Nel's New Day

June 25, 2018

The Supremes Close to Finish Rulings

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 9:45 PM
Tags: ,

The U.S. Supreme Court has been very “cautious” in several of its June rulings—sending some back or refusing to hear other high-profile cases. Tired of cake, they turned down an Oregon Supreme Court ruling against bakery owners who had refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, and they sent another case, one in which a lower court ruled that a florist couldn’t refuse to provide flowers for a gay couple’s wedding because she opposed marriage equality, back to the lower court. The Washington state Supreme Court had written that public accommodation laws do more than guarantee access to goods and services:

“Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace. Were we to carve out a patchwork of exceptions for ostensibly justified discrimination, that purpose would be fatally undermined.”

One case that the high court refused to hear will kill a man because he is gay. Chief Justice John Roberts has piously written that the “law punishes people for what they do, not who they are.” Yet a South Dakota jury sentenced Charles Rhines to death because they thought he would enjoy prison with other men. A juror said that life in prison would mean “sending him where he wants to go.” Upset about this possibility, the jury sentenced Rhines to death rather than life in prison. Thus this man was sentenced for who he is, not for what he did.

Abbott v. Perez, a Texas case, gave the strongest statement today when the conservative majority overturned a lower court ruling that several districts are gerrymandered. Overturning the lower ruling leaves in place discrimination against Hispanic voters. Only one district, according to five justices, was racially gerrymandered. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote:

“The Court today goes out of its way to permit the State of Texas to use maps that he three-judge District Court unanimously found were adopted for the purpose of preserving the racial discrimination that tainted its previous maps. […]

“It means that, after years of litigation and undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas—despite constituting a majority of the population of the State—will continue to be underrepresented in the political process.”

As for North Carolina’s gerrymandering, the Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court to determine whether the plaintiffs have standing, the same way that it did to Wisconsin. The Court had never found a map so infected by politics that violated voters’ constitutional rights as it did in Wisconsin, but justices did not rule on the merits of the case. In North Carolina, GOP leaders open declared that they were drawing the map to elect Republicans, and they succeeded. With 53 percent GOP vote, 11 of 13 representatives are Republicans. The Supreme Court’s inaction in gerrymandering will leave maps intact until the 2020 election.

Supreme Court Rulings from Thursday, June 21:

Ohio v. American Express: The wealthy benefit from the conservative 5-4 decision that American Express can insist that merchants don’t encourage customers to use other cards. AmEx charges higher fees than Visa or Mastercard but promotes competition with rewards programs for affluent clients. In an unusual move, Stephen Breyer read his dissent from the bench, saying that the ruling can hurt competition in other areas. Stephanie Martz from the National Retail Federal described the ruling as “a blow to competition and transparency” because retailers cannot educate people about how the AmEx “swipe fees” increase the cost of merchandise. The Supreme Court’s ruling overturned the decision from the 2nd Circuit Court that stated that a lower court ruling for AmEx had concentrated on interests of merchants “while discounting the interests of cardholders.”

Many people fail to understand how the use and selection of credit cards influences income inequality because the wealthy pay less for the same object or service that working and middle-class people, who may pay ten percent of their payment for processing a payment. The charge is the same, but credit card fees are different. AmEx costs more for processing, but people pay the same fees no matter what cards they use. The only option merchants have now is to not accept AmEx cards. 

Wisconsin Central v. United States: Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion explained that stocks are not money. The Railroad Retirement Tax Act of 1937 requires private railroads and their employees to pay income tax on “compensation,” defined as “any form of money remuneration.” Thanks to the Supreme Court, people who receive these stocks are not required to pay taxes on them.

Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission: The decision that SEC administrative law judges are “officers of the United States,” requiring them to be appointed by the president and approved by the Senate, may bleed over into the argument about whether special investigator Robert Mueller is the same type of “officer” instead of an “inferior official.” To declare this position means that everything he has done—evidence, indictments, convictions, etc.—can be thrown out.

Pereira v. Sessions: This immigration case rules that a “notice to appear” must specify either the time or place for it to trigger a “stop-time” rule when continuous residence or continuous physical presence ends and that information must be received. Eight justices agreed that they did not need to follow an ambiguous statute; Justice Samuel Alito dissented, using the 1984 Chevron case that the court should accept any reasonable from an agency implementing the statute. Although the decision benefits Pereira and many other immigrants, it also gives the Supreme Court, growing in ideology, in charge of determining orders from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) if a future administration tries to overturn them.

South Dakota v. Wayfair: In a 5-4 vote, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy ruled in a mixed majority permitting states to require online retailers without a physical presence in the state to collect sales tax revenue for the states. The ruling, opposed by John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor overturns the 1992 decision in Quill v. North Dakota. Nineteen of the 20 largest online retailers already follow this practice although Wayfair, Overstock, and Newegg do not.

Major decisions Still Missing:

Janus v. AFSCME: Mark Janus doesn’t want pay anything to a union for the collective bargaining that benefits him. His free speech argument is that the fee directly influences government policies on salary, benefits, and pension. The Supreme Court has addressed this issue three separate times. In the first case,  the high court stated that the challengers weren’t government employees, and the second time was a 4-4 decision after Antonin Scalia’s death, pointing toward a ruling that unions that will have to pay for “takers” who want all the union benefits without paying for them.

NIFLA v. Becerra:  The question in this California case is whether Christian crisis-pregnancy centers, that are opposed to abortion and provide minimal services to women, are required to post disclaimers so that their clients will be aware that the services don’t provide medical help. CPCs argue that free speech allows them to keep this information from clients.

Trump v. Hawaii: Known as the travel ban—or Muslim ban—the limitation of travel to eight countries is argued on the basis that an executive order violates the Constitution’s establishment clause, barring government from preferential treatment for specific religions. Earlier cases have been decided with the use of DDT’s prejudicial tweets about Muslims that show he wants to keep people in one specific religion from coming into the United States.

The Oddest Dissent:

Carpenter v. United States: A majority vote of four liberal judges plus Chief Justice Roberts determined that police must get warrants to use cell phone records as a location device for suspects’ travel. Neil Gorsuch wrote about his interpretation of the Fourth Amendment being more “tied to the law” that the last half-century of Supreme Court opinions but finishes that he agrees with the government’s case because he wants to repeal and replace established law. New technology since the Founding Fathers has changed interpretations of “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The government’s argument was that no warrant was necessary because of no “actual physical invasion.” This argument was reversed in 1967 when Katz v. United States decided that warrants were necessary to listen in on a phone call. The Fourth Amendment was triggered by a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Richard Nixon’s judges gave police more authority without warrants, and Gorsuch’s dissent provides ridiculous results with the change in tests for this privacy. Yet he radically shifts to the “traditional approach” that permits privacy only if “a house, paper or effect was yours under the law.” If not, police don’t need a warrant. Gorsuch admits that his argument has no clarity but claims to know more than his colleagues. His “traditional approach” would allow law enforcement unlimited right to examine all technology—including telephone conversations and internet usage. His conclusions supposedly come from “positive law,” the argument that all these records are protected by state or federal law and not the Constitution. Gorsuch wants a Supreme Court decision to rewrite the Fourth Amendment.

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for the Roundup and analyses.

    Like

    Comment by Lee Lynch — June 26, 2018 @ 12:03 AM | Reply


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