Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Sports Gambling Ban

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) moved to allow the state of New Jersey to legalize sports betting at its racetracks and casinos, on Monday. The new rule could open sports gambling in up to 46 states. The 7-2 SCOTUS ruling in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association shot down federal rules that prohibited sports gambling in most U.S. states. The case was brought to the high court after the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that a New Jersey law allowing gambling violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), Sports Illustrated reported. Many states, including New Jersey, have been eyeing sports gambling as a new source of tax revenue, but until now federal rules have stood in the way. While many state legislatures are pleased with the new ruling, the major professional leagues have taken a stance against the growth of sports gambling and filed several lawsuits against New Jersey to try and stop its move towards enlarging gambling. A recent statement from the various sports leagues player’s unions addressed the impact of gambling on players. “Given the pending Supreme Court decision regarding the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) … The time has come to address not just who profits from sports gambling, but also the costs. Our unions have been discussing the potential impact of legalized gambling on players’ privacy and publicity rights, the integrity of our games and the volatility on our businesses,” the Players Associations said in January. To date, only Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana are allowed sports gambling and are exempt from PASPA due to previously passed betting laws. Justice Samuel Alito, a New Jersey native, wrote the court’s opinion in the case. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, USA Today reported. “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own,” Alito wrote. “Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.” Geoff Freeman, president of the American Gaming Association, celebrated the ruling: “Today’s decision is a victory for the millions of Americans who seek to bet on sports in a safe and regulated manner. Today’s ruling makes it possible for states and sovereign tribal nations to give Americans what they want: an open, transparent, and responsible market for sports betting.”

Supreme Court won’t hear challenge to Mississippi anti-LGBT law

The Supreme Court is refusing to intervene in a legal fight over a Mississippi law that permits government workers and private businesses to cite their own religious beliefs to deny services to LGBT people. Opponents say the law will likely lead to discrimination against those who support same-sex marriage. The justices did not comment Monday in their decision to leave in place a federal appeals court ruling that allowed the law, known as HB 1523, to take effect. A three-judge panel held that the law’s challengers failed to show they would be harmed by it. The appellate judges did not rule on the law’s substance. “Two years ago Mississippi passed one of the strongest religious freedom laws in the country,” state House Judiciary B Chairman Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, told the Clarion-Ledger. “I was pleased to read today that the United States Supreme Court refused to intervene, allowing our law to remain in full effect. Congratulations to Gov. Phil Bryant and his legal team.” The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT civil rights group, calls it the “most sweeping and devastating state law to be enacted against LGBTQ people in the country.” The legal battle is not over, however. A federal judge has allowed the law’s challengers to try to find people who have been denied services under the law because they would be able to make a strong legal claim that they have been harmed. The Mississippi legislature drafted and approved the measure after the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that legalized same-sex marriage across the country. Gov. Phil Bryant signed it into law in 2016, but it was blocked for more than a year amid several legal challenges. It took effect Oct. 10. The law claims to protect three beliefs: that marriage is only between a man and a woman, that sex should only occur in such a marriage and that a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be altered. The law allows county clerks who object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds to avoid issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples. It also protects merchants who refuse services to LGBT people, and might also affect adoptions and foster care, business practices and school bathroom policies. Opponents say it also allows pharmacies to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions for unmarried women. Mississippi is one of 28 states that does not have a law prohibiting businesses from discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation.

Supreme Court allows full enforcement of Trump travel ban

The Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to fully enforce a ban on travel to the United States by residents of six mostly Muslim countries. The justices, with two dissenting votes, said Monday that the policy can take full effect even as legal challenges against it make their way through the courts. The action suggests the high court could uphold the latest version of the ban that Trump announced in September. The ban applies to travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Lower courts had said people from those nations with a claim of a “bona fide” relationship with someone in the United States could not be kept out of the country. Grandparents, cousins and other relatives were among those courts said could not be excluded. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have left the lower court orders in place. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, will be holding arguments on the legality of the ban this week. Both courts are dealing with the issue on an accelerated basis, and the Supreme Court noted it expects those courts to reach decisions “with appropriate dispatch.” Quick resolution by appellate courts would allow the Supreme Court to hear and decide the issue this term, by the end of June.

Great news!!!  🙂

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch Is Ready to Take On Administrative State

Justice Neil Gorsuch gave the most significant public address of his tenure on the nation’s highest court Thursday when he addressed the Federalist Society’s annual dinner, recently named in honor of the last man to hold his seat: Antonin Scalia. The newest Supreme Court justice took square aim at one of this year’s Federalist Society Convention’s main themes: the “administrative state,” the unelected mass of executive agency staff that actually creates most of the rules and regulations by which Americans live. Resistance of the administrative state’s growth and overreach is a driving force in the emergence of populist-nationalism and the Trump movement. Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon has repeatedly called the “deconstruction of the administrative state” one of the three pillars of populist-nationalism. Gorsuch has been under fire from the left and the mainstream legal establishment for his willingness to reexamine the once-controversial twentieth century Supreme Court decisions that made the modern, massive administrative state possible. He mocked a recent article in the Harvard Law Review claiming the administrative state is “under siege” and calling him an “anti-administrativist.” “Anti-adminstrativism was conclusively rejected in the 1930s,” Gorsuch quoted the article as saying. “That’s kinda funny,” Gorsuch joked, “I thought the powers of our government were conclusively allocated in the 1780s.” The notion that reining in the power of the administrative agencies is a project in the interest of “big business” held no sway with Gorsuch. “The fact is, getting administrative law right is important to everyone who interacts with our government. And today, that’s just about everyone,” he said. “The mighty can keep track of the changes easily enough, maybe even influence them … but what about the ordinary citizen?” “Remember that, for many years, the courts seemed wary of the job of trying to draw lines between laws that fall within or beyond Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce,” Gorsuch explained, referring to the clause of the Constitution that came in the twentieth century to allow the federal government to regulate virtually any aspect of citizens’ lives, “yet courts have since managed to enter the field there, and it’s unclear why they can’t do the same here [with the administrative state.]” Gorsuch also tried to make light of his unprecedented contentious confirmation hearings where Democrats skewered him for a dissent that ruled against a fired truck driver, joking with the audience of jurists, politicians, law professors, and attorneys from the conservative and libertarian tradition at the black tie event at Union Station in Washington, DC: “Good judges will look at a statute or regulation and immediately know three things: One, the law is telling you to do something really, really stupid. Two, the law is constitutional, and I have no choice but to do that really stupid thing the law commands. And three, when it’s done, everyone who’s not a lawyer will think I just hate truckers..” “Tonight, I can report that a person can be both a publicly committed originalist and textualist and be confirmed to the Supreme Court,” he told attendees, which included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK); and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who will address the Federalist Society Friday at its convention. He later continued, “Originalism has regained its place at the table of constitutional interpretation, and textualism in the reading of statutes has triumphed, and neither one is going anywhere on my watch.”

We’re thrilled to hear it, Sir!  Excellent!!   🙂

French: Progressives Are Now Arguing that the First Amendment Is Profoundly Limited on College Campuses

There are a few ways to respond to radical demands for campus censorship. One is rather simple: Enforce decades of constitutional jurisprudence, and clearly signal to disruptive protesters that lawbreaking is grounds for serious discipline. Follow the law and the debate about free speech won’t end, but the wave of shout-downs will pass. Students, after all, don’t want to sacrifice their shot at a degree to stop, say, Ben Shapiro or Charles Murray from speaking. As a general rule, they’ll do what the college allows them to do, and nothing more. Then there’s the opposite response: A number of progressive administrators, professors, and activists (over the objection of more liberty-minded colleagues) are seeking to redefine and ultimately eliminate the very concept of a “marketplace of ideas” on college campuses. They argue that the ultimate mission of the university is education, not providing a platform for any crazy idea someone wants to share, and that school administrators should thus have the right to determine who speaks on campus and how they speak based on whether the speech in question furthers this educational mission. That, in a nutshell, is Yale Law School professor (and former dean) Robert Post’s argument in an extended piece in Vox. To justify an administrative role in determining not just who speaks on campus but what they are permitted to say, Professor Post says this: “The entire purpose of a university is to educate and to expand knowledge, and so everything a university does must be justified by reference to these twin purposes. These objectives govern all university action, inside and outside the classroom; they are as applicable to nonprofessional speech as they are to student and faculty work.” This is remarkably similar to the arguments made to my colleague Charlie Cooke in a recent and heated debate at Kenyon College. If speech is so offensive, hurtful, or maybe just plain wrong that administrators believe it would impair the educational mission of the university, then, the thinking goes, they should have the power to restrict that expression. There are multiple problems with this argument, but I’ll focus on two: It’s both unlawful and absurdly impractical. First, the law. When analyzing a free-speech case, the first question you need to ask is, “Who is speaking?” In the context of a public university, there are usually three relevant speakers: administrators, faculty, and students. Administrators have the general ability to define the mission and purpose of their schools’ academic departments. They can mandate, for example, that their science departments operate within the parameters of the scientific method and on key issues apply accepted scientific conclusions. But this power isn’t unlimited. They can’t lawfully decide, say, that evolutionary biology will be taught only by atheists. In that case, the speech of the administrators collides with the First Amendment rights of the professors, and the professors win. Similarly, while professors have the right to shape and control their classroom (some permit profanity and insults while others sharply limit discussion) and even have the right to require students, within the classroom context, to defend views they may find abhorrent, their control is not absolute. They can’t mark down conservatives for being conservative or silence Christians for being Christian. They can grade ideas and expression for academic rigor, but they cannot discriminate purely on the basis of ideology or faith. Just as you can’t “punch a Nazi,” you can’t “flunk a Nazi” if their work meets the standards of the class. One of my old cases is instructive. Shortly after California voters passed Proposition 8, a ballot measure that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, a speech professor at Los Angeles City College walked into his class and declared that any person who voted for Proposition 8 was a “fascist bastard.” One of his students, a young man named Jonathan Lopez, decided to respond in a speech assignment. Lopez was asked to deliver a speech on “the topic of his choice,” and he chose to discuss and define his Christian faith. In the course of discussing the fundamentals of his faith, he briefly addressed marriage. His professor stopped his speech, angrily confronted Lopez, and then dismissed the class. Rather than grade his speech, he wrote on the evaluation paper, “Ask God what your grade is.” The professor’s “speech” thus collided with the student’s First Amendment rights, and the student’s rights prevailed. In sum, individuals at each layer of university life enjoy considerable First Amendment protection. Indeed, no lesser authority than the Supreme Court has decisively declared that “the vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools.”

Exactly..  To read the rest of this outstanding legal op/ed by attorney David French, click on the text above.

Supreme Court refuses to hear from man who wants to marry his laptop

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request from a man who wants to be able to legally marry his laptop, saying he cannot intervene in the court’s upcoming case involving a baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding. Chris Sevier had asked to be allowed to take part in the case to argue that if same-sex couples are able to get married and demand that Christian bakers make them wedding cakes, then he should be allowed to marry his laptop and demand a cake to celebrate the union between one man and one machine. He said he asked Jack Phillips the Christian baker, to make a cake for him and his laptop — which Mr. Sevier called “non-secular parody weddings.” The Supreme Court, without comment, refused his request to intervene. The main case pits Mr. Phillips against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled the baker was violating the rights of same-sex couples by refusing to bake cakes for them. Mr. Phillips says the government is trying to force him to use his artistic expression against his will, which he says is a violation of First Amendment rights.

You really can’t make this stuff up, folks..

In victory for Trump, Supreme Court dismisses travel ban case

The Supreme Court dismissed a major challenge to President Trump’s travel ban on majority-Muslim countries Tuesday because it has been replaced by a new version, sending the controversy back to the starting block. The ruling is a victory for the Trump administration, which had asked the court to drop the case after Trump signed a proclamation Sept. 24 that replaced the temporary travel ban on six nations with a new, indefinite ban affecting eight countries. That action made the court challenge moot, the justices ruled. “We express no view on the merits,” the justices said in a one-page order. The decision effectively wipes the record clean in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, one of two federal appeals courts that had struck down major portions of Trump’s travel ban. That case began in Maryland. A separate case from the 9th Circuit, based in California, remains pending because it includes a ban on refugees worldwide that won’t expire until later this month. But the Supreme Court is likely to ditch that case, which began in Hawaii, as well. The challengers in both cases already have renewed their lawsuits in the lower courts, starting the legal process anew. In Maryland, a federal district court has scheduled a new hearing for next week. But the new travel ban and the Supreme Court’s order vacating the 4th Circuit appeals court judgment puts the administration in a somewhat stronger position, at least for now.

Let’s hope that position remains strong.  Kudos to the Supremes for this sound decision.  We’ll of course continue to keep an eye on this story which continues to develop…