Archive for the ‘Supreme Court’ Category

Richard_Posner_at_Harvard_University

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

I can still remember the first time I voted in a National election.  I was a young, 18-year-old student and I could finally have a say in who was going to run the country.  It was a proud day for me and the countless other 18 year olds who were also voting for the first time.  I can honestly say that I have not missed voting in any election since.  That includes both primary and general elections.  There wasn’t always a lot to vote for in some of those primaries over the years, but I consider voting a duty, so I made sure that I made it to the polls.

It hasn’t always been easy for all citizens to cast their vote.  Even in my lifetime, the Jim Crow laws of the South made it difficult, at best for African-Americans citizens to register and to cast their ballots.  After years of protests and legal battles, I thought the Jim Crow style of voter suppression was a thing of the past.  It turns out I was wrong.  Very wrong. (more…)

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By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor

“The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.”

-Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97, 104 (1968)

“This commission chooses to stand by the tradition of opening its meetings in a manner acknowledging the beliefs of a large segment of its constituents.”

-Brevard County (Florida) Commission Chair Mary Bolin Lewis (August 15, 2014)

On August 19th the County Commission in Brevard County, Florida voted unanimously to reject a request by the Central Florida Freethought Community, an organization of atheists, agnostics, humanists and free-thinkers, to be added to a rotating list of groups invited to give the opening invocation at commission meetings. Instead, the commission approved a letter drafted by the county attorney offering the group three minutes to speak during the public comment portion of its meetings. According to the letter, the rejection was appropriate because, “The prayer is delivered during the ceremonial portion of the county’s meeting, and typically invokes guidance for the County Commission from the highest spiritual authority, a higher authority which a substantial body of Brevard constituents believe to exist.”

The Brevard County decision comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. ______ , 134 S.Ct. 1811 (2014), a case that more than anything else illustrates that the current state of Establishment Clause jurisprudence is, to put it bluntly, a mess. (more…)

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220px-Richard_NixonPresident_Barack_ObamaThis month, Washington seems caught in some strange time loop. The President allegedly fighting off an attempt to remove him while Members of Congress are denouncing his “Imperial Presidency” and contempt for constitutional law. It must be enough to give Bob Woodword and Carl Bernstein vertigo.
As one of the legal experts who testified during the Clinton Impeachment and lead defense counsel in the last judicial impeachment trial in the Senate, I have been struck by the replication of a number of misconceptions surrounding impeachment. That led to Sunday’s column on certain myths regarding impeachment. According to a CNN/ORC poll last week, some 33 percent of Americans think the president should be impeached. Over a majority now disapprove of his conduct in office according to other polls. However, that is not enough for impeachment. As many of you know, I am highly troubled about the actions taken by President Obama in violation of the Separation of Powers. I testified (here and here and here) and wrote a column on President Obama’s increasing circumvention of Congress in negating or suspending U.S. laws. I ran another column recently listing such incidents of executive over-reach. Some like the violations of the power of the purse in the shifting of hundreds of millions of dollars raise extremely serious challenges to our system. However, I do not believe that these violations have yet reached the point of impeachable offenses. Ideally, a federal court will review some of these violations and show that the system can work in the maintenance of the lines of separation though the Administration is clearly going to fight hard to block any review of the merits by any federal court. That is where such matters should, in my view, be heard and resolved. In the meantime, the President’s threat to continue to act unilaterally is playing a dangerous game of chicken in our system and, if he goes too far in an act defying clear congressional or judicial authority, he could cross over from interpretive disagreements into impeachable offenses. Yet, the current array of conflicts have divided lower judges on the merits. Such interpretive disagreements are not the thing that impeachments are made off. Having said that, one should not take the lack of impeachable offenses to take away from what some of us view as very serious violations by this President — a usurpation of authority that all citizens should denounce in the interests of our constitutional system. (more…)

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

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HobbyLobbySubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Back in March of this year—during oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case—Sahil Kapur (Talking Points Memo) said he thought that the conservative Supreme Court Justices “appeared broadly ready to rule against the birth control mandate under Obamacare.” He added that “their line of questioning indicated they may have a majority to do it.” Kapur reported that Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Alito “expressed no sympathy for the regulation while appearing concerned for the Christian business owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood who said the contraceptive mandate violates their religious liberty and fails strict scrutiny standards under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).”

During oral arguments, Justice Scalia said, “You’re talking about, what, three or four birth controls, not all of them, just those that are abortifacient. That’s not terribly expensive stuff, is it?”

There are a couple of things I think Justice Scalia should know. First, the four contraceptive methods that Hobby Lobby objected to paying for—Plan B, Ella, and two intrauterine devices—are not abortifacients. They do not prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus—which the owners of Hobby Lobby consider to be abortion. Instead—according to the Food and Drug Administration—the four contraceptive methods in question prevent fertilization of an egg. Second, the cost of intrauterine devices can be quite considerable—especially to a woman working for minimum wage or for a company like Hobby Lobby.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

We have heard the phrase for quite some time now.  “Corporations are people”.  It sounds so simple, but what does it mean in practice?  The corporate structure is designed to protect individual shareholder assets from creditors of the corporation.  If you maintain your corporate structure requirements and corporate book, the individual’s assets cannot be attached or claimed by a creditor of the corporation.

Corporations are also afforded special tax breaks and tax rates that individual persons cannot take advantage of.  How has the Hobby Lobby decision altered or not altered the corporate veil protection provided to corporations?  (more…)

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President_Barack_ObamaBelow is my column yesterday in the Sunday New York Daily News on the unfolding controversy over President Obama’s unilateral actions to circumvent Congress. The pledge of the President to “go it alone” has already resulted in court losses for the Administration and a growing separation of powers crisis. I testified (here and here and here) and wrote a column on President Obama’s increasing circumvention of Congress in negating or suspending U.S. laws. I ran another column recently listing such incidents of executive over-reach that ideally would have included this potentially huge commitment under Obama’s claimed discretionary authority. I happen to believe that the President is right in many of these areas but that does not excuse the means that he is using to achieve these goals.

(more…)

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