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US Files Brief on Affordable Care Act Mandate

The Supreme Court will decide if the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. The Government yesterday filed its opening brief, available here.

Under the Affordable Care act, almost every American will have to obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a financial penalty. The question the court will decide is whether the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of Congress’s powers under article I of the Constitution.

Analysis is provided by Scotus Blog and legal analyst Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic.

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Supreme Court Takes Drug-Sniffing Dog Case

The Supreme Court has a chance to keep the Fourth Amendment from going to the dogs. Today it agreed to hear the case of Florida v. Jardines, in which it will decide whether police can use a drug-sniffing dog at the front door to a residence when they suspect the occupants of a drug offense but don't have a warrant.

The constitutional issue at stake is whether police must have probable cause — a belief that evidence of a crime will be found — before they may use a dog sniff at the front door of a suspected “grow house,” or a site where marijuana is being grown. The case grows out of a Miami police officer’s use of a drug-detecting dog, “Franky,” in December 2006 to follow up on a “crime stoppers” tip that the house was being used to grow marijuana plants.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that police needed to have a probable cause belief in wrongdoing before they could use the dog at the home, on the premise that the drug sniff was a “search” under the Fourth Amendment.

The Florida opinion is here, the state's Petition for Cert is here, and the opposing brief is here. [More...]

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"So The Mandate Falls? Big Deal."

So says Sheldon Whitehouse:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a former state attorney general who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said that the individual mandate might very well fall, but that the law’s defenders have gotten “overexcited” about it. The rest of the law will most likely survive, he said, preserving popular provisions that should help Democrats in the 2012 elections.

“So the mandate falls? Big deal,” Whitehouse said. “I think a family able to keep their sick kids on insurance even though they have pre-existing conditions, kids out of college able to stay on their parents’ policies while they look for that first job with healthcare — things like that are what will stick. Irrespective of what the Supreme Court says, that’s the things people really care about and are counting on.”

I think Whitehouse knows better than that. If the conservatives on the Supreme Court are willing to strike down the mandate, they'll take the rest of ACA with it. Other than Medicaid expansion, I'm not as enamored of ACA as others, to say the least. But Whitehouse seems to be readying a political argument against the conservatives on the Supreme Court and off of it.

My prediction remains a 2012 punt by the SCOTUS conservatives, dismissing the case on standing issues (the Anti-Injunction Act argument will be the vehicle I bet.)

Speaking for me only

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Supreme Court Oral Arguments on Warrantless GPS Tracking

Here's the transcript of today's oral argument in U.S. v. Antoine Jones, the case regarding warrantless GPS tracking devices. Basically,

The case concerned Antoine Jones, who was the owner of a Washington nightclub when the police came to suspect him of being part of a cocaine-selling operation. They placed a tracking device on his Jeep Grand Cherokee without a valid warrant, tracked his travels for a month and used the evidence they gathered to convict him of conspiring to sell cocaine. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The DC Court of Appeals reversed his conviction (opinion here.) [More...]

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Supreme Court to Re-Examine Eyewitness Evidence

It's about time. Adam Liptak of the New York Times reports the Supreme Court will revisit eyewitness identifications for the first time in 34 years. Mistaken eyewitness identification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions:

Of the first 250 DNA exonerations, 190 involved eyewitnesses who were wrong, as documented in “Convicting the Innocent,” a recent book by Brandon L. Garrett, a law professor at the University of Virginia.

Many of those witnesses were as certain as they were wrong. “There is absolutely no question in my mind,” said one. Another was “120 percent” sure. A third said, “That is one face I will never forget.” A fourth allowed for a glimmer of doubt: “This is the man, or it is his twin brother.”


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Supreme Court to Hear Substitute Witness Case

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in Bullcoming v. New Mexico. The issue: Can the state introduce a lab test through an analyst other than the one who performed the test?

How is that not a violation of the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause? When the case first started, the New Mexico court ruled the lab report wasn't testimonial evidence, but Melendez-Diaz took care of that. And since courts in the country are now divided, the Supreme Court has taken the case. [More...]

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Supreme Court Holds State Tort Suit Not Preempted By Auto Safety Standards

Here's the case (PDF). Discuss.

Full analysis later when I can.

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Scalia's Predictable "Originalism"

That Justice Antonin Scalia does not believe that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender should not come as a surprise to anyone. Via Huffington Post, in an interview with California Lawyer magazine, Justice Scalia confirms what most of us who thought about the question, already knew:

[Q:]In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don't think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we've gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?

[SCALIA:] Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. ... Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't.

This has been a central point to the discussion of originalism, original understanding and original purpose constitutional interpretation which I have written about a lot here. But this specific question on gender discrimination and Scalia's view was the subject of a Daily Kos post I wrote in 2006:

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Supreme Court Accepts Walmart Employee Discrimination Case

The Supreme Court today agreed to hear the Walmart employee discrimination case, described as the largest case of its type in U.S. history.

The question before the court is not whether there was discrimination but rather whether the claims by the individual employees may be combined as a class action. The court’s decision on that issue will almost certainly affect all sorts of class-action suits, including ones asserting antitrust, securities and product liability, as well as other claims.

The case is Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, No. 10-277. Scotusblog has more.

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Supreme Court Grants Cert in 14 Cases

The Supreme Court Justices held their annual conference yesterday and announced 14 cases will receive review. The full order list is here. Via Sentencing Law and Policy, here are the criminal cases:

In the Kentucky case, the Court will decide whether police can use evidence they seized breaking into the wrong apartment following a drug suspect. [More...]

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What's Wrong With Advice And Consent?

I guess I understand why some Dem bloggers are upset now that the Supreme Court confirmation process has become, horrors, "partisan." But I just am not one of them. Kevin Drum writes:

Elena Kagan was only barely confirmed to the Supreme Court yesterday, continuing a recent trend of court picks becoming ever more partisan. Jon Chait comments: [. . .] Th[is] trend has many legal observers lamenting a Supreme Court confirmation process on a steady trajectory toward complete polarization and a seemingly inevitable filibuster."

So what happens if this becomes institutionalized? It means that no president with a Senate controlled by the opposite party will ever be able to place someone on the Supreme Court. [. . .P]erhaps some change is in order?

Why exactly is this a bad thing? Imagine a system where Scalia and Thomas were not on the Court? Imagine a system where the electorate realized that the Senate had to agree with the President on who should sit on the Supreme Court? Oh wait, that is how the Founders designed it:

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Judiciary Committtee Approves Elena Kagan for Supreme Court

No surprise here, but the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the nomination of Elena Kagan for Supreme Court Justice.

Newsweek reports that Lindsay Graham's support for Kagan kills any chance of a filibuster.

President Obama lauded the vote calling it a "bipartisan affirmation."

Today's vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee is a bipartisan affirmation of her strong performance during her confirmation hearings.

I think some would disagree with that characterization. I just wish he'd stop harping on the need for bi-partisanship and remember that Republicans didn't elect him, Democrats did, and it's not only okay to be partisan, it's what we expected when we voted for him -- change and all that.

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A Little Red Meat For The Base: Right Falsely Accuses Kagan On Abortion

Seeing their brilliant strategy of attacking Thurgood Marshall shockingly not find a resonant audience, the Right has trotted out a new line of attack. It seems that when Elena Kagan was in the Clinton White House, she provided some wording advice on how to state their view on a late term abortion procedure to the American College of Obstetricians and Gyncecologists (ACOG). This, it appears, is scandalous behavior. It will be interesting to see if the GOP Senators pick up this point, and whether any of the GOP's witnesses are asked if they submitted their statements for review by the GOP staff of the Judiciary Committee.

In any event, when you get to the actual allegation, it is nonexistent. Here's the description at NRO by a conservative DC lawyer who worked in the Bush Justice Department of Kagan's horrible sin:

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No Answers From Kagan?

When I had a spare moment today, I watched the Spain-Portugal World Cup game (Spain won 1-0.) So I watched none of the Kagan confirmation hearings. I just read this report on the hearings:

Under questioning by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, Ms. Kagan said she thought it would be inappropriate for her to talk about how she might rule on pending cases or cases “that might come before the court in the future” — or to answer questions that were “veiled” efforts to get at such issues. Moreover, she said, she also now believed that “it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to talk about past cases” by essentially grading Supreme Court precedents, because those issues, too, might someday come again before the court.

Some Republicans seemed willing to give Ms. Kagan a pass on her retreat from her 1995 standard about how open and specific nominees should be about their legal views. “I really don’t have any major disagreement with where she’s drawn the line,” Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said during a break.

I'll read the transcript to see, but if I were a Senator, I would not accept the position Kagan has taken. I would vote No on bringing the nomination to the floor until the nominee answered the questions. But it seems clear that I am in the minority on this point.

Speaking for me only

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GOP To Filibuster Thurgood Marshall

A clever headline from the WaPo - Kagan may get confirmed, but Thurgood Marshall can forget it:

"Justice Marshall's judicial philosophy," said Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, "is not what I would consider to be mainstream." Kyl -- the lone member of the panel in shirtsleeves for the big event -- was ready for a scrap. Marshall "might be the epitome of a results-oriented judge," he said.


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