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  1. #1
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    Supreme Court Watch

    The cases that will make their way to the 14-15 docket are starting to emerge (Monday will mark the opening of the SCOTUS's 14-15 season). So far, it looks like they are trying to dodge same sex marriage (they've refused to take jurisdiction over a number of appeals from various states), but this is probably the first of any number of headline cases for the coming year:

    Supreme Court to Hear Abercrombie Discrimination Case After Hijab Denies Muslim Woman Job

    The Supreme Court announced Thursday it will hear a high-profile religious discrimination case against clothing company Abercrombie & Fitch brought by a Muslim woman who says she didn’t get a job at the retailer because the company’s dress code didn’t allow for her to wear a head scarf. Here’s more on what exactly transpired during the hiring process via Businessweek:

    Samantha Elauf was 17 in 2008 when she applied for a sales job at an Abercrombie Kids store in a mall in Tulsa. She had been told by a friend who worked for the retailer that wearing a hijab wouldn’t be a problem—as long as it wasn’t black. Sales associates can’t wear black at Abercrombie. During her interview, Elauf wore a head scarf and the assistant manager scored her style a 6, which was good enough to be hired. When the assistant manager sought approval for Elauf’s hijab, though, a supervisor said the head scarf didn’t meet Abercrombie’s look policy. Hats are not allowed at Abercrombie. The supervisor later said he didn’t know that Elauf wore the scarf for religious reasons. Elauf wasn’t hired.

    “The justices agreed to hear the Obama administration’s appeal of a lower court decision that ruled [Abercrombie] did not discriminate because the job applicant did not specifically say she needed a religious accommodation,” according to the Associated Press. “At issue is how employers must deal with laws that require them to make allowances for a worker’s religious practices, as long as doing so does not cause the business too much hardship.”

    A federal judge initially sided with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued on behalf of Samantha Elauf. The agency alleged Elauf wasn’t hired at a Tulsa, Oklahoma, store because her hijab violated Abercrombie’s “look policy,” described at the time as a “classic East Coast collegiate style.” But the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision.

    The appeals court said Elauf never directly informed her interviewer she needed a religious accommodation, even though she was wearing the head scarf during her interview. Abercrombie, which has faced slumping sales and could face negative publicity in the case, has pressed on with its defence, saying it was Elauf’s obligation to explain any special needs based on her religion… government lawyers said the appeals court ruling undercuts legal protection for religious practices because it unfairly places the entire the burden on the job applicant to raise the issue. Sometimes job applicants aren’t aware of a potential conflict between a religious practice and a company policy, the government said.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slate...l?wpsrc=fol_tw
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    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    (It might be Roberts' Court, but it's Kennedy's ideology that makes following these 9 most fascinating these days)

    Why the Supreme Court punted on gay marriage

    The U.S. Supreme Court added fuel Monday to the same-sex marriage drive sweeping the country like wildfire, clearing the way for judicial rulings to add 11 more states to the 19 which already allow the practice.

    By letting stand lower court decisions in five cases overturning state same-sex marriage bans, the justices unmistakably advanced what supporters call marriage equality. But the justices did so while allowing the high court to avoid — at least for now — a definitive ruling on a divisive social issue that opponents have long argued should be decided by elected representatives and the people themselves.

    The justices may also be hoping to dodge the kind of questions about the court’s legitimacy that followed the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

    Even liberal justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan have suggested that it would have been better not to force a one-size-fits-all solution on states and instead allow the political process to fashion abortion rights.

    “They may be thinking that by doing this they don’t paint a target on the Supreme Court like they did with Roe v. Wade,” said conservative John Eastman of Chapman Law School.

    The court released no vote count Monday and no justice publicly dissented. But some experts on both sides of the ideological divide immediately suspected that Chief Justice John Roberts had broken with conservative colleagues more eager to try to stop the flurry of rulings favoring same-sex marriage rights by accepting one of the petitions. Four votes are needed for the justices to take a case.

    “I think it would be in character for Roberts to do this. Look at the ridiculous decision he handed down in Obamacare,” Eastman said, referring to the deciding vote Roberts cast finding the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate constitutional.

    “I find it hard to believe Thomas, Alito and Scalia wouldn’t vote to take it,” Eastman said of the same-sex marriage issue. “The only thing that makes sense is Roberts didn’t vote to grant certiorari and the other justices were happy to allow this thing to be decided by default.”

    It’s possible conservatives decided to duck the pending cases because they were confident they would come up short. Justice Anthony Kennedy has emerged as one of the strongest supporters of gay rights on the court. He authored the decision last year striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and was expected to again side with the court’s four liberal justices if the issue of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage came before the body.

    By deciding not to wade into any of the recent batch of cases, the conservative justices may be thinking they could prevail if the court’s composition changes under a future president. Or one of the justices — perhaps a chief justice with an eye on his legacy — may have simply not wanted another battle royale over same-sex marriage with the conservatives on the losing end.

    “I think they see the writing on the wall,” said one attorney who asked not be named because he’s involved in litigation backing same-sex marriage rights. “Rather than kind of torture themselves, they have decided to just let things play out.”

    “The conservatives must know that if they grant [review], they will not be able to get five votes,” the advocate said. “They must know Justice Kennedy is just not gettable on these issues.”

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/1...#ixzz3FTprAAEE
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    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    I don't understand the opinion of the judges who want to let the states sort it out. Roe v. Wade was decided based on the 14th Amendment and you can't allow states to enact legislation that violate the Constitution.

    Either way, if this is their line of reasoning, it's just horribly cynical. The SCOTUS should hear cases based on whether they have jurisdiction (consitutional issues). Instead. conservative judges don't want it because they think they'll "lose" and liberal judges don't want it because they think states should be able to violate the constitution if that is the "will of the people"? So much for protecting minority rights.
    “I put in the work and wanted it so badly but this guy is the best for a reason. He is such a complete player ... maybe I'll just punch him or something, I don't know.” - Andy Roddick

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    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    Quote Originally Posted by Woody View Post
    I don't understand the opinion of the judges who want to let the states sort it out. Roe v. Wade was decided based on the 14th Amendment and you can't allow states to enact legislation that violate the Constitution.

    Either way, if this is their line of reasoning, it's just horribly cynical. The SCOTUS should hear cases based on whether they have jurisdiction (consitutional issues). Instead. conservative judges don't want it because they think they'll "lose" and liberal judges don't want it because they think states should be able to violate the constitution if that is the "will of the people"? So much for protecting minority rights.
    Roe only goes so far on the 14th Amendment, recognizing a woman's right to privacy, but also recognizing the state's interest in protecting both the mother, and a viable fetus. That's why there is very little federal regulation of abortion, and why pretty much every law passed by any state legislature on the topic ends up in court.

    Marriage is in many ways the same - it has traditionally been the states that regulate marriage. Things like age of consent, blood testing, wait periods/license requirements, marriages between cousins/relatives,... are all regulated by the state, not the federal government.

    Because these are traditionally state matters, that is why liberals like RBG and Kagan, as well as conservatives like Scalia and Thomas will often defer to state judgment, unless there is a constitutional law question they want to decide, or they have to contend with different opinions coming out of the 13 Circuits.
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    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    Happy Halloween!

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    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    The SCOTUS is hearing this case right now.

    Is A Threat Posted On Facebook Really A Threat?

    The U.S. Supreme Court is tackling a question of increasing importance in the age of social media and the Internet: What constitutes a threat on Facebook?

    Anthony Elonis was convicted of making threats against his estranged wife, and an FBI agent. After his wife left him, taking the couple's two children with her, Elonis began posting about her on his Facebook page.

    There's one way to love ya, but a thousand ways to kill ya,
    And I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess,
    Soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.
    Hurry up and die bitch.
    In another post Elonis opined, "Revenge is a dish that is best served cold with a delicious side of psychological torture."

    Elonis' wife, Tara, went to court and, after a three-hour hearing attended by both husband and wife, she obtained a restraining order, barring her estranged husband from threatening, harassing or contacting her, even indirectly. Elonis, however, continued his unrestricted posting practices.

    Just three days after the court hearing, he posted another Facebook message: "Did you know that it's illegal for me to say I want to kill my wife?" he wrote, explaining, "Now, it was okay for me to say it right then because...I'm just letting you know that it's illegal for me to say that."

    Roughly a week later, Elonis posted this about his wife:

    Fold up your protective order and put in your pocket.
    Is it thick enough to stop a bullet?
    The next day, he said he was ready to "make a name for himself" with "the most heinous [elementary] school shooting ever imagined."

    Hell hath no fury like a crazy man in a kindergarten class,
    The only question is...which one.
    That post got the attention of FBI agent Denise Stevens, who visited Elonis at home. Afterward, he posted this message:

    Little agent lady stood so close
    Took all the strength I had not to turn the bitch ghost.
    Pull my knife, flick my wrist, and slit her throat.
    Leave her bleedin' from her jugular in the arms of her partner.

    Elonis was indicted on five counts of interstate communication of illegal threats. At his trial, he acknowledged that his verse had some of the same violent themes as rap songs, but argued that he had said explicitly on his Facebook page that he was only exercising his First Amendment free speech rights. And he pointed out that he had linked to other similar artistic expressions, including a comedy sketch about the nature of threats, and rap songs from Eminem whose verse has fantasized about killing his ex-wife.

    At the end of the trial, the judge instructed the jury that to convict, it must find that Elonis' Facebook posts constituted true threats, meaning that in context "a reasonable person would foresee that the statements would be interpreted ... as a serious expression of an intent to inflict bodily injury."

    Elonis was convicted and sentenced to 44 months in prison. He appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, contending that under the Constitution and the federal threat statute, a jury must find not just that a reasonable person would interpret the words as threatening, but that Elonis actually intended his words to be threatening.

    "If the question had been what did he intend, did he intend to place her in fear, it would've been an entirely different trial," says attorney John Elwood, who will argue the case in the Supreme Court on Monday.

    Elwood points to evidence that he contends shows Elonis never intended to put his wife in fear for her life.

    "The disclaimer posted all around the page saying basically, 'this is all for entertainment purposes only' or that 'this is venting, don't take this too seriously,' and when you put all that in context," it indicates "he did not have an intent to put anyone in fear," argues Elwood.

    Elwood notes that lots of great songs have revenge fantasies, including the Beatles' "Run for Your Life" in which John Lennon sings, "I'd rather see you dead little girl than to see you with another man. ... Run, run for your life."

    But longtime federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald sees the context in the Elonis case differently. He notes that most of the posts occurred after Elonis' wife had gotten a protective court order, and that Elonis posted his messages on his Facebook page without restriction. Thus, Fitzgerald contends that the husband reasonably foresaw what the reaction would be.

    "The wife would read this and think, this is not an artistic statement, this is not a political statement about a larger cause," says Fitzgerald. "This is trying to get inside her head and make her think there could be someone doing violence to her."

    Fitzgerald also rejects the comparison to Eminem's rap fantasies. You can't have "this little out where you dress up a threat as being rap lyrics" and are allowed to "terrorize people," he says.

    Fitzgerald, who served 24 years as a federal prosecutor — 11 of them as the U.S. attorney for Chicago — sees threats as such a problem that he actually put a "threat button" on his prosecutors' computers in Chicago, requiring them to report any threat made to a witness, prosecutor or judge.

    "There's an epidemic of threats out there, and with the Internet it's going to get worse. So, in terms of the societal value of making sure there is a safe zone where people aren't picking up the Internet and feeling like they're being singled out for violence, that's a very real issue," he says.

    Cindy Southworth, vice president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, underlines the point, contending that Facebook and other social media sites enable abusers to reach their victims with a "click of a mouse or the touch of a screen."

    "We have stalking statutes all over the country that are based on a reasonable person versus proving the intent of the stalker or abuser. So I'm quite concerned about what ripple impact this may have on other statutes and other prosecutions if we have to somehow get into the mind of an abuser," she says.

    But most of the friend-of-the-court briefs filed in the Elonis case take the opposite side. They argue that if the court allows this conviction to stand, it would have enormous implications for free speech rights and artistic expression. Briefs full of references to the F-word or female genitalia attempt to provide a crash course on rap storytelling for justices whose tastes, as one wag observed, run more to Wagner and Puccini than Eminem and Wu-Tang Clan.

    A decision in the case is expected by summer.

    http://www.npr.org/2014/12/01/366534...eally-a-threat

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    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    GAY MARRIAGE: HIGH COURT SETS STAGE FOR HISTORIC RULING
    January 16, 2015

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Setting the stage for a potentially historic ruling, the Supreme Court announced Friday it will decide whether same-sex couples have a right to marry everywhere in America under the Constitution.

    The justices will take up gay-rights cases that ask them to declare for the entire nation that people can marry the partners of their choice, regardless of gender. The cases will be argued in April, and a decision is expected by late June.

    Proponents of same-sex marriage said they expect the court to settle the matter once and for all with a decision that invalidates state provisions that define marriage as between a man and a woman. On the other side, advocates for traditional marriage want the court to let the political process play out, rather than have judges order states to allow same-sex couples to marry.

    Same-sex couples can marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia.

    That number is nearly double what it was just three months ago, when the justices initially declined to hear gay marriage appeals from five states seeking to preserve their bans on same-sex marriage. The effect of the court's action in October was to make final several pro-gay rights rulings in the lower courts.

    Now there are just 14 states in which same-sex couples cannot wed. The court's decision to get involved is another marker of the rapid change that has redefined societal norms in the space of a generation.

    The court will be weighing in on major gay rights issues for the fourth time in in 27 years. In the first of those, in 1986, the court upheld Georgia's anti-sodomy law in a devastating defeat for gay rights advocates.

    But the three subsequent rulings, all written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, were major victories for gay men and lesbians. In its most recent case in 2013, the court struck down part of a federal anti-gay marriage law in a decision that has paved the way for a wave of lower court rulings across the country in favor of same-sex marriage rights.

    The court is extending the time it usually allots for argument from an hour to two-and-a-half hours. The justices will consider two related questions. The first is whether the Constitution requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The other is whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

    The appeals before the court come from gay and lesbian plaintiffs in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The federal appeals court that oversees those four states upheld their same-sex marriage bans in November, reversing pro-gay rights rulings of federal judges in all four states. It was the first, and so far only, appellate court to rule against same-sex marriage since the high court's 2013 decision

    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories...MPLATE=DEFAULT

    And this from SCOTUS Blog:
    SSM arguments at SCOTUS will be the week of April 27; very likely April 29.
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    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    Is there seriously any chance that SCOTUS will rule against the recent tidal wave of state decisions in favor of same-sex rights? It seems they just want to get in on this before their opinion becomes irrelevant.
    “I put in the work and wanted it so badly but this guy is the best for a reason. He is such a complete player ... maybe I'll just punch him or something, I don't know.” - Andy Roddick

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    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    Quote Originally Posted by Woody View Post
    Is there seriously any chance that SCOTUS will rule against the recent tidal wave of state decisions in favor of same-sex rights? It seems they just want to get in on this before their opinion becomes irrelevant.
    "Now there are just 14 states in which same-sex couples cannot wed." How they could rule against 36 states with same-sex marriage protection would be beyond me.

    ::

    Is there a chance the SCOTUS decision could reverse the same-sex marriage protection in the 36 states that have it?
    Oh Grigor. You silly man.

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    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    Quote Originally Posted by Woody View Post
    Is there seriously any chance that SCOTUS will rule against the recent tidal wave of state decisions in favor of same-sex rights? It seems they just want to get in on this before their opinion becomes irrelevant.
    I don't see it happening. The 4 liberals only need 1 vote, and while they won't get it from Scalia, Thomas or Alito, Kennedy has been very friendly to gay issues, and Roberts is highly sensitive to the Court's role in history.

    I'm pretty confident it will be a 6-3 decision, finding it fits under the equal protection clause of the 14th. Then they will bounce it back to the states for "reasonable" regulation, since marriage is far and away a state, not federal issue.


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    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    I'm still nervous.
    I disapprove of this message

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    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    Quote Originally Posted by Moose View Post
    I don't see it happening. The 4 liberals only need 1 vote, and while they won't get it from Scalia, Thomas or Alito, Kennedy has been very friendly to gay issues, and Roberts is highly sensitive to the Court's role in history.

    I'm pretty confident it will be a 6-3 decision, finding it fits under the equal protection clause of the 14th. Then they will bounce it back to the states for "reasonable" regulation, since marriage is far and away a state, not federal issue.


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    Well said. I agree.

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    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    Alabama's request for a stay on issuing same-sex marriage licenses was just denied by the Supreme Court just now. Scalia and Thomas were the only dissenters there.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/255181151/...ma-Stay-Denied
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  14. #14

    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    I think their denial of Alabama's request for a stay speaks volumes. But still, I also am "still nervous". Chris and I live in one of the few states without marriage equality (Ohio), and it pisses me off.

    I do think that if they were to rule that the states could decide on their own whether to have gay marriage, MANY of the current list of 37 (counting Alabama) would go back to forbidding it. I think one could definitely count on such states as Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, both Carolinas, Indiana, Utah, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming reversing the law there. And several others would be worrisome.....West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, and maybe even Iowa would be risky for going back. The last poll I saw in Iowa showed that same-sex marriage there would likely lose out in a state-wide referendum. That merely shows how conservative much of Iowa is.....after all, they've now had marriage equality for almost 6 years, and the sky hasn't fallen there yet.

    GH

  15. #15

    Re: Supreme Court Watch 2014-15

    Quote Originally Posted by James7 View Post
    Alabama's request for a stay on issuing same-sex marriage licenses was just denied by the Supreme Court just now. Scalia and Thomas were the only dissenters there.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/255181151/...ma-Stay-Denied
    I understand that when the SCOTUS was created, there was a need for the justices to be there for live. They could not be pressured or manipulated in any way.
    Now with people living into their 80's, Justices must have term limits. Scalia and Thomas are seriously out of step with the times.
    15 years as a Supreme Court judge. That should be all.

    The U.S. really should start looking at term limits, for Congress and the SC. The fact that the court years ago ruled that it was unconstitutional to limit terms in Congress was just a reflection that if they had agreed to them, they would have had to agree for terms to themselves.
    But if the POTUS has term limits, so should everybody else in places of such high power.
    Starry starry night

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