so far in only a few states, of giving a public body independent of partisan jockeying the role of drawing up election districts for choosing a state’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives. If that change shuts out the legislature, more or less entirely, that could be a constitutional problem, or so it appeared during the argument in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.
The transcript in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is here.
Arizona voters were fed up. After each census, states have to draw new boundaries to elect members of the House of Representatives in Washington. Until 2000, the state legislature took on this job, as it does in many other states. But voters weren’t happy with the results: in Arizona, as elsewhere, it was common for the political party that controlled the state legislature to use its power to its advantage in redistricting, by drawing districts to maximize the opportunities for its members to win election and to ensure that, once in office, those seats were safe. So in 2000, Arizona voters passed an amendment to the state constitution that would turn control of redistricting over to an independent commission. Three years ago, though, the state legislature filed a lawsuit in federal court, challenging the voters’ transfer of redistricting power to the commission. Let’s talk about today’s argument in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission in Plain English. Continue reading »
Oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the challenge to the availability of tax subsidies for individuals who purchase their health insurance on a marketplace created by the federal government, are now just two days away, and both coverage and commentary are pouring in. Lyle Denniston previewed the oral argument for this blog, with other coverage coming from David Gutman of the (West Virginia) Sunday Gazette-Mail, Commentary comes from Robert Barnes of The Washington Post, who focuses on the role of the Chief Justice, the editorial board of The New York Times, Todd Gaziano for The Blaze, Brianne Gorod in the Los Angeles Times, Ruth Marcus for The Washington Post, Jeremy Leaming at ACSblog, and Kenneth Jost at Jost on Justice. Continue reading »
At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hold oral argument on the latest legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, the new federal health-care law. The oral arguments in King v. Burwell will feature two high-profile lawyers, Michael A. Carvin of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Jones Day, for the challengers, and U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., defending the subsidy system designed to help millions of consumers afford health insurance. The hearing is scheduled for one hour, but it may be allowed to run longer, especially since no other cases are up for argument that day.
Five years ago, when Congress finished writing nearly a thousand pages that would become the new national health-care law, it was well aware that the finished product would be subject to strong challenges. The Affordable Care Act was passed in both houses with not one Republican lawmaker voting for it. The day after it passed, Republicans introduced a bill to repeal it. The House has since voted some sixty times for repeal.
Still, the law remains on the books, while controversy goes on, and the Supreme Court has now allowed itself back into the middle of the dispute, for the second time in three years.
On Monday the Court issued orders from its February 27 Conference. Two new cases were granted. On Tuesday the Court announced its decision in Direct Marketing v. Brohl. This is the second week of the February sitting.
At 11 a.m. Monday, the Supreme Court will hold one hour of oral argument to continue to explore the constitutional right of an accused person to confront at trial the witnesses for the prosecution. Arguing for the state in Ohio v. Clark will be Matthew E. Meyer of Cleveland, an assistant prosecuting attorney, with twenty minutes of time. Ilana Eisenstein, an assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General, will have ten minutes to speak for the federal government as an amicus supporting the state. The accused individual in the case will be represented by Stanford law professor Jeffrey L. Fisher, with thirty minutes of time.
For the past eleven years, the Supreme Court has been defining — one case at a case — how far the Sixth Amendment goes to protect a right of the accused person on trial to confront witnesses who will give evidence to support a guilty verdict. The process generally has expanded that right, by limiting the use of evidence coming from those who, for some reason, could not show up at the trial, when prosecutors want to use some of what those witnesses had said out of court.
Next week, the Court confronts the difficult question about what to do when the evidence at trial would be provided by school teachers and social workers who interviewed a three-and-a-half-year-old boy about alleged abuse, with the boy himself not appearing at the trial.