Supreme Court 2012 Rulings

The end of the session for the US Supreme Court is generally when they hand down rulings and then retire for the next couple of months. One session ends in June, the other in October. Today marked the end of the first session, and a number of rulings have been handed down. Most of the time the cases are regular ho-hum events nobody is paying attention to. This week was a major exception to that. Obamacare and the Arizona immigration law both got their rulings, among other cases.

Obamacare - The Affordable Care Act of 2010

On Thursday (June 28), the court handed down a ruling almost nobody was wanting to hear. The controversial and often derided (for good reason) "Obamacare" law has been ruled constitutional in a 5-4 vote with Chief Justice Roberts breaking with all sound logic and reason to side with the liberals on the court to arrive at this decision.

Though it didn't come without a truly hair-brained and odd twist to things. Rather than ruling it was constitutional under the commerce clause (it's not btw) ti was ruled instead that the major sticking point of the law, the individual mandate, was constitutional under Congress' authority to levy taxes.

Chief Justice Roberts said:

We do not consider whether the act embodies sound policies, that judgment is entrusted to the nation's elected leaders.

There's of course one tiny problem with this. That's exactly what the court is supposed to do when it interprets the law, so they are giving it tacit approval as "sound policy".

It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.

No, but it IS your job to do so when the law being examined was railroaded through despite the people objecting to the passage of the law to start with.

Congress's authority under the taxing power is limited to requiring an individual to pay money into the Federal Treasury, no more. If a tax is properly paid, the Government has no power to compel or punish individuals subject to it. We do not make light of the severe burden that taxation -- especially taxation motivated by a regulatory purpose -- can impose. But imposition of a tax nonetheless leaves an individual with a lawful choice to do or not do a certain act, so long as he is willing to pay a tax levied on that choice.

Tell that to all the people who can now be charged with tax evasion for refusing to pay for health insurance they neither want nor can afford. Hell, at this point, JAIL is looking appealing because at least there you get fed, clothed, and house. For free. So go ahead, call it a tax. When people refuse to pay, cart them off to jail and be really sensible about this when you're spending $50K/yr to care for each of them.

In an equally surprising turn though, Justice Anthony Kennedy read the dissenting opinion. In that dissenting opinion, the 4 justices on that side were voting to toss out the entire law as unconstitutional. Kennedy. A hard core liberal, siding with the conservatives on the correct side of an issue? What the hell is going on in this world?

Justice Anthony Kennedy said:

"Whatever may be the conceptual limits upon the Commerce Clause and upon the power to tax and spend, they cannot be such as will enable the Federal Government to regulate all private conduct and to compel the States to function as administrators of federal programs."

What? States Rights being advocated by a flaming liberal? This is likely the first case I've paid close enough attention to that he's said something about that I can actually agree with.

"To say that the Individual Mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it. Judicial tax-writing is particularly troubling."

Speaking so plainly against the concept of judicial activism? When he's been guilty of this since... forever? Is this Bizzaro World now? Did Kennedy and Roberts switch bodies or something?

There was apparently also a sub-ruling or something attached to this as well. One in which the court handed down a 7-2 decision stating, in effect, that the federal government can't actually compel the states to participate in the system. When I leave California, I will be looking for any such state which decides to opt out of this mad power grab to confiscate even more of my money.

So... uh... what do we have here, really? A toothless chicken shit ruling combined with what is now an equally toothless piece of shit law that appears to have no practical way to enforce what the court just said they can do. Bizzaro World.

Yes, I mad.

On an interesting side note. The political panel on Fox News I watched a couple of hours ago thinks there might be some clever political trickery going on here. I found it intriguing. Basically they were musing about the fact that Roberts went out of his way to convince the libs to declare it a tax. A tax the Republicans can now galvenize the base over. A tax that Obama flat out lied about in 2009 during the State of the Union address when he said nobody in America making less than $250K will see their taxes go up in any form. Ooops.

The clever political trickery? That Roberts might have done what he did on purpose to galvanize Republicans for the November election and assure Romney his victory so the law can then be repealed by Congress. It sounded pretty nutty to me, but then I thought about it. They could be right. Consider what the options were.

He joins the conservatives and the law is struck down in whole. Romney no longer has that as an issue, and the Democrats are hopping mad. Mad enough to rally the liberal base.

He joins the liberals, convinces them to call it a tax, AND engages in some judicial activism while doing it. Obama spikes the ball and now the Republicans are hopping mad. Mad enough to rally the conservative base.

He still joins the liberals, but buys totally into their game, and declares the entire law is valid under the Commerce Clause. Obama spikes the ball, Republicans walk away in disgust.

Clever ploy? Maybe. Insane gamble? You bet. Provided that's why he did it. Though I can't think of any actual sound legal principle he based it on since even his 4 majority partners wanted to fully validate it under the Commerce Clause.

Arizona Immigration Law

On Monday (June 25th) the court ruled on the Arizona immigration law, commonly referred to as SB1070 in Arizona. This law was, among other things, designed to supplement enforcement of federal immigration law that the Feds have openly said they won't enforce. Three of the laws provisions were struck down. One where it was made a state crime to seek employment without carrying proper work permits, one where immigrants were being made to carry their immigration documents on them, and one where the police were being legally authorized to arrest an illegal alien being suspected of a deportable offense.

The crux of the matter on this case was the federal government's assertion that it was their duty to enforce (or not enforce) these laws as each of these is already considered a federal immigration crime. The problem of course, as those of us in border states know all too well, is that the federal government has deliberately decided NOT to enforce these laws. So the flood of illegal immigrants continues to pour in unabated.

The fourth provision of the law, the one allowing the Arizona police to check the status of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally, has been remanded back to the lower courts. Which doesn't really resolve the issue, but SCOTUS found no basis for there being a problem with this provision solely based on unfounded speculation of what might happen as a result of its implementation.

Being the childish prick he is, Obama responded by ordering the DHS to suspend their immigration agreements with Arizona. Heavily implied in this of course is that the administration is simply not going to accept any filings from Arizona whether they be legitimate or not.

Personally I would have much preferred a more concrete ruling on everything that sent a clear message to the feds that they need to do their jobs and enforce the law as it stands, and if they choose not to, let the states pick up the slack. Mitt Romney effectively agrees with me on this.

Juvenile Life Sentences

In a 5-4 ruling, the court split down ideological lines in handing down a decision that it is unconstitutional for state legislatures to require a life sentence on a juvenile without the possibility of parole. Justice Elena Kagan cited the 8th amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment in writing her majority opinion which was supported by Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

Chief Justice John Roberts stated that neither the Constitution's text nor judicial precedent gave the court the authority to rule on the matter. His dissenting opinion was supported by Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Yep, the Obama court stacking is now beginning to have exactly the negative effects we expected it would with judicial activism winning out over Constitutional law. This should have been left as a state matter to decide.

Citizens United Reaffirmed

In another 5-4 ruling, this time in favor of free speech, the court has reaffirmed it's 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case and has apparently taken it one step further in ruling that their decision is also binding on states as well as the feds. This apparently stemmed from a Montana case in which the state there was trying to impose spending limits on certain groups.

FCC Nudity and Profanity

Last Thursday, in what a lot of us will likely hail as a good decision, myself included, SCOTUS has ruled 8-0 against the FCC's policies on nudity and profanity for broadcast television.

SCOTUS said:

"Because the FCC failed to give FOX or ABC fair notice prior to the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent, the Commissions' standards as applied to these broadcasts were vague."

The case arose out of a myriad of different issues involving awards shows with cursing presenters and some nude shots of women's asses on the old NYPD Blue series that ABC has since canceled due to low ratings.

Though they stopped short of ruling on the constitutionality of the FCC's policy itself, time marches on, and it will come up again at which point they may very well bring the hammer down on this. Market forces already drove many of the involved shows off the air long before this got this high up the chain. Don't like it? Change the channel and/or be a more responsible parent.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor recused herself from the case due to having been involved in the lower court proceedings leading up to the SCOTUS decision.

SEIU Union Fee Hikes

Also last Thursday, in a 7-2 decision, SCOTUS ruled that SEIU was not legally allowed to charge a special $12 million assessment in California for campaign purposes. The union failed to give adequate notice for the public sector employees involved that would have allowed them to opt out of it rather than being forced to pay.

SCOTUS Majority Opinion said:

"When a public-sector union imposes a special assessment or dues increase, the union must provide a fresh ... notice and may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent."

Naturally the employees will hail this as a victory, and one might note that the ruling extends this to ALL special assessments and dues increases which will serve to properly reign in a lot of the duplicitous methods these unions use to raise money from their membership.

We'll let slide the fact that these are public sector unions to begin with, because that's a whole other back of rotten worms that should never have happened to start with.
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

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Posted on Jun 28, 2012 8:29 pm by Samson in: | 32 comment(s) [Closed]
Oh. You fixed your quotes. And I can comment.

Congratulations, you now have universal health care.

Fury, that's not something we're keen on celebrating, in case you hadn't noticed :P

Speak for yourself...

Oh, no, see, right now I apparently STILL speak for about 60% of the country who did not want this legislation rammed down our throats to start with, and who will eagerly welcome the repeal when President Romney takes office.

Also, we'll eagerly await Sandbox not jacking my settings again.

Now that I've actually read the post...

1. Obamacare: Obviously I'm ok with the ruling (and would have been ok with a commerce clause version, FWIW). I'd also have gone a lot further than Obamacare, but you take what you can get with these things.

2. The part I find interesting about the AZ thing is that the part people were most up in arms about? That's the part they kept. I find it unlikely that anybody at all will be happy here.

3. I haven't really kept up with the juvenile life sentences thing, though on the one hand I'm reasonably comfortable with regulating that on a federal level, and on the other it's not saying they can't still be given life sentences, just not automatically. Which, since I think mandatory sentencing is sort of dumb anyway, I can get behind.

4. We really, really need some sort of amendment for this financing shit.

5. I think we can all get behind the idea that the FCC's rules were pretty fucked up.

6. The other fun one that's getting a lot of outrage on the blogs I read is the striking down of the Stolen Valor Act, which is...maybe understandable, but not really a great thing?

1. Yes, I know you'd have gone a lot further, but, well, encroachment of federal power doesn't sit well with the conservative majority. Of the people that is. I still don't even know WTF Roberts was doing there.

2. Ironic, no? The one part we wanted is kept, but any meaningful enforcement value of that evaporated when Obama essentially said "fuck Arizona".

3. Mandatory sentencing has deterrent value and is useful in states that have a problem with rampant crime. Striking that down is just another shortsighted case of thinking one size fits all for 50 different states. I don't think you'll find too many people, myself included, out protesting in the streets over this though.

4. We have one. 1st Amendment. It's been upheld. Again.

5. The FCC is an anachronism. I don't know one single person anymore who gives a rat's hairy ass about seeing... hairy asses on TV. Among other things. A good portion of us watch on cable/satellite anyway where this stuff isn't an issue.

6. Erm. I didn't even know that one was up for consideration. The news never even mentioned it. I can understand where they're coming from in striking it down, it's technically a violation of free speech, but surely there will be those doing this who will attempt to use this to their advantage for fraud now? Not to mention the part where it's insulting to actual veterans.

Oh, and I don't really buy the "it was all an election ploy!" thing. Two basic reasons:

1. Name me a member of the Republican base that was going to vote for Obama prior to this. You can't. Those people don't exist. I doubt it's possible to drum up any more fervor among the base than already exists.

Which also goes for the Democratic base, for the record.

2. It seems to me that if you're going to try an electoral ploy, doing so by affirming a giant mound of legal precedent and a giant law that will likely survive whoever wins the election is not the best way to do it.

Which is to say that I don't think your Fox person is at all correct.

Edited by Dwip on Jun 28, 2012 10:57 pm
Fox people, and I said it sounded fishy, but still. I've gotten to the point anymore where no theory goes unexamined, and this one has just enough plausibility to explain what the hell he thought he was doing.

I have mixed feelings about the health care law, primarily because the insurance companies are out to screw over everyone but the high level executive employees who make $7,000,000 plus off of the people they screw over.

Yes there are huge flaws in our current system. Somehow, I don't think that conservative faction is a 60% majority either. I was very surprised that law got upheld.

Immigration. Another sticky issue. There are no easy answers.

Fast & Furious -- well you could do a lot of damage to the black market by legalizing drugs and treating addiction as a medical issue instead of a criminal one. That would wipe out the deficit almost overnight in two ways... one taxes and two not having to allocate all those resources to the justice and incarcerations systems. I also suspect that whole thing could have been handled much better than it was with all that "gun walking"

I don't think converting the "war on drugs" into a medical issue and removing the legality issues surrounding it would wipe out the deficit after Obama inflated it to monstrous proportions, especially when they'd just lump all the medical costs into their new socialist medical system.

As far as the actual deal with F&F and Holder:

They should be pursuing impeachment proceedings for the blatant defiance of the law being displayed here.

It's worth considering, re: ACA opposition, that a large portion of that figure is liberals who don't think the law goes far enough, and would prefer actual, for real socialized health care. But.

As for the drug war, I'm more or less with Ysne. I don't have the numbers offhand, but:

- Treating addiction on a medical level is, I'm given to understand, far, far cheaper than incarceration;

- We've been, for as long as I can remember, talking about overcrowding in prisons largely due to mandatory sentencing for things like marijuana possession, etc, which is all money you're not spending on other more useful things;

- Never mind the lives that are getting exploded for said possession, since criminal convictions fuck with you hard;

- Never mind the cost of the DEA, &c;

- Never mind the overcrowded legal system;

- Never mind the increasing number of civil liberties issues with law enforcement overreach, &c, &c, which would seem to me to be far more destructive than the drugs ever were (though, to be fair, 9/11 overreaction has a lot to do with this too);

- And never mind the actual criminals created out of this thing, just precisely like Prohibition created Capone, et al, only worse.

All of which is somewhat tangential to the Republicans trying very hard to fruitlessly Lewinsky Obama via Holder, but.

And since I'm already overquota on this word anyway: but.

With the way the government handles Medicare? I'm not sure it makes much difference which division is spending $50K/yr to house and care for drug addicts.

You're aware that, in LA County at least, drug offenders don't even go to jail, right? Unless they're on the hard stuff anyway, and even then only if they're selling rather than buying. So the overcrowding argument sort of falls flat when jails in the state with the most criminals aren't even being used to house them. We have more criminals, of course, because liberals have all but castrated the effectiveness of the legal system with their nonsense policies of "restorative justice".

Lives are getting exploded regardless because drug addicts can't pass drug screens and therefore can't get jobs.

On the DEA, I agree. They're doing nothing to help. They spend piles of money roaming around the oceans and occasionally put on a dog & pony show for a bust once in awhile. I don't know about you, but I'd be thrilled to see them close up shop permanently. The states can handle this already.

There's a giant difference between trying to ban alcohol and banning things like cocaine, heroin, and PCP. Alcohol is generally not dangerous even when consumed in large quantities. People tend to fall asleep, and it only becomes a problem if they decide to drive off somewhere like that. Cocaine addits tend to commit violent acts. Heroin addicts are widely known to rob you for pocket change. PCP addicts take 10 cops to bring down after rampaging through the streets. And let's not forget "Bath Salts" which in a few cases has turned people into cannibalistic zombie things.

It would make little difference if the hard drugs became legal to use. Unless your goal in life is for America to emulate The Netherlands.

None of which has a thing to do with Eric Holder bringing his situation upon himself. Nice try though :P

Edited by Samson on Jun 29, 2012 10:19 pm
We're now wildly OT, so I won't spend a whole lot of time here, but:

- I probably wasn't clear, but the main thrust of what I was talking about was pot. You can make arguments for treatment vs. decriminalization for, say, PCP, but I'm not going to be the one making them.

- LA County is not the rest of the world, though I'm aware of CA's fairly broken justice system. Point being, having your life fucked up by having a pot bust follow you around forever is dumb, jail or no.

- As to the DEA, the point you're alluding to is that try as we might to stop the massive influx of drugs into the country, no joy. We are, however, doing a wonderful job trampling all over ourselves trying to stop same, to no avail except annoying people. Sort of like DRM.

Hey, wildly off topic is what we excel at here :)

No, I figured you probably meant pot but I had to make the point because other folks who argue for what you're after also want all the rest of that stuff too. And I'm not talking about flaming liberals in this case. I'm talking about nutjobs like Ron Paul who want to decriminalize ALL of it.

LA County isn't the rest of the world, no, but it's sadly looked at as a leader for this country and a number of other states have followed us off the cliff into that abyss. Mainly in the northeast.

Yes, to put it in those terms, the DEA is the DRM of drugs and law enforcement. Nobody like them and they're totally ineffective anyway.

I always find the position of the Right in relation to drug use to be kind of humorous. The right espouses the right of the individual to choose. Nanny state this, nanny state that, i want to be able to choose to be dumb and not have health care, but is someone wants to choose to take drugs and be an even bigger waste of space, SEND THE FUCKERS TO JAIL.

If history has taught us anything, it is that, you just cannot stop drug use. Prohibition taught this, the war on drugs taught this. So, if you cannot stop it, and it is costing society at large more and more each year, legalise it, tax it and turn a net loss into a net profit, and take a freaken huge slice of the organised crimes profits.

Your country is both morally and economically bankrupt, this might go someways to balancing your governments budget.

You seem to be missing the part where legalizing things like cocaine and PCP are routinely lumped into the argument when the effects of these drugs go well beyond the person taking them. A functional society needs to have some measures in place to protect people from things like this.

Or, you could allow your country to become The Netherlands, where addicts are strewn about the streets and crime is through the roof because of it. I don't know about you but I'd prefer to live in a cleaner society than all that.

Your argument works a lot better if you focus on what you want - weed. You'll find there's plenty of folks on the right who won't say a word about legalizing and taxing that in the same manner as tobacco. What you're failing to realize is that it's actually the libs who have been on such an anti-tobacco tear for decades now. Trying to blame the right for this is nonsense. California, for instance, has some of this countries toughest tobacco taxes and regulations, and this has only been the case since the Dems looted the state and claimed it as their stronghold.

Or, you could allow your country to become The Netherlands, where addicts are strewn about the streets and crime is through the roof because of it. I don't know about you but I'd prefer to live in a cleaner society than all that.

But you have this already, just without the tax benefits. I bet there are plenty of places where you will not go within your own city because gang and drug related crime.

Yes, there are. They're also more or less hiding in their crack houses and not laying around on the street or in the city parks. They're also not marijuana dealers doing this.

Anonymous [Anon] said:
Comment #20 Jul 4, 2012 11:52 pm
Or, you could allow your country to become The Netherlands, where addicts are strewn about the streets and crime is through the roof because of it. I don't know about you but I'd prefer to live in a cleaner society than all that.

This is a fascinating observation about the Netherlands, and I'd like to know more about it. Do you have the source of this information anywhere?

Common knowledge. It was all over the press for years, and even the Dems in California were making fun of Amsterdam.

On the subject of the post:

Where the court fails, the Pentagon aims to succeed. It's a good start I suppose.

I'm honestly amazed it took this long.

Samson said:

Common knowledge. It was all over the press for years, and even the Dems in California were making fun of Amsterdam.

I had a quick look at the statistics and although I wasn't uber thorough, all the figures I could find indicated that the USA has far worse crime rates than the Netherlands, except apparently for embezzlement. The murder rate in the USA, for instance, is 4-6 times more than the rate in the Netherlands (the USA was 4.8 per 100,000 and the figure for the Netherlands varied a bit from 0.8 to 1.1 per 100,000), although most of the time the figures were closer than that.

@Prettyfly: I have been reading Game of Thrones and watching the series as well at the same time. Most of the way currently through the first book. I find the book more stimulating that the series, as you predicted i would. Over all its a good read, even if i wished that King Robert had not died and wished he would have come home and killed her and that stupid Prince Joffery.

Don't worry, that time will come. Except for Cersie, she hasn't kicked the bucket yet (I'm rooting for Jaime to kill her in the six book). Although, if you don't like main characters dying, there's going to be a lot of nasty shocks for you.

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