Details on today’s opinions
on Jun 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm
This morning the Court announced four opinions in argued cases.
Justice Sotomayor announced the first opinion of the day, in Southern Union v. United States. By a vote of six to three, the Court reversed the decision of the First Circuit and remanded the case for further consideration. It held that the rule established in Apprendi v. New Jersey – in which the Court held that the Sixth Amendment’s jury-trial guarantee requires that any fact (other than the fact of a prior conviction) which increases the maximum punishment authorized for a particular crime be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt – applies to the imposition of criminal fines. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Kennedy and Alito.
Justice Alito announced the second opinion of the day, in Knox v. Service Employees International Union. By a vote of seven to two, the Court reversed the decision of the Ninth Circuit and remanded the case for further consideration. It held that the case is not moot; five members of the Court further held that the First Amendment does not allow a public-sector union to require objecting non-members to pay a special fee for the purposes of financing the union’s political and ideological activities. Justice Sotomayor filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Justice Ginsburg joined. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Kagan.
Justice Breyer announced the third opinion of the day, in the consolidated cases Dorsey v. United States and Hill v. United States. By a vote of five to four, the Court vacated the decision of the Seventh Circuit and remanded the cases for further consideration. It held that the more lenient mandatory minimum provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act – which reduced the disparity between sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses – apply to defendants who committed a crack cocaine crime before the Act went into effect but were sentenced after its effective date in 2010. Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, in which the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas and Alito joined.
Justice Kennedy announced the fourth and final opinion of the day, in Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. The Court unanimously vacated the decision of the Second Circuit and remanded the case for further consideration. It held that because the FCC failed to give Fox and ABC fair notice prior to the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent, the FCC’s standards as applied to these broadcasts were vague. The Court did not decide the constitutional challenges to the current FCC policy. Justice Ginsburg filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. (Sotomayor, J., recused.)