Supreme Court

SCOTUS Watch: Big Rulings on Executive Power, Police Power, and Obamacare Coming Soon


Credit: Librar of Congress

It's coming down to the wire at the U.S. Supreme Court. With less than three calendar weeks remaining before the justices depart for their summer break, 17 cases are still undecided. Among them are several of the term's biggest potential blockbusters, including major showdowns over executive power, police power, political speech, and the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Here's a rundown of the cases to watch as the Supreme Court's 2013-2014 term comes to a close.

National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning

The Constitution allows the president to make temporary appointments to fill vacant government offices when the Senate is in recess and is thus unavailable to provide the "advice and consent" mandated by the Constitution. Yet President Barack Obama flaunted that rule by making three "recess" appointments to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate was not—according to its own rules—in recess. In fact, the Senate was then holding pro forma sessions for the very purpose of preventing Obama from making any and all recess appointments. According to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which ruled against the Obama administration in January 2013, Obama's approach "would demolish the checks and balances inherent in the advice-and-consent requirement, giving the President free rein to appoint his desired nominees at any time he pleases, whether that time be a weekend, lunch, or even when the Senate is in session and he is merely displeased with its inaction. This cannot be the law." Judging by the recent oral argument, a majority of the Supreme Court may well agree with that assessment.

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 contains a provision commonly known as the contraceptive mandate. It requires most employers to cover birth control in their health care plans. Churches, however, are exempted from that requirement, and church-affiliated institutions, such as Catholic hospitals, are granted an accommodation. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a family-owned chain of arts and crafts retailers, says it also operates according to religious values, and should therefore not be forced to cover four methods of birth control that it deems tantamount to abortion. The Obama administration, by contrast, maintains that for-profit corporations should never be allowed to mount a free exercise challenge to a federal statute. During oral argument, however, that argument by the White House met with fierce resistance from the Court. "Take five Jewish or Muslim butchers," Justice Stephen Breyer told Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. "What you're saying to them is if they choose to work under the corporate form," they lose access to the Free Exercise Clause. "Looked at that way," Breyer continued, "I don't think it matters whether they call themselves a corporation or whether they call themselves individuals."

Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus

It's a criminal offense in the state of Ohio to make "false statements" about political candidates. Who gets to decide what counts as false? A state agency, that's who. And that agency is staffed with political appointees wielding the power to silence their political enemies. The Susan B. Anthony List, a conservative anti-abortion group, would like to challenge this law on constitutional grounds. But a lower court threw out the case, arguing that the group lacked standing to sue, despite the fact that Susan B. Anthony List had already been hauled before the Ohio Elections Commission and accused of violating the law, suffering what our legal system normally recognizes as a justiciable injury. During oral argument, a majority of the Court appeared ready to give the conservative group its day in court. "Don't you think," Justice Anthony Kennedy told Ohio State Solicitor Eric Murphy, "there's a serious First Amendment concern with a state law that requires you to come before a commission to justify what you are going to say and which gives the commission discovery power to find out who's involved in your association, what research you made, et cetera?"

Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie

The Fourth Amendment protects our "persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." There are, however, a few exceptions. For example, when the police place you under arrest, they don't need a warrant to search you for weapons or evidence. But what about the cellphone that you may be carrying in your pocket at that time? May the police also conduct a warrantless search of that phone, including the many private emails, messages, photos, videos, and GPS tracking data it undoubtedly contains? These two cases raise those very questions. According to the Obama administration, which has taken the side of aggressive law enforcement, "Although cell phones can contain a great deal of personal information, so can many other items that officers have long had authority to search, and the search of a cell phone is no more intrusive than other actions that the police may take once a person has been lawfully arrested." During oral argument, however, several justices appeared deeply troubled by the implications of that position. "Take an offense like failing to buckle up, even driving under the influence," observed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to California Solicitor General Edward Dumont. "It's your rule…that the cell phone is fair game no matter what the crime, no matter how relatively unimportant the crime." That, Ginsburg stressed, "opens the world to the police."

NEXT: Family of Man Shot by Cop Suing City for Hiring Him Despite Problems at Previous Job

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  1. Like McFly family 90 minutes into the movie, the Fourth Amendment has been erased.

    1. What’s the Fourth Amendment?

  2. Anyone wanna take bets on these rulings ultimately increasing the power of the state in new and creative ways?

    1. I’d put my money on “increasing”, not checking.

      Cause, clearly, the Constitution is there to enumerate the rights citizens have. Anything not enumerated is a state power. As we say in the labor game, “To list is to limit!” And, lately, the Supremes seem to agree with that. PENALTAX, BITCHEZ!!

      So…we’ll see how this turns out.

      1. Imagine how bad it would have been if Madison hadn’t gotten his way with the Bill of Rights.

        The funniest part of that is, at the time, most thought the Bill of Rights was unnecessary and redundant.

        1. Exactly. Mike Church (Mike Church Show, Sirius XM) has done a SHIT TON of scholarship about the writing of the Constitution. Everyone’s diaries and news accounts and on and on and on. The intellectual disagreements are astounding – the fact that anything got done is amazing. The fact the such small-minded retards have since fucked it all up is….a shame.

          1. Meh…the Articles of Confederation were better. It was the form of government that the colonists had when they defeated the mightiest empire on earth at that time.

  3. It’s coming down to the wire at the U.S. Supreme Court. With less than three calendar weeks remaining before the justices depart for their summer break…

    Hey, give these traitorous fucks a break, their respective staffs are probably at this moment very busy setting up $50k speaking engagements for these fucks.

  4. Canning is the one I’m watching. I know lawyers get paid a lot of money to torture the language in such a way that anything can mean anything, but how the hell you could possibly torture the recess clause into language that justifies the President making a recess appointment whenever he decides the Senate is in recess is beyond me.

    It’s not much of an argument to say that the power to make appointments to fill a vacancy that arises while the Senate is in recess means vacancies that *exist* while the Senate is in recess rather than simply ones that *come into existence* while the Senate is in recess so I don’t have much of a problem with that beyond the usual ‘give ’em an inch and they’ll take a mile’ argument.

    1. Wickard. ACA. Kelo.

      I could, of course, go on. I can totally see how they could “possibly torture the recess clause” to mean the opposite of what it means.

    2. Canning and Hobby Lobby seem like slam dunks to me. And if the administration has lost Breyer on that one, it’s a good sign, but no doubt the lefty statists on the Court will produce tortured reasoning to justify taking the side of big government.

  5. I’m hoping a rogue asteroid takes us out before they render any more tortured fucking decisions on an unsuspecting public.

    For teh childrunz.

  6. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 contains a provision commonly known as the contraceptive mandate.

    Sorry to nitpick, but I don’t think that’s quite true. The contraceptive mandate was a regulation issued by HHS under the PPACA act.

    1. …the PPACA.

  7. The Hobby Lobby case is far too big and complex to be covered by the minute amount of shit that I give. Government shouldn’t be involved in health insurance, employers shouldn’t be expected to be involved in health insurance, health insurance shouldn’t be expected to cover stuff that ain’t insurance, employees either shouldn’t work for employers whose morals they don’t agree with or shut the hell up. No matter how the court decides (unless it’s “severe beatings for everybody”) it’s going to be a stupid decision.

    The cell phone cases are scary in that the argument even got this far. Cops are allowed to search you incidental to an arrest only insofar as it’s for their safety – making sure you don’t have a weapon or some sort of contraband that might make it into the holding cell if they’re taking you in. There’s no way anything you’ve got on your cellphone or laptop or in a locked suitcase in the trunk of your car is going to be a problem. They can’t search it. If they come to your house to arrest you for unpaid parking tickets they can check the immediate area around you, they can’t bring a shovel and start digging around in your crawlspace. That’s a fishing expedition and so’s a cellphone search.

  8. Credit where credit is due — the court has a reputation of being rather behind the curve on technology, but Roberts had a very insightful question in Riley:

    CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: What if you have a device that doesn’t have the broad information that a smartphone has, but only a very limited, like a Fitbit that tells you how many steps you’ve taken, and the defendant says, I’ve been in my house all afternoon, and they want to check and see if he’s walked 4 miles. It’s not his whole life, which is a big part of your objection. Is that something they can look at?

    1. No, Justice Fuckhead.

      Cause it’s MINE. And whatever it says is irrelevant. “But you said you were walking. This shows zero miles! GOTCHA!” “I just put it on before you came in, dickface. Try again.”

      “You said you hadn’t been walking. This shows 7000 steps. GOTCHA!” “Yeah, I never reset it….and I just put it on before you got here, so….try again, dick face.”

      Fuck Roberts, fuck the cops. None of this has anything to do with the precedent of protecting “occifer safety”.

      “Secure in their persons and effects”. I know that’s a tough one to understand. But it means “including my Fitbit”, Roberts, you fucking retarded fuck.

      1. Calm down, man. Roberts was asking a question, not stating a position.

      2. Yeah, maybe without context it’s not clear, but I think he was helping make the point that it’s not just a “smartphone” exception when they draw the line. Seemed like he was on the right side — we’ll see when the ruling comes down.

  9. “What you’re saying to them is if they choose to work under the corporate form,” they lose access to the Free Exercise Clause. “Looked at that way,” Breyer continued, “I don’t think it matters whether they call themselves a corporation or whether they call themselves individuals.”

    Jesus Titty-Fucking Christ, did Breyer actually make a sensible analogy that “legal personhood” is not “natural personhood”? Will Progtards continue to not get it because “KORPRASHUNS IZ EVUL”? Only time will tell.

  10. I’d be more confident that SCOTUS is going to throw out the bogus recess appointments, if that didn’t also mean they were going to have to throw out everything the Board has done since then.

    The Recess Clause sez:

    The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

    A normal person reading this would think that a vacancy that “may happen during the Recess of the Senate” means a only a vacancy that arises, that comes into being, during the recess can be filled. Because that’s what “happens” means.

    Naturally, the Prez thinks it means “any recess that I couldn’t get filled because the Senate rejected my candidate” can be filled, possibly with the same candidate the Senate rejected, as soon as the Senate goes on recess.

    1. I’d be more confident that SCOTUS is going to throw out the bogus recess appointments, if that didn’t also mean they were going to have to throw out everything the Board has done since then.

      Meh, I’m sure they can come up with some ridiculous notion on why, even though the appointment was made illegally, every decision the board made can stand, because, well, because FYTW.

  11. What about Aero?

  12. Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with the punches.

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