It began as an ordinary purse snatching. On an early Baltimore morning in 1976, a local street thug crouched alongside his green Monte Carlo, pretending to change a flat, biding his time. Finally, a young woman passed by walking alone to her suburban home. Smith wrenched her handbag from her grasp, jumped into his car and tore off down the street before the young victim could glimpse his license plate.
The perp, Michael Lee Smith, was apprehended weeks later, thanks in part to the police department’s use of a machine known as a “pen register” to track the threatening phone calls the assailant had started making to his victim. The court wrangling that followed, however, would continue for three years, and eventually land on the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1979 the court upheld Smith’s conviction, and his 10-year prison term.
Almost 35 years later, the court’s decision — in a case involving the recording of a single individual’s phone records — turns out to be the basis for a legal rationale justifying governmental spying on virtually all Americans. Smith v. Maryland, as the case is titled, set the binding precedent for what we now call metadata surveillance. That, in turn, has recently been revealed to be the keystone of the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of U.S. telephone data, in which the government chronicles every phone call originating or terminating in the United States, all in the name of the war on terror.
“When they started quoting Smith in the NSA investigation and inquiry, I was flabbergasted,” says James Gitomer, who was one of Smith’s two lawyers at the Supreme Court. “I don’t think this case should be used as the foundation to justify the NSA. It doesn’t apply.”
State legislatures trying to curtail abortions have suffered a 0-for-8 losing streak after court challenges to their new laws this year.
The laws, all but one signed by Republican governors, drew on ideas from a playbook created by an anti-abortion group. Democrats plan to use the attempted curbs to boost 2014 congressional fundraising and increase voter support, calling the laws part of a “War on Women.”
Women hold up signs during a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 11, 2013. Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Four states’ statutes attacked the core of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings that a woman has a right to the procedure before a fetus is viable. Efforts to bar abortions after six, 12 and 20 weeks of pregnancy were halted in North Dakota, Arkansas and Idaho. An appeals court struck down Arizona’s 20-week ban. Laws imposing restrictions on doctors were blocked in North Dakota and two other states.
Trying to ban abortions before a fetus can live outside the mother’s womb “flies in the face” of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, said Paul B. Linton, a lawyer with the Chicago-based Thomas More Society whose group, an opponent of abortion, isn’t involved in defending early-pregnancy curbs.
A federal appeals court on Monday rejected a Dallas suburb’s controversial law that would have prevented illegal immigrants from renting housing.
In a 9-6 ruling, the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld a lower-court decision to block the ordinance in Farmers Branch, Texas, finding that the law interfered with the federal government’s authority over immigration policy.
The law would have required renters in the suburb to register with the city and obtain an occupancy license. The city’s building inspector would verify an applicant’s immigration status with the federal government, and landlords who rented to unregistered tenants would face criminal fines or face losing their rental licenses.
By creating new criminal offenses and allowing state courts to review a non-citizen’s immigration status, the law conflicted with federal law, a majority of the judges concluded, citing a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration laws.
Kris Kobach, a lawyer for Farmers Branch, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane is expected to announce Thursday that her office won’t defend the state in a federal lawsuit that challenges Pennsylvania’s ban on gay marriage, the Daily News has learned.
Multiple sources confirmed that Kane, who is named along with Gov. Corbett as a defendant in the suit, plans to make the announcement at the National Constitution Center.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit, known as Whitewood v. Corbett, on Tuesday on behalf of 21 state residents. The plaintiffs are 10 couples and one widow who want to marry here, want the state to recognize their out-of-state marriages or want equal protections granted to straight married couples.
The suit was filed in Harrisburg and is believed to be the first federal case on the gay marriage issue since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last month.
Pennsylvania is the sole state in the Northeast without same-sex marriage or a civil-union statute.
Less than 24 hours after California started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, lawyers for the sponsors of the state’s same-sex marriage ban filed an emergency motion Saturday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and stop the weddings.
Attorneys with the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom claim in the petition that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acted prematurely and unfairly on Friday when it allowed same-sex marriage to resume by lifting a hold it had placed on same-sex unions while a lawsuit challenging the ban made its way to and through the Supreme Court.
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Austin Nimocks says the Supreme Court’s consideration of the case is not done yet because his clients still have 22 days to ask the justices to reconsider their decision holding that Proposition 8’s backers did not have legal authority to defend the ban.
The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriage to return to the nation’s most populous state by ruling 5-4 on Wednesday that the sponsors of California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex unions lacked authority to defend the measure in court.
The actual Filing is here
The application argues that the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Proposition 8 case is not yet “final,” so the stay must remain in place. The Supreme Court ordinarily does not issue its formally binding ruling – known as the “judgment” – in a case from a federal court of appeals until 25 days after it releases its “opinion.” Because the Court issued its opinion in the Proposition 8 case on June 26, it would by default not issue the judgment until Monday, July 22. (The 25th day is July 21, a Sunday.) The principal point of that delay is to permit the losing party to prepare and submit a petition for rehearing to the Justices, though such petitions are as a practical matter never granted.
The parties could ask the Supreme Court to expedite the release of the judgment. That is in fact what occurred last week in the “Baby Girl” Native American adoption case. After a request by the petitioner, the Court ordered the mandate issued in 7 days, rather than the usual 25.
Absent such a request, most observers expected that same-sex marriage in California (in the places in the State it did become available) would not begin again for roughly a month. Even if the court of appeals was not required as a matter of law to wait, that appeared to be the more measured and prudent course. But the Ninth Circuit acted more quickly, lifting the stay before the Supreme Court’s ruling became effective.
Whether the emergency request to Justice Kennedy can succeed is unclear. But it is unlikely. As a formal matter, the Ninth Circuit did not put the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Proposition 8 case into effect prematurely. The Supreme Court held that the proponents of Proposition 8 could not file appeals in federal court. That ruling says nothing about imposing or lifting a stay on same-sex marriage. The court of appeals likely has the authority to act with respect to its own previously entered stay, which is a form of controlling its own docket. Although the court of appeals had previously stated that they stay would remain in effect until the Supreme Court’s ruling was final, it presumably can change its mind.
The president of the fast-food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A has once again injected himself into the gay marriage debate, this time criticizing U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
Dan Cathy posted a comment Wednesday on Twitter criticizing a pair of U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Those decisions will extend federal recognition to same-sex marriages in the states where they are legal, and will add California — the most populous state — to the 12 others in that category.
“Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: cornerstone of strong societies,” Cathy wrote, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The post was later deleted.
A federal agency has denied Indiana’s appeal of an administrative ruling barring the state from denying Planned Parenthood Medicaid funds because it performs abortions, the state attorney general’s office said Friday.
The agency announced the decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just a few days after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up a separate court case involving the same law.
Both decisions this week effectively nullified Indiana’s ability to enforce a 2011 law targeting Planned Parenthood, saying it denied women the right to choose their own medical providers.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller has maintained the issue was an administrative one, not a legal one, but the state lost in both venues.
South Carolina lawmakers passed a bill criminalizing implementation of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld last year.
The bill, which the state House approved Wednesday by a vote of 65-39, declares the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “null and void.” If passed by the state Senate and signed by Gov. Nikki Haley, the law will be called the Freedom of Health Care Protection Act.
Supporters of the bill say that the U.S. Supreme Court erred in upholding a key provision of the health care law that imposes penalties on eligible citizens who choose not to purchase health insurance.
The minimum-coverage provision, more popularly known as the individual mandate, is set to take effect in 2014. It empowers the Internal Revenue Service to collect the penalty with an individual’s taxes, just as it would collect a penalty against those who overstate their income tax refunds.
A section of the South Carolina bill, which had 27 co-sponsors, states that the Supreme Court’s endorsement of health care reform’s constitutionality “directly contravenes Article 1, Section 1 of the United States Constitution.”
More: Courthouse News Service
Abortion rights advocates filed a lawsuit Tuesday that seeks to overturn the more restrictive of Arkansas’ two new abortion laws, saying the near-ban of abortions from the 12th week of pregnancy onward is unconstitutional.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the suit on behalf of Dr. Louis Jerry Edwards and Dr. Tom Tvedten, who provide abortions at a Little Rock clinic, say Arkansas’ ban clearly contradicts the standard of viability established by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
“We are asking the court to block an attempt to essentially outlaw all abortions past 12 weeks, so early that a woman might not know the complete health and status of her pregnancy,” Rita Sklar, executive director of Arkansas’ ACLU chapter, said at a news conference.
The U.S. Supreme Court appears more likely to overturn part of the Defense of Marriage Act after oral arguments in a case challenging the law’s constitutionality.
The Court is “80% likely to strike down” DOMA because Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is expected to be the swing vote in the case, “suggests it violated states’ rights,” Scotusblog tweeted after Wednesday’s oral arguments.
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin agreed.
“I think DOMA’s in trouble,” Toobin said, “and I think it’s in trouble because Anthony Kennedy was repeatedly concerned that the Defense of Marriage Act violates states’ rights.”
In the case, United States vs. Windsor, Edith Windsor sued the federal government, claiming that DOMA violated her constitutional guarantee to equal protection under the law. Windsor married her same-sex partner, Thea Spyer, in Canada. When Spyer passed away, she left her estate to Windsor, who then had to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes. She would not have had to pay those taxes if the federal government recognized her marriage.