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Posts tagged: U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court ruling may affect Idaho death row inmate

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring states to look beyond intelligence scores in cases of mental disability to determine whether a death row inmate is eligible for execution could have ramifications for at least one Idaho prisoner, KTVB-TV reports. The justices ruled Tuesday that Florida and a handful of other states, including Idaho, cannot rely solely on an IQ score above 70 to bar an inmate from claiming mental disability. Gerald Pizzuto Jr. has been on Idaho's death row since 1986. He appealed, saying that his IQ was below 70, making it illegal for the state to execute him; Pizzuto's IQ was measured at 72 when he was 29. A score of 70 is widely accepted as a marker of mental disability, but medical professionals say people who score as high as 75 can be considered intellectually disabled because of the test's margin of error. “The ruling is of great constitutional and practical significance,” said Sacramento-based attorney Joan Fisher, Pizzuto's attorney.

KTVB reporter Jamie Grey has a full report here, and a follow-up here with comments from the Idaho Attorney General’s office.

What are your feelings about capital punishment?

Scalia: Supreme Court too activist

BOZEMAN – The U.S. Supreme Court is making decisions that should be left to Congress or the people, from wiretapping to “inventing” new classes of minorities, Justice Antonin Scalia said this week.

In an apparent reference to the court’s recent decisions on gay marriage and benefits for same-sex couples, Scalia said it is not the function of the courts to create exceptions outside the Constitution unless a majority of people agree with them.

“It’s not up to the courts to invent new minorities that get special protections,” Scalia said before more than 300 people in a hotel ballroom in Bozeman. It was a gathering sponsored by the Federalist Society, which he helped launch more than 30 years ago to fight the perception of liberal bias at the nation’s law schools. More here.

Do you agree or disagree with Justice Scalia that the Supreme Court is too activist?

Calif. Gay Marriage Gets Court OK

The Supreme Court has cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California’s gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban. The court’s 5-4 vote Wednesday leaves in place the initial trial court declaration that the ban is unconstitutional. California officials probably will rely on that ruling to allow the resumption of same-sex unions in about a month’s time. The high court itself said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states/Associated Press. More here. (AP photo: Michael Knaapen, left, and his husband John Becker, right, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington today)


Opinion On Supreme Court split

Ahead of major rulings on gay marriage and voting rights, Americans are split on whether they believe the Supreme Court is doing their job well. Among those surveyed in a CNN/ORC poll released Thursday, 48 percent said they approved of the Supreme Court's handling of its duties, while an equal 48 percent said they disapprove. Unsurprisingly, in light of last year's controversial decision to uphold President Obama's signature healthcare reform law, liberals (53 percent) and moderates (58 percent) are most likely to support the Court, while just 37 percent of conservatives say the same/Justin Sink, The Hill. More here.

Question: Do you believe the Supreme Court is doing its job well?

Kid Killers Could Get 2nd Chance

Felicia Reese (pictured) was buried in a wedding dress she never got to wear. She was killed by a 17-year-old wannabe gangster named Kevin Boot who has lived behind bars since he was convicted of aggravated murder in 1995. But a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last week may give Boot — and others who received mandatory life sentences for heinous crimes committed as minors — a second chance at freedom. “The regime that sentences someone who commits that crime when they’re that young should take their age into account,” says Jeffry Finer, a Spokane attorney who plans to take up Boot’s case. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that laws that require life sentences for certain crimes regardless of a defendant’s age violate the Eighth Amendment’s guarantee against “cruel and unusual punishment”/Chris Stein, Inlander. More here.

Question: Should kid killers like the wannabe gangster who brutally murdered Felicia Reese be given a second chance at freedom?

Otter Denounces Obamacare Ruling

Gov. Butch Otter's statement re: Supreme Court approval of Obamacare: “Although five Supreme Court justices upheld Obamacare and the individual mandate under Congress’s power to tax, it does not mean it’s the right thing to do. Obamacare has been bad for America from the beginning. This is a sad day for self-determination and for individual liberty. Change is now in the hands of the American people and we must elect a new president and congressional candidates who will repeal Obamacare and protect our freedom to remain the architects of our own destiny”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here. (AP photo: An Obamacare opponent demonstrates outside the Supreme Court in Washington earlier today)


Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare

The Supreme Court today upheld the vast majority of President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul, including the hotly debated core requirement that virtually all Americans have health insurance. The 5-4 decision means the huge overhaul, still taking effect, will proceed and pick up momentum over the next several years, affecting the way that countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care. The ruling hands Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in approving the plan. However, Republicans quickly indicated they will try to use the decision to rally their supporters against what they call “Obamacare.” Stocks of hospital companies rose sharply, and insurance companies fell immediately after the decision was announced that Americans must carry health insurance or pay a penalty/Associated Press. More here. (AP photo: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. relays the breaking news to her staff that the Supreme Court had just upheld the Affordable Care Act this morning)\

Question: Surprised?

Marc: Corporations ARE Really People

While the nation holds its collective breath over the fate of Obamacare (hint, it’s going down) the conservative judicial activists on the U.S. Supreme Court have affirmed their original controversial decision that its just fine to have unlimited and often undisclosed corporate money flow into our political system. At issue in the case summarily disposed of Monday was a Montana Supreme Court decision that attempted to uphold the Treasure State’s 100-year plus ban on corporate money in state elections. The Court’s five man majority reversed the Montana court decision and reminded all of us of the essence of its earlier ruling in the now infamous Citizens United case.  “Political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation,” the majority said in an unsigned, one-page ruling/Marc Johnson, The Johnson Report. More here.

Question: Do you think corporations are people (or just Soylent Green)?

Court Ruling On Obamacare Thursday

When the US Supreme Court offers its ruling on President Obama’s health-care reform law Thursday, only one thing is certain: At least half of Capitol Hill is going to be ticked off. If the law stands, Republicans will fume. If the law is curtailed or struck down, Democrats will seethe.  But what next? Republicans have vowed that, rain or shine, they’ll keep their focus on jobs and the economy – and incorporate whatever happens at the Supreme Court into that larger message. Democrats, on the other hand, have not even countenanced the fact that the law might fail. At least in public, they're lining up with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi’s claim that the legislation is “ironclad” from constitutional challenge/David Grant, Christian Science Monitor. More here. (AP file photo)

Question: Any predictions re: how the Supreme Court will rule on Obamacare?

Johnson: ObamaCare In Trouble

There is an old and respected approach to judicial review of controversial and essentially political issues that holds that judges should do almost everything possible to avoid wading into the dense thicket of politics. If Chief Justice John Roberts and his fellow conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court were really conservative they would rule on the controversial Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) on the narrowest possible grounds. They might even seriously considered not ruling on the merits of the law under the old and accepted principle that the case is simply “not ripe” for adjudication since no one – at least not yet – has been “harmed” in the legal sense by the health insurance mandate and other aspects of the still new law. Hardly anyone thinks either of those approaches is likely from the Roberts Court, particularly after last week’s marathon hearings. You will get even money today that Roberts will lead his thin 5-4 conservative majority in the direction of at least ruling the mandate unconstitutional. The odds are a bit longer that the Court will throw out the entire law/Marc Johnson, The Johnson Report. More here.

Question: Are you optimistic/pessimistic that U.S. Supreme Court will throw out at least part of the ObamaCare law?

ObamaCare Arguments Conclude

Whether the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold President Obama's landmark healthcare overhaul or scrap at least the most controversial part — the requirement that most Americans have health insurance — won't be known until probably this summer, when the justices are expected to rule. But after three days of oral arguments concluded this week, four constitutional law experts weighed in on the strengths and weaknesses of the cases made by the administration's top lawyers, Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli Jr. and his deputy, Edwin Kneedler, and Paul D. Clement, solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration, who represents the 26 states challenging the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act/Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times. More here. (AP photo: Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., center, speaks against ObamaCare in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday)


Supreme Court Rules In Duncan Case

Convicted serial killer Joseph E. Duncan should have been given a formal hearing to determine his mental competency before being allowed to waive his right to legal representation and to appeal his death sentence, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled. The ruling means Duncan, who killed a North Idaho family and one of the two children he abducted and took to Montana in 2005, will return to federal court for hearings to determine whether he was mentally competent when he decided to represent himself in the death penalty case. … If Lodge finds that Duncan was incompetent, which his attorneys have previously argued, Lodge would be required to vacate Duncan’s death sentence and hold a second sentencing trial detailing the deadly claw-hammer attack on the Groene family at their small home at Wolf Lodge near Coeur d’Alene/Thomas Clouse, SR. More here. (2006 SR file photo of Joseph Duncan)


Court Hears ‘Obamacare’ Arguments

With demonstrators chanting outside, the Supreme Court began hearing arguments today on the fate of President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul, no less controversial two years after Democrats pushed it to passage in Congress. Twenty-six states are leading the legal challenge, while Republican presidential candidates are vowing to repeal it after throwing Obama out of office. The law, much of which has still to take effect, would require almost all Americans to obtain health insurance and would extend coverage to more than 30 million people who now lack it. The law would be the largest expansion in the nation’s social safety net in more than four decades. The nine justices began hearing arguments a little after 10 a.m. EDT/AP. More here. (AP photo: A bible is held in the air on the eve of the Supreme Court arguments on President Obama's health care legislation)


Court To Hear Affirmative Action Case

The Supreme Court cast doubt Tuesday on the future of affirmative action at the nation’s colleges and universities, agreeing to hear an appeal from a white student in Texas who seeks an end to “racial preferences” in college admissions. The decision could either limit the use of affirmative action or broadly forbid using race as an admissions factor. However, because the court’s calendar is filled through the spring, the court will not hear arguments in the case until October, weeks before the presidential election. The Obama administration could choose to weigh in on the issue, but it need not do so. The court’s intervention nonetheless is an ominous sign for defenders of affirmative action/Los Angeles Times. More here.

Question: Is it time to end “racial preferences” in college admissions?

Johnson: Are Corporations People?

It is rare – very rare – that a state Supreme Court rises up on its hind legs and says to the United States Supreme Court we think you blew it. Yet, that is pretty much what the seven member Montana Supreme Court said just before the New Year with a decision that seems sure to get the ultra-controversial Citizens United corporate campaign finance case back before John Roberts and Company very soon. Citizens United is the case, you will recall, that President Obama denounced in his 2010 State of the Union speech. The U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision, decided 5-4, not only overturned a century of settled campaign finance law, but served to midwife the unprecedented level of unregulated and mostly undisclosed spending of the so called Super PAC’s in the current Republican presidential primary process/Marc Johnson, The Johnson Post. More here.

Question: Which supreme court decision re: campaign financing do you support — U.S. or Montana?

TJP: Court Following Clarence Thomas

In a completely fascinating piece in the current New Yorker, Supreme Court watcher Jeffrey Toobin has what many will consider a surprising take on Justice Clarence Thomas: “In several of the most important areas of constitutional law,” Toobin writes, “Thomas has emerged as an intellectual leader of the Supreme Court. Since the arrival of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in 2005, and Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., in 2006, the Court has moved to the right when it comes to the free-speech rights of corporations, the rights of gun owners, and, potentially, the powers of the federal government; in each of these areas, the majority has followed where Thomas has been leading for a decade or more. Rarely has a Supreme Court Justice enjoyed such broad or significant vindication”/Marc Johnson, The Johnson Post. More here.

Question: Has the country underestimated Justice Clarence Thomas?

Court: Tax Break For Private Ed OK

Item: Supreme Court upholds Arizona’s tax break for private education/Tribune Washington Bureau

More Info: The Supreme Court’s conservative majority opened the door for new state support for religious schools, ruling that special tax credits that pay for children to go to church schools cannot be challenged by dissenting taxpayers. The 5-4 decision is a major win for those who support the school choice movement and aid to parochial schools, and a potentially far-reaching loss for defenders of the separation of church and state.

Question: Should states provide tax breaks for private education?

Westboro Baptists Face Supreme Court

Margie  Phelps, second from right, a daughter of Fred  Phelps and the lawyer who argued the case for of the Westboro Baptist Church, of Tokepa Kan., walks from the Supreme Court, in Washington Tuesday after the court heard arguments in the dispute between Albert Snyder, of York, Pa., and the Westboro Baptist Church. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case of high emotion and high principle Wednesday. At issue is whether the father of a Marine killed in Iraq can sue picketers who showed up at his son’s funeral with signs that read ”God Hates Fags” and “You’re Going to Hell.” A federal appeals court invalidated a $5 million judgment against the picketers, concluding that even outrageous opinion is protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech/Nina Totenberg, NPR. More here.

Question: Do you support the right that the foul Phelps family & Co. have to spew their hatred, even at the funerals of U.S. military personnel?

Kagan Confirmation Hearings Begin

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., swears in  Supreme  Court nominee Elena  Kagan on Capitol Hill in Washington today during her confirmation hearings before the committee. (AP Photo/WinMcNamee, Pool)

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About this blog

D.F. Oliveria is a columnist and blogger for The Spokesman-Review. Print Huckleberries is a past winner of the Herb Caen Memorial Column contest by the National Association of Newspaper Columnists. The Readership Institute of Northwestern University cited this blog as a good example of online community journalism.

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