Supreme Court

Warrantless GPS Tracking, Union Dues, and Fleeting Expletives: The Supreme Court Suits Up for Another Term

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The Supreme Court kicks off what promises to be a very interesting new term today. The biggest story at 1 First Street is of course last week's petition by the Department of Justice asking the Court to overturn the 11th Circuit's ruling against ObamaCare's individual mandate. But that's not the only case worth watching in the coming months. Here's a quick look at some of the most significant cases on the Court's docket:

• Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Does the "ministerial exception" to federal anti-discrimination law shield a parochial school from a workplace disability lawsuit filed by a discharged teacher?

Federal Communications Commission v. Fox. Is the FCC's policy against "fleeting expletives"—such as Bono's unscripted use of the word fucking during a live awards show speech—so vague as to create a chilling effect on free speech?

Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000. Do non-unionized state workers have a First Amendment right to decline to pay union dues or agency fees that will fund political or ideological activities by the union?

United States v. Jones. The police installed a GPS tracking device on a suspect's car without a warrant. Does this violate the Fourth Amendment?

Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA told Mike and Chantell Sackett to stop construction on their property or face over $30,000 in fines per day under the Clean Water Act. Do the Sacketts have a Due Process right to challenge this EPA finding in federal court or must they instead wait for the EPA to first seek judicial enforcement before they can make their case?

Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. Can you patent the process of observing the correlations between blood tests and patient health? (Go here to read the friend of the court brief submitted in this case by Reason Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.)

Perry v. New Hampshire. Does the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause require the courts to reject all eyewitness testimony made under suggestive or otherwise problematic circumstances, or must the courts only reject eyewitness testimony where the police were the cause of the problematic circumstances?

And just in case that isn't enough for you, keep an eye out as the legal battles over both gay marriage and Arizona's notorious anti-immigration law work their way towards the Court.

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46 responses to “Warrantless GPS Tracking, Union Dues, and Fleeting Expletives: The Supreme Court Suits Up for Another Term

  1. SCOTUS usually makes the correct rulings, especially regarding free speech issues.

    I predict a loss by the FCC v Fox.

    1. SCOTUS usually makes the correct rulings.

      They do, really? I guess I’ll have to take your word for it since I don’t follow all of their cases closely, but it seems to me like they screw up an awful lot.

      Even if they eventually end up ruling the way I hope they do on Obamacare (to throw it out), I still think that Anthony Kennedy has way too much power and way too little accountability for it.

      1. I don’t think they’ll ix-nay Obamacare myself, but that’s an issue I don’t follow as closely as the others.

      2. To the degree that the Supreme Court gets anything in a pro-libertarian direction, it tends to be pro-free speech.

      3. It isn’t the number of cases they may or may not get wrong, it’s the scope of the those cases (Gonzalez v Raich for instance or Buck v Bell).

        For every commerce clause case they fuck up, we get more Obamacare-like BS to deal with down the road.

  2. United States v. Jones. The police installed a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s car without a warrant. Does this violate the Fourth Amendment?

    The suspect installed a GPS tracking device on a police car without a warrant. Does this violate the Fourth Amendment?

    1. No, but we’re writing a law to make it a felony when you do it.

      The cops however, may continue.

    2. No, but we’re writing a law to make it a felony when you do it.

      The cops however, may continue.

  3. There was a ruling already a while back about unionized employees only having to pay the portion of dues dedicated to collective bargaining, the grievance process, etc. – not the portion (the majority of dues for many unions) that go to political activities.

    Shit – I should know this – it’s my business! Can’t think of the case. Anyway, a bit surprised it’s up for dicussion again – perhaps it’s a different angle on the issue.

    Hope they get the “right” answer on that one…as well as the others.

    1. It was the ‘Beck’ case. But that applied to unionized empls, not non-union (who sometimes have to pay dues anyway for fucked up reasons), so maybe that’s the difference.

    2. There is a difference between union dues which are for membership and the “voluntary” checkoff for the union’s political activity.

      Union dues are only supposed to be used by the union for its actual business, that is collective bargaining, organizing and strike support. Union members can deduct these dues as a cost of employment on their tax returns in the same way as professionals can deduct licensing fees and professional association memberships.

      The checkoff money can be used by the union for other purposes and is usually donated to union friendly politicians. So much money is raised that many observers believer that the prime reason for the existence of unions today is to be a major fundraising arm of the Democrats.

      The scare quotes around “voluntary” are there because while the checkoff is legally voluntary, good luck to your standing in the union if you decline to pay them. For example if you are in the building trades and rely on the hiring hall to get your work you’ll probably end up on the bottom of the list all the time.

    3. How about just forbid state unions from participating in politics, by promoting one candidate or criticizing another, and forbid them from lobbying?

  4. At least we know the Supremes can hit the ground running on PPACA. Kagan is already familiar with it.

  5. I have always thought that the value of eyewitness testimony was probably very high back when people lived in villages with the same group of people for their entire lives, but has very little value now.

    If Serf Heinrich said he saw Serf Friedrich (who was probably his cousin either by blood or by marriage about five times over) steal a cow, he probably saw Friedrich steal a cow.

    If Yuppie A says they saw Black Man X mug somebody (out of the corner of their eye running down the street in the dark while the victim screamed), I’m sorry but I call bullshit. People VASTLY overestimate their ability to remember pertinent details when those details are fleeting, particularly when under stress.

    1. “Perhaps this will refresh your memory!”

    2. The ancient jews thought eye-witness testimony was bullshit and they fit your same people theory.

      One eye-witness is not, by itself, enough evidence to overcome reasonable doubt. Two might be. Other evidence is really needed, IMO.

      1. They also generally thought that women shouldn’t be allowed to be witnesses, along with people who lent money at interest and gamblers.

    3. And this is part of the reason why the surveillance state has become so pervasive and will only continue to get worse, especially in the big metropolitan areas.

      It’s a lot harder to plausibly attack the credibility of a video camera than of a human witness.

    4. Is that what you think? Well if that’s what you think, I have something to tell you. Something which may shock and discredit you. And that thing is as follows. I’m not wearing a tie at all.

  6. My name is Alice and I remember everything.

  7. So if the S.C. gets over 9,000 petitions a year, or 1,000 per justice, then each justice would have to read at least three every day including weekends, if that is the process that is used to decide if the S.C. might take a particular petition — that one justice can be depended upon to alert the others to a worthwhile petition. It doesn’t sound like that is what happens.

    So the question is how are S.C. petitions picked? It sounds to me like the clerks are bribed to pick the petitions and if you don’t have the $ or access for a bribe, your petition won’t get picked for review.

    1. At least four justices have to agree to hear a case for it to be heard. They don’t even have to read all the petitions, although they conceivably could. Clerks probably alert justices to cases that might be of interest, but I doubt bribery is involved.

    2. First, you could have answered your own question, but you aren’t interested in an answer, you’re interested in forwarding an idiotic conspiracy/bribery theory. Just do that next time and stop insulting us.

      Second, judges trade in a different currency than money, that being “legacy”. They choose cases because they want the cases to matter historically, and thus, give their legacy some weight.

      Now shut up.

  8. Federal Communications Commission v. Fox. Is the FCC’s policy against “fleeting expletives”?such as Bono’s unscripted use of the word fucking during a live awards show speech?so vague as to create a chilling effect on free speech?

    I predict a loss for the FCC as well. Of course, the reasoning is gonna be on par with, “we squeezed the goat’s testicles and came back with a no.”

  9. Arizona SB1070 is not an “anti-immigration” law.

    It is an anti illegal immigration law.

    Big difference there, folks.

    1. Yes, I noted the wording also when I first read the article.

      And in the two versions of the wording lies the core of the problem: two sides who see the issue rather differently, and who are not likely to reconcile any time soon.

    2. As long as the path to legal immigration remains essentially-closed, then the difference is vanishingly small, folk.

      1. You exemplify his statement. How many legal immigrants are accepted every year? While it may not be the optimum number, or one with which you agree, but the number of legally admitted immigrants is quite large.

        As of 2006, the United States accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined.[1] Since the removal of ethnic quotas in immigration in 1965,[2] the number of first- generation immigrants living in the United States has quadrupled,[3] from 9.6 million in 1970 to about 38 million in 2007.[4] 1,046,539 persons were naturalized as U.S. citizens in 2008.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I…..ted_States

        1. But the of unrestricted visas per country is capped. If you are Joe Schmoe in Mexico (Juan Schmoe?), you have about a zero percent chance of getting such a visa unless you are rich, have an extreme talent (a brain surgeon or something), or are related to somebody already in the US. You don’t hear about illegal immigrants from, say, Belgium, since they never hit their yearly quota.

          1. Actually, there are, since the 1965 bill, no national quotas. Belgians and Mexicans are on the same list. And that list is so small that anyone who signs up on it today will not see their name come up for consideration for a visa any time between now and about 2025.

            The reason you don’t see any Belgian illegals is 1) not that many belgies want to come here and B) you wouldn’t notice the ones that are here because they speak English very well and they don’t have that swarthy complexion that the Mexicans have.

            If you were to check closely you would find that America is chock full of pale-skinned illegals from various Northern European countries plus Canada that never bother any of the nativists in the slightest.

    3. Except the case linked shows people getting arrested despite having legal visas because they look/sound different.

      1. Bull Squat! No one has yet been arrested under the Arizona law.

  10. Worst case scenario on ObamaCare, which also happens to be, IMO, the most likely outcome:

    5-4 decision upholding the mandate. Kagan, naturally, votes with the majority to uphold.

    This makes her vote the key vote for upholding the statute, since if she recused, the Court would have deadlocked at 4-4 and the lower court ruling striking ObamaCare would stand.

    This is the worst case not only because OCare is upheld, but because it was upheld as a result of a Justice violating judicial ethics. Expect that to do a lot of collateral damage to SCOTUS’s institutional integrity and reputation.

    1. Speaking of judicial ethics – I read something one day last week concerning that and Justice Clarence Thomas. Seems a number of Congressional Democrats want to investigate whether there was a breach of ethics by Thomas involving financial disclosure regarding his wife’s work with several companies. I’d suppose the Dems will pull every dirty trick they can think of to try and stack the court in their favor when the Obamacare mandate comes up for review next year. Wish I could remember where I saw the article; it was either on Yahoo or at Daily Caller.

      1. Seems a number of Congressional Democrats want to investigate whether there was a breach of ethics by Thomas involving financial disclosure regarding his wife’s work with several companies.

        Sounds racist, to me.

        1. I found the article – it was at The Huffington Post that I saw it. A search brings up hits at other sites as well.

      2. There are no judicial ethics in terms of the Supreme Court, at least not in terms of legal punishment. Other than impeachment, they can pretty much do whatever they want to, and impeachment is a political process, not a legal one.

  11. Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. Can you patent the process of observing the correlations between blood tests and patient health?

    Here we go again…

    1. Why don’t we just patent rational thought and be done with it?

  12. I never thought I’d be in the position of wishing good luck to Fox… but here we are.

    1. Ha! No kidding, man….

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