Tag Archives: Supreme Court

Supreme Court To Stay Out Of Health Care Fight – For Now

Amplify’d from www.cnn.com
The Supreme Court won't hear the first constitutional challenge to President Obama's health care reform.

Washington (CNN) — To no one’s surprise, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected the first constitutional challenge to the sweeping health care reform effort championed by President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress.

The justices without comment refused to get involved at this early stage, while various state and federal challenges are continuing. The high court rarely accepts cases before they have been thoroughly reviewed by lower courts.

A challenge to the law was brought by a California conservative group. Higher profile lawsuits have been brought by state officials in Florida, Virginia and almost two dozen other states.

Read more at www.cnn.com

 

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United Arab Emirates: Man May Beat Wife, Children As Long As No Marks

The highest court in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has upheld the right of a man to beat his wife and children for the purpose of “disciplining” them, but only so long as the beating leaves no discernible bruises or marks and is not too “severe.”  In addition, a man must first exhaust admonition and abstaining from sleeping with his wife as forms of correction before resorting to a beating.

According to the court, a man who goes beyond these restrictions abuses his “right” under sharia law and is subject to a fine.  In the case at issues, a husband had “slapped and cicked” his 23 year-old daughter and “slapped his wife.”  The court found that the beating too severe because it left bruises on the wife, and concluded that the daughter was too old for such treatment.

Boy, women and children in the UAE can breathe a sigh of relief after this lamp of liberty was lit, can’t they?  What is, perhaps, most frightening about this decision is that the UAE is often considered by western officials to be one of the more “democratic” of the Mideast countries.  However, the State Department webpage on the UAE lists the following as continued problems for democracy in the UAE:

• no citizens’ right to change the government and no popularly elected representatives of any kind
• flogging as judicially sanctioned punishment
• arbitrary detention
• incommunicado detention permitted by law
• questionable independence of the judiciary
• restrictions on civil liberties–freedom of speech and of the press, and assembly
• restrictions on right of association, particularly for human rights groups
• restrictions on religious freedom
• domestic abuse of women, sometimes enabled by police
• trafficking in women and children
• legal and societal discrimination against women and noncitizens
• corruption and lack of government transparency
• abuse of foreign domestic servants
• restrictions on and abuses of workers’ rights

You can read more about the decision here.

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Elena Kagan Faces First Vote In Senate; Party Line Vote Expected

Elena Kagan as Dean of Harvard Law School
Image via Wikipedia

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee is wrapping up its confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee, Solicitor General Elena Kagan.  Much of the speech in opposition to General Kagan centers on an alleged lack of appropriate experience for the Supreme Court.  While listening to the hearings, it seemed appropriate to provide a quick summary of General Kagan’s legal experience and qualifications:

  1. Masters in Philosophy, Oxford University, 1983
  2. Graduate, Magna Cum Laude, Harvard Law School, 1986
  3. Law Clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1988
  4. Counsel to President Clinton, 1995-1999
  5. Appellate Justice, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, 1999-2003
  6. First female Dean of Harvard Law School, 2003-2009
  7. First female Solicitor General, appointed January 5, 2010

Aside from an apparent lack of experience as a practicing attorney, General Kagan brings strong academic credentials and judicial experience on the Nation’s most powerful appellate bench.  It is singularly interesting to watch one Republican after another decry General Kagan’s nomination when many, if not most, of these same Senators were all but committed to supporting President George W. Bush‘s failed nomination of White House Counsel Harriet Miers, a far more political position than Solicitor General.

You can watch the hearings on C-Span3’s Live Stream.  You can read a full overview of General Kagan’s background here.

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Supreme Court Unanimously Upholds Discharge Of Student Loan Debt

In a surprising decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, in United Student Aids Funds v. Espinosa, that a student may discharge the interest on their student loan debt, even though the student did not allege “undue hardship” if required to repay the loans.  When the student, Francisco Espinosa, sought bankruptcy protection and submitted his plan to the bankruptcy court judge, the student loan creditor, United Student Aids Funds, did not object.  Instead, the creditor later sought to void the plan under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4).

Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Thomas stated, “Rule 60(b)(4) does not provide a license for litigants to sleep on their rights…Where, as here, a party is notified of a plan’s contents and fails to object to confirmation of the plan before the time for appeal expires, that party has been afforded a full and fair opportunity to litigate, and the party’s failure to avail itself of that opportunity will not justify Rule 60(b)(4) relief.”

As a general rule, student loans are considered non-dischargeable in the absence of proof of undue hardship to the debtor if required to repay the loans.  Will this ruling by the Supreme Court breathe new life into the question of student loan dischargeability?  That remains to be seen.  It certainly gives more than a faint glimmer of hope in an area of bankruptcy law that many students and graduates have argued should be subject to at least partial dischargeability.

For further information on the procedural history of this important new case, you may check out these links to the ABA here and here.  You may also refer to the SCOTUS blog here.  I have also placed a PDF of the Espinosa decision in the Box for downloading.

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Supreme Court Declines “Vamos a Cuba” Case

Vamos a Cuba
Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear a bitterly contested First Amendment case arising out of Miami-Dade County, Florida, and which has come to be known as the “Vamos a Cuba” Case.  “Vamos a Cuba,” or “A Visit to Cuba,” is a children’s book at the center of the controversy, which school board officials removed from the school library.

As reported in yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor, school board officials determined that the book portrayed an inaccurate picture of life in Cuba, based largely on one parent’s offense to the following statement:  “People in Cuba eat, work, and go to school like you do.”  “Vamos a Cuba” is part of a 24-volume set of books intended to introduce U.S. children to life in other countries.

The ACLU filed suit against the school board claiming that the board’s actions constituted censorship in violation of the 1st Amendment.  The U.S. District Court agreed, issuing an injunction commanding the school board to restore the book to the library shelves.  The school board then filed an appeal, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court’s ruling and lifted the injunction.

By refusing to take up the case, the Supreme Court will let the 11th Circuit’s ruling – and the school board’s actions – stand.

Miami-Dade County has a long history of political controversy, first making headlines with Anita Bryant‘s prominent campaigning in 1977 to repeal a local ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

What is remarkable about this case, in my opinion, is the fact that the school board convened not 1, but 2, panels to review the book and decide if it should stay or go.  The first panel consisted of 8 individuals, voting 7 – 1 in favor of the book staying on the library shelves.  Apparently, not to be dissuaded, the board convened a second, larger panel of 16 individuals.  They voted 15 – 1 in favor of the book.  Despite these resounding vote totals, the school board then voted 6 – 1 in favor of removing the book.

Another point that bears mentioning is that the school board also rejected any argument that the library could acquire other books about Cuba that might present a more “well-rounded” view of the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court has tinkered with Tinker v. Des Moines School District for years now, gradually whittling away at young people’s freedom of expression and First Amendment liberties.  This time, I fear, they struck a potentially worse blow to the First Amendment by not getting involved.

Do you agree with the school board’s actions in this particular case?  Should a local school board be permitted to remove a book from the public school’s library because the board believes it paints an inaccurate viewpoint about another nation?  What if a school board decided that the Holocaust did not actually happen, and banned any books referencing it?

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