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Decisions: campaign finance limits nullified; five rulings overall

(NOTE: The next decision day will be Wednesday, the Supreme Court announced. Five decisions remain (see below). Presumably, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., will announce on Wednesday when the Term will end. The fact that he did not do so Monday indicates that there will be opinions on both Wednesday and at least one other day — Thursday, Friday or Monday.)

UPDATE 11:17 a.m.

The Supreme Court, in a splintered decision on Monday, struck down limits on campaign donations and campaign spending imposed by the state of Vermont. Justice Stephen G. Breyer announced that as the summary of the ruling in three consolidated cases. The vote was 6-3; the Court issued four opinions for the majority and two for the dissent The cases were Randall v. Sorrell (04-1528), Vermont Republican Commiitte v. Sorrell (04-1530) and Sorrell v. Randall (04-1697).

Dividing 5-4, the Court ruled that a state may constitutionally require the death penalty if mitigating and aggravating factors are in equal balance — a decision that upheld Kansas’ capital punishment scheme. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the lead opinion. (Kansas v. Marsh [04-1170].)

In another ruling written by Justice Thomas, the Court ruled that failure to submit a sentencing factor to a jury is not a “structural” error and thus will not always require reversal of a conviction. (Washington v. Recuenco05-83].)

In a fourth decision, the Court ruled 5-4 that federal law does not allow parents who win a case on the education of their disabled child to be re-paid the fees they spent on an educational expert to help make their case. (Arlington School District v. Murphy [05-18].) (Correction: the vote was 6-3.)

In the final ruling of the day, the Court decided that a conviction must be reversed if the accused was deprived, even if in error, of the defense lawyer of choice. Again, the vote was 5-4. (U.S. v. Gonzalez-Lopez [05-352].)

Here are the cases remaining to be decided:
04-1739 — Beard v. Banks (right of dangerous prison inmates to have access to newspapers, magazines and photographs)
04-10566 (and a companion case) — Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon (state court duty to obey World Court ruling on arrested foreign nationals’ access to a consular officer)
05-184 — Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (Supreme Court power to decide constitutionality of war-on-terrorism war crimes tribunals, and the merits of that constitutional question)
05-204 (and three companion cases) — League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry (validity of Texas congressional redistricting plan)
05-5966 — Clark v. Arizona (right to make an insanity defense to disprove criminal intent).