Supreme Court

Supreme Court invalidates part of law aimed at preventing gun violence

The Supreme Court on Monday invalidated a key part of a law designed to prevent gun violence, saying it left too much leeway for judges to decide what constituted a violent crime. In a 5-4 ruling the justices said Congress was too vague when it tried to slap extra penalties on people who used guns while committing a “crime of violence.” “In our constitutional order, a vague law is no law at all. Only the people’s elected representatives in Congress have the power to write new federal criminal laws,” Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote in the court’s opinion. The ruling could lead to thousands of new appeals from people convicted under the vague law, prosecutors warned. The case involved two men who were convicted of a string of robberies. They carried firearms during the crimes, which earned them heightened sentences under the Gun Control Act, which kicks in for cases of a “crime of violence or drug trafficking crime.” The statute said crimes of violence are those where physical force is used or threatened against a person or property. But the justices have long grappled with what, exactly, meets that definition. In a series of cases Justice Gorsuch, joined by the court’s four Democratic-appointed justices, has ruled it’s too tough to say what falls under the law. “Vague statutes threaten to hand responsibility for defining crimes to relatively unaccountable police, prosecutors, and judges, eroding the people’s ability to oversee the creation of the laws they are expected to abide,” Justice Gorsuch wrote. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, writing the dissent joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, said the law was successful, and should have remained in place. “Many factors have contributed to the decline of violent crime in America. But one cannot dismiss the effects of state and federal laws that impose steep punishments on those who commit violent crimes with firearms,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote. John Marti, a former federal prosecutor now practicing at the Dorsey & Whitney law firm, said the decision will lead to a “title wave” of appeals from defendants convicted under the statute now struck down. “Today the Supreme Court eliminated this powerful tool for federal prosecutors in combating violent crime, by finding that the statute is unconstitutionally vague by using the phrase ‘crime of violence,’” Mr. Marti said.

Supreme Court sides with property owners in fight over cemetery mandate

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that people can sue in federal court if they believe state or local governments have infringed on their property rights, siding with a Pennsylvania woman fighting her town over a supposed cemetery on her land. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled in favor of Rose Mary Knick, who tried to bring a lawsuit in federal court after her town, Scott, Pennsylvania, passed an ordinance that required anyone with a cemetery on their land to open it to the public during the day. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the court’s opinion in Knick v. Township of Scott, saying that a person attempting to sue their town finds themselves in a “Catch-22.” “He cannot go to federal court without going to state court first; but if he goes to state court and loses, his claim will be barred in federal court,” Roberts wrote, adding that “we now conclude that the state-litigation requirement imposes an unjustifiable burden” on the property owner. In this case, a town official found several grave markers on Knick’s farmland in Pennsylvania, but she disputed whether there was actually a small, family cemetery on her property. Knick argued that in passing the ordinance in 2012 and applying it to her, local officials were essentially taking her property and opening it to the public without paying her for it. A federal court threw out Knick’s case, ruling that she had to go to state court first. Because of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Knick will now be able to pursue her case in federal court. Knick’s attorneys argued that property owners with complaints like Knick’s would often prefer to take their cases to federal court because they may view them as more objective than in state courts, which they said could be seen as being influenced by local politics. “This decision is a very long time coming for Rose and other property owners who have had federal courtroom doors slammed shut in their faces whenever they seek compensation for a governmental taking of their private property,” Knick’s attorney J. David Breemer said in a statement. Prior to the ruling on Friday, local governments had the power to take a case like Knick’s that was filed in state court and move it to federal court, but citizens did not have the option to begin their cases at the federal level. A 1985 Supreme Court decision had barred people with property rights claims, like Knick’s, from going to federal court. The Supreme Court’s Friday ruling overruled that decision, writing that it was “not just wrong” but also “exceptionally ill founded.”

Agreed!  Kudos to the Supremes for exercising common sense here.    This is a HUGE victory for individual property rights!  Excellent!!    🙂

Peace Cross can stay, Supreme Court rules

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Bladensburg’s beloved World War I memorial cross can remain on public lands, rejecting a challenge that it was an illegal entanglement of state and religion. The court, in a 7-2 decision, ruled that while the cross is a Christian symbol, the one in Bladensburg has “special significance” as a war memorial and expression of the community’s grief at its lost sons. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said that removing it, at this point, would actually be seen as “hostility” toward religion. “The Religion Clauses of the Constitution aim to foster a society in which people of all beliefs can live together harmoniously, and the presence of the Bladensburg Cross on the land where it has stood for so many years is fully consistent with that aim,” he wrote. The 40-foot-tall Latin cross stands at the intersection of several major roads in the suburbs just outside of Washington, D.C. It was erected by the American Legion and the design was chosen to mirror the crosses that stood on the graves of the troops who died during the Great War. The names of 49 soldiers are engraved at the base of the cross. In 1961 the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission acquired the land where the cross stands — creating the church-state clash that the cross’s opponents raised with the Supreme Court. Justice Breyer, who agreed with the main ruling, said the case would have been different if there’d been evidence that the American Legion had erected the cross in an attempt to disparage or disrespect faiths other than the Christians the cross represents. But he said there was no evidence of that. “I see no reason to order this cross torn down simply because other crosses would raise constitutional concerns,” he wrote. It remains to be seen what the effect of the ruling has on hundreds of other cross-style memorials on public lands across the country. Justice Breyer said each one must be taken on its own facts, and he said Thursday’s opinion, while setting out one framework, does not guarantee they are all permissible. But the ruling was the latest blow to the so-called “Lemon test,” the Supreme Court’s 1971 framework for deciding religion-state entanglements, which required the courts to look at whether a government action advanced or endorsed religion. “While the Lemon Court ambitiously attempted to find a grand unified theory of the Establishment Clause, in later cases, we have taken a more modest approach that focuses on the particular issue at hand and looks to history for guidance,” Justice Alito wrote. He suggested there should be “a presumption of constitutionality for longstanding monuments” on public grounds. But only two other justices joined him in that part of the opinion.

We applaud this common-sense ruling by the Supreme Court today.  For more, click on the text above.    🙂

Supreme Court rejects atheists’ attempt to scrub ‘In God We Trust’ off US currency

Show me the motto. The Supreme Court rejected an atheist case Monday to remove “In God We Trust,” the national motto, from all coins and currency from the Department of Treasury. Michael Newdow, the same activist attorney who tried to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, lost his case, arguing Congress’ mandate to inscribe “In God We Trust” on currency was a government endorsement of religion and a violation of the First Amendment. Newdow argued in his petition to the Supreme Court that because his clients are all atheist individuals or atheist groups, the government violated their “sincere religious belief” that there is no God and turned them into “political outsiders” by placing the phrase “In God We Trust” on their money. The justices rejected his petition without comment. The phrase was first put on an American coin in 1864, due to “increased religious sentiment.” It was added to both coins and paper bills in 1955. Newdow also tried to silence prayer and any religious references at the inaugurations of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

Yes!!!  Sorry Michael.  Motion DENIED!   What a loser..  Kudos to the Supremes for this common sense decision they made without even needing to comment.   🙂

Trump picks Gorsuch, Kavanaugh take opposite sides on 2 of 3 Supreme Court rulings Tuesday

President Trump’s two appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — were expected to help bring about a “conservative revolution” on the nation’s highest court. But in two out of three rulings by the court Tuesday, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh found themselves on opposing sides. The two cases in which the justices did not agree involved an Indian tribe and Washington state taxes, and another involving maritime law. Gorsuch, who was nominated by Trump in 2017 to fill the seat Senate Republicans held open for more than a year after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016, sided with the liberal justices in ruling that the Yakama Nation doesn’t have to pay a Washington state fuel tax. He cited an 1855 treaty that made a “handful of modest promises” to the tribe, including the right to move goods to market freely. Yakama Nation Chairman JoDe Goudy praised the ruling. In a statement cited by NW News Network, he wrote: “Today marks a decision that reinforces the Yakama way of life, both in historical context as well as modern interpretation.” Gorsuch’s opinion was joined only by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the leader of the court’s liberal wing. The other three liberal justices voted for the same outcome, but for different reasons. Kavanaugh dissented from the Gorsuch and the liberals. He argued that the 1855 treaty merely gave tribal members equal rights to travel. The other case that saw Kavanaugh and Gorsuch at odds addressed a lawsuit brought by two Navy veterans who had been exposed to asbestos. Writing the court’s opinion, Kavanaugh said that the makers of pumps, turbines and blowers that required asbestos insulation to operate properly should have warned about the health dangers of asbestos exposure. This is so, Kavanaugh wrote, even though the companies did not manufacture or sell the asbestos to the Navy. The liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts also were in the majority. Gorsuch, whose dissent was joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, wrote that the manufacturers “are at risk of being held responsible retrospectively for failing to warn about other people’s products.” Tuesday’s third case demonstrated the more common alliance of the conservative justices. The court’s decision, which saw Gorsuch and Kavanaugh in lockstep with the other conservatives, gave the federal government broader power to detain immigrants who are awaiting deportation anytime after they have been released from prison on criminal charges. The four liberal justices dissented.

Bottom line..  These two Trump appointees to the Supreme Court are NOT “rubber stamps” for the Trump agenda…whatever that may be.  Keep that in mind, the next time you hear some Democrat politician or liberal media person say something like that.

Supreme Court upholds ICE detention without bail for serious criminals

Illegal immigrants with serious criminal records can be held without bail while awaiting deportation even if ICE didn’t immediately pick them up when they were released from prison or jail, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. The 5-4 decision marked another rejection for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the liberal panel that covers the country’s West Coast, and that has tested a number of legal theories on immigration law. In this case, the 9th Circuit had ruled that under the law, if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement immediately arrested someone released from a federal, state or local prison, they could be held without bond in the immigration detention system. But if ICE didn’t immediately arrest them, the migrants must be given a chance to make bond. The case turned on a phrase in the law that says the no-bail determination applies to someone picked up by ICE “when the alien is released” from prison or jail. The lower court ruled “when” must mean the day of release. But Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing the majority opinion, said that could create a new loophole for sanctuary cities, which often refuse to alert ICE officers when releasing people from their local prisons and jails. “Under these circumstances, it is hard to believe that Congress made the secretary’s mandatory-detention authority vanish at the stroke of midnight after an alien’s release,” he wrote. He said it made more sense that “when” means at some point after the release, not at the exact moment of it. While many illegal immigrants are released while they await their immigration court proceedings and possible deportation, Congress has deemed some serious criminals to be such safety risks that they must be held by ICE while their cases proceed. Those are the ones affected by Tuesday’s ruling.

Excellent!!    🙂

Supreme Court rules states may not impose excessive fines

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that state law enforcement is bound by the same rules against excessive fines as the feds, incorporating a new Eighth Amendment protection against efforts to seize property. The justices, in a 9-0 decision, ruled in a case involving a convicted Indiana drug dealer whose SUV cops wanted to forfeit to pay off his fines — but the vehicle was worth four times what he owed. The high court said seizing the car to pay off his fine was grossly disproportionate. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who delivered the court’s opinion, said protection against excessive economic sanctions was “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty.” “For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history: Exorbitant tolls undermine other constitutional liberties,” she wrote. “Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies.” The ruling comes as police forfeiture powers are increasingly under scrutiny. In the case before the court, Tyson Timbs faced a maximum $10,000 fine a drug-dealing conviction involving $400 worth of heroin. He struck a deal agreeing to pay about $1,200 as part of his sentence, which also included a year in home detention and five years on probation. Indiana then filed papers to conduct a civil forfeiture of his 2012 Land Rover, which he purchased for roughly $40,000 after receiving an inheritance from his father, and which was used in his drug-dealing. A trial court ruled for Timbs, saying the value of the vehicle was far more than even his maximum penalty. An appeals court affirmed, but the Indiana Supreme Court ruled against him, saying the U.S. Constitution’s protection against excessive fines only applied to federal authorities. The Supreme Court stepped in Wednesday, ruling for Timbs and establishing that the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause does extend to the states, via the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process guarantees. Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas both wrote concurring opinions agreeing with the court’s ultimate ruling, but disagreeing with the legal reasoning. They said the Eighth Amendment’s protection against excessive fines should be incorporated through the 14th Amendment’s privileges and immunity clause rather than through due process. “As a constitutionally enumerated right understood to be a privilege of American citizenship, the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on excessive fines applies in full to the states,” Justice Thomas wrote. Brianne Gorod, chief counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center, said the ruling was a “milestone in the 228 year history of the Bill of Rights.” “Significantly, this case has united progressives and conservatives—both advocates and the justices themselves—in a shared understanding of the original meaning of the Constitution,” she said.

Agreed..  This is a HUGE victory for our personal civil liberties!  Kudos to the Supremes for this 9-0 smackdown of the Indiana Supreme Court.  Outstanding!!   🙂