Supreme Court

Here's What the Supreme Court Is Declining To Argue About Today

Dozens of cases rejected. Some had been watched more than others.


This morning, the Supreme Court declined to hear dozens of cases submitted for consideration. Here are three of note that people had been keeping an eye on:

Elane Photography v. Willock

The Supreme Court declined to get involved in this case about state-level antidiscrimination and public accommodation laws. I made note of the case details over at Reason's Hit and Run blog:

The case revolves around a photographer in New Mexico declining to provide services to a same-sex couple's wedding. The photographer's decision to refuse the couple caused her small business to run afoul of the state's anti-discrimination laws. The photographer did not support gay marriage and argued that forcing her to accept the couple as clients violated her First Amendment rights.

By refusing to hear the case, the court leaves intact the ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court that Elane Photography had violated the state's anti-discrimination laws for refusing to accommodate the couple. New Mexico has a broad definition of "public accommodation," including just about any establishment that offers goods and services to the public, not just places like hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues.

The refusal to consider the case may bolster efforts by some states to craft their own versions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would require the government to prove it had a compelling reason to force a person to act against his or her religious beliefs or suppress the right of a person to express his or her religious beliefs.

Klayman v. Obama

The Supreme Court declined to hear activist Larry Klayman's challenge against the National Security Agency's domestic data-gathering methods prior to a federal appeals court ruling. This doesn't mean they'll never hear it; the court simply refused to take up the case until it has been ruled upon by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. SCOTUSblog noted the court rarely takes up challenges early, but petitioners are permitted to try:

The petition's main argument is that the government's invasion of privacy of potentially 300 million Americans is such an important issue that a decision on its validity should not be delayed for the time it will take for lower courts to complete their review.   Judge Leon's decision conflicts directly with a later decision by a federal judge in New York City finding that the NSA program is legal, so the Supreme Court should move in now to resolve the dispute, Klayman contended.

The Court rarely agrees to take cases away from the normal review process through the federal appeals courts, and especially when there is not a final ruling in the lower courts.  The Court's rules, though, do allow a request to bring up a case so long as it is pending in an appeals court but not yet decided.

Iowa Right to Life Committee v. Tooker

Despite the plaintiff's name, this wasn't a case about abortion. Rather, Iowa Right to Life challenged the state's ban on donations directly to candidates from corporations. By declining to take the case, the Supreme Court showed it was not going to push its recent decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission any further. Reuters notes:

By opting not to hear the case, the court left intact an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from June 2013 that upheld the ban. By so doing, the court indicated it was unwilling for now to press ahead with further deregulation of campaign finance following the 5-4 ruling on Wednesday in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.

Iowa Right to Life Committee Inc, an anti-abortion group, challenged the ban, saying it violated the free speech and equal protection of the law provisions of the U.S. Constitution. The group sued after Iowa revised its laws in light of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the court said corporations and unions could make unlimited independent expenditures that are not coordinated with a campaign.

The Iowa law was changed to allow for independent expenditures by corporations and unions but the ban on direct contributions to candidates and committees by corporations was left intact. Unions can make such contributions.

Some organized groups appear to have more free speech than others in Iowa when it comes to campaign donations.

When all was said and done, the Supreme Court agreed to hear only one new case, Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, a dispute over when cases may be moved from state to federal courts.

Supreme Court junkies can read today's full list of orders here (pdf).