Supreme Court

5 Supreme Court Cases to Watch in June

The High Court prepares to rule on Obamacare, gay marriage, death penalty drugs, and more.



The Supreme Court's 2014-2015 term will soon reach its finale. By the end of June, when the justices depart for their summer break, the Court is expected to issue a series of blockbuster decisions, including rulings on gay marriage, death penalty drugs, and Obamacare. Here are five cases to watch as another momentous SCOTUS term reaches its peak.

Elonis v. United States

Anthony Elonis claims that he's "just an aspiring rapper" who likes to post violent lyrics and graphic first-person murder fantasies to Facebook. But after numerous Facebook postings in which Elonis wrote about killing his estranged wife, killing his boss, and killing others, including the FBI agent sent to investigate him, a federal jury found him guilty of transmitting "in interstate or foreign commerce any communications containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another." He was sentenced to 44 months in prison.

In Elonis v. United States the Supreme Court will decide whether those Facebook posts constituted a "true threat" of violence or whether they count as constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment.

Glossip v. Gross

The state of Oklahoma employs a three-drug protocol when carrying out the death penalty via lethal injection. The first drug is supposed to render the prisoner totally unconscious and insensate. The second drug is a paralytic. The third drug does the killing. But what if there is a lack of medical consensus about whether or not the first drug actually renders the prisoner unconscious and insensate? What if paralyzed prisoners sometimes suffer excruciating pain in the final minutes before death? Would that lack of medical certainty about the drug's effects violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against imposing cruel and unusual punishments?

Glossip v. Gross centers on such concerns. At issue is Oklahoma's use of the drug midazolam to render prisoners unconscious during execution. According to the petitioners, midazolam "is not approved or used as a standalone anesthetic during painful surgeries, because it is inherently incapable of reliably inducing and maintaining deep, comalike unconsciousness." The Supreme Court is tasked with determining whether or not the lower court got it wrong when it allowed Oklahoma to continue using this potentially unreliable drug.

Horne v. United States Department of Agriculture

The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment requires the government to pay just compensation when it takes private property for a public use. Yet according to a federal regulation designed to "stabilize" the raisin market, raisin farmers such as Marvin and Laura Horne are required to physically surrender a portion of their crop to federal officials each year without receiving just compensation in return. For example, in 2003-2004, the USDA demanded 30 percent of the annual raisin crop, which amounted to 89,000 tons. In return, the federal government paid nothing back to raisin farmers.

Do the USDA's actions violate the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment? The Supreme Court will decide in Horne v. USDA.

Obergefell v. Hodges

Do state legislatures have the lawful power to prohibit gay marriage? Or do state bans on gay marriage violate the 14th Amendment, which forbids the states from denying the equal protection of the laws to any person within their respective jurisdictions? In Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court confronts the possibility of legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

King v. Burwell

The question before the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell is whether the Obama administration illegally implemented the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) when the IRS allowed tax credits to issue to certain persons who bought health insurance on federally established health care exchanges. According to the text of the ACA, such tax credits should only issue in connection with purchases made via an "Exchange established by the State." According to the Obama administration, however, the phrase "established by the State" is actually a "term of art" that encompasses exchanges established by both the states and by the federal government. The legal challengers, by contrast, maintain that the statutory text is clear and that the health care law means what it says. Depending on how the Court sees it, the long-term survival of Obamacare could be at risk.

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  1. If the actions of the market are any indication, no one thinks that the subsidies will be overturned. No one is selling insurance stocks. In fact some are booming on merger rumors.

    1. Since Roberts rubber stamped Obamacare with his Penaltax, I think the actions of the market are logical.

  2. I can just imagine the holy hell that will be unleashed across the media if the Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage and against the federal exchanges on the same day.

    1. Me thinks it will be exactly the opposite. The gays lose and ObamaCare wins.

      1. Guys, guys, we’re probably going to lose on all fronts

  3. The question before the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell is whether the Obama administration illegally implemented the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)


  4. We await reprieve given by the Nazgul? Dark times are these.

  5. Obamacare could be at risk.

    Kill it. Kill it with fire.

    Wait, is that a legitimate threat of violence?

  6. According to the Obama administration, however, the phrase “established by the State” is actually a “term of art” that encompasses exchanges established by both the states and by the federal government.

    According to the Obama administration “I AM the LAW!”

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  9. buybuydandavis|5.31.15 @ 12:22PM|#

    According to the Obama administration, however, the phrase “established by the State” ….

    A few select sound bites from Abomination Care Architect Jonathan Gruber will answer that question unequivocally that the administration is lying again. The real question is how intellectually honest the 9 judges will be. Depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is. This is an easy case decision that judicial corruption can easily complicate.

    1. Anything Gruber said isn’t legally relevant. The Court will go by the text of the law, as badly drafted and convoluted as it is. They will most likely uphold the subsidy scheme as currently implemented, but if they don’t they will most likely throw the entire subsidy scheme out as unconstitutional as written, stay the decision to Oct 1, and dump the whole mess into the lap of Congress.

      1. Incorrect. First, as “intent” is part of this, the intent of those writing the bill is at least as relevant as the Congress that voted on it. Gruber put the “why” it’s worded that way in context, and demonstrates intent.

        And since it says “established by the State,” (capital S), that’s clear.

        Although it’s going to be 5-4 whichever way it breaks.

      2. Well……..congress certainly won’t fail us………

    2. Depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.

      I think ultimately this was the reason why they yanked Slick Willie’s law license for five years.

  10. I’m still waiting for that $4500 annual decrease to my family’s premiums. They have actually increased by $4600/yr.

    1. Clearly Obama’s statement was just a “drafting error.”

    2. Mine went from $3k/year to about $7.5k now. For noticeably shittier coverage in a far mor limited network.

    1. umm … you know a “court reporter” can also mean a journalist who covers court-related issues, right?

      1. Like Clark Kent?

  11. “Do the USDA’s actions [ In confiscating raisin crops without any compensation ] violate the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment? The Supreme Court will decide in Horne v. USDA.”

    The Supreme Court will not decide that question. Anyone with any knowledge of the Constitution and a marginal IQ already knows the answer. What the Supreme Court will decide is whether to come up with tortured logic to maintain the federal government’s long-standing control of the agriculture market. Because, as everyone should know, precedent is often more important than legality.

    1. Lets give the Justices their fair due. Not just anyone can prance around in a magic dress and day in, day out come up with a convoluted heap of bullshit to apologize for whatever inhuman evil the State has come up with. This is the court that has done their part to insure that the government can assassinate anyone for any reason including kids, can torture anyone for any reason including kids, that police can anally rape you as long as they mention the word drugs at some point, has deported more people in the last 10 years than have fled from Iraq and has imprisoned an entire generation of men for carrying guns and smoking pot.

      That takes balls – an utter and absolute lack of them, specifically. Also a congenital absence of a spine. And whatever portion of the brain is responsible for producing a conscience, empathy and morality – those are gone too. Thats got to be a chunk of brain the size of a fist. I mean, freaks like the SupremeCourt Justices dont just exist in nature. They have to be grown in vats and perfected through hours of intensive surgery to produce that perfect blend of subservience to authority, self-love and hatred for everything free & beautiful. So, really, give those fuckers a hand. Theyve earned it.

      1. Those raisin farmers want a free lunch – high prices for raisins without any restrictions on how many raisins all the farmers sell. If they win this case, they will be suing the government claiming the price of raisins is too low because the market is flooded with raisins and the government needs to buy the excess raisins to prop up the price and then destroy the raisins at taxpayer expense. Their logic will be that letting the market set the price instead of the USDA setting the price is an illegal taking of their profit.

        1. Riiiight. Because Horne represents all raisin farmers….

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  13. Elonis was just answered. Glossip seems like a highly technical question rather than a legal one. Home should end up in paying the farmes.

    Obergefell should rule that states can not deny the concept of marriage and the priveleges (and responsibilities) that come with it, but that states have every right to differentiate the title of marriage (between a man and a woman) and a civil union (between whatever other combo may exist). But that such differed titles must deny either group a material benefit, such as inheritance rights, etc.

    King v. Burwell, Jonathan Gruber already provided the “why” for the wording, ergo, it wasn’t a drafting error. Subsidies should absolutely be struck. Which will end the mandate.

    1. Glossip seems to be more about the question of whether an uncertain fate is cruel and unusual, than just being a technical question. It’s particularly strange that these chemicals were settled on for executions when other methods are known to be just as effective and are known to be nearly painless.

    2. Also, Horne “should” end up paying the farmers but I wouldn’t be surprised if the court rules that the farmers are being compensated to the tune of artificially inflated raisin prices, or some such claptrap. Maybe Roberts will just call it a 100% tax on excess raisin production…

  14. Horne and King are both so obvious that one has to wonder how they even made it this far. An unbiased reading of the fifth amendment and the PPACA legislation should render 9-0 decisions in favor of both plaintiffs. (Of course, this won’t happen because the justices are biased by decades of “precedent”).

    The other three at least have some amount of merit on either side.

  15. 44 months in prison for threats against an FBI agent on a Facebook page. What a load of crap. We have law enforcement across the country murdering unarmed people, and they don’t even get charged with a crime. I have even read about people getting as much as 20 years in prison for threats against government workers. You know the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the government in this case by a 9-0 vote. And that crook Roberts will right the majority opinion. In fact, this court always rules in favor of the government, and personal injury crooks.

    I suppose the personal injury lawyers will try to sue Facebook for not censoring the internet post to begin with. They are nothing but a bunch of ambulance chasing crooks. Personal injury lawyers cost our economy millions every year.

    Also, the court will again rewrite Obamacare to make it perfectly legal. We are stuck with expensive insurance for good. While government employees get free healthcare for life, including vision, and dental at our expense.

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