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Overview:

The United States Supreme Court is the highest court of law in the country. The cases it hears begin in federal or state courts, and they usually involve important questions about the Constitution or federal law. Its rulings are final and cannot be appealed to any other court. Because it represents the last stop in the judicial system, the Supreme Court wields tremendous power in the American political system. The court has established legalities regarding abortion, campaign finance, and the detention of terrorist suspects, to name just a few, determining the legal boundaries for these critical public policy issues. Due to its position of power, justices on the high court have been caught up in high-stakes political battles in Congress, where the U.S. Senate must confirm presidential court appointees.

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History:

 

 

 

 

The United States Supreme Court was established under the US Constitution. Article III dictates that the judicial power of the federal government resides in “one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts” that Congress establishes. The Constitution granted the Supreme Court original jurisdiction in cases involving states and diplomats, but left Congress to decide the size and responsibilities of the Supreme Court.

 

These added details were created under the Judiciary Act of 1789, which dictated that the court would have one chief justice and five associate justices. The act further defined the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to include appellate jurisdiction in larger civil cases and cases in which state courts ruled on federal statutes. Congress required the justices of the Supreme Court to preside with the local federal judges on the U.S. circuit courts that met in judicial districts throughout the nation. This was done to ensure that members of the highest court would participate in the principal trial courts of the federal judiciary and be familiar with the procedures of the state courts.
 

The size of the Supreme Court grew to accommodate the establishment of new circuits as the nation expanded. In 1807 a seventh justice was added to the court, and in 1837, an eighth and ninth justice joined the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reached its largest size in 1863 with the creation of a Tenth Circuit on the west coast and the appointment of a tenth justice. In 1866, Congress reduced the size of the court to seven justices and provided that no vacant seats would be filled until that number was reached. The number of sitting justices fell to eight before an act of 1869 provided for nine justices, one for each of the judicial circuits established in 1866.

 

The most ambitious plan to expand the size of the court came during the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937. In an effort to pull the country out of a steep Depression, FDR pushed through several groundbreaking pieces of legislation that came to be known as the New Deal. While some of Roosevelt’s plans were put into effect, the Supreme Court rejected others. With some of his most important reforms (National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, and Social Security Act) still awaiting decisions before the high court, Roosevelt decided on a controversial effort to increase the number of justices from nine to 15. Roosevelt proposed that he be allowed to appoint an extra judge to the Supreme Court for every judge over the age of 70 who had served for 10 years and who refused to retire. This proposal, which came to be known as FDR’s “court-packing” scheme, would have given him the right to change the balance of the Supreme Court by appointing six new justices. Many of the conservative justices on the court who had opposed some of Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms showed no signs of retiring, leaving the President without the option of appointing more liberal justices.

 

Opposition to Roosevelt’s judicial reform plan was intense, even from his own party, and critics accused him of trying to “pack” the court with New Deal-friendly supporters. Before Roosevelt’s plan could be seriously tested in Congress, the high court ruled in favor of the NLRB Act and Social Security Act, and Justice Van Devanter announced his retirement. The appearance of court support for his policies and an opportunity for a Supreme Court appointment took the steam out of Roosevelt’s plan and the measure died quietly in committee.

 

The duties of circuit riding required the Supreme Court justices to spend most of their time traveling and prompted recurrent efforts to reduce or eliminate this responsibility. In 1793, Congress reduced the number of justices required to hold circuit court from two to one. In the Judiciary Act of 1801, Congress created separate circuit judgeships and freed the justices from any circuit court duties, but this exemption was short-lived. In 1802 Congress again assigned the justices to serve on the U.S. circuit courts, although it allowed the district judge to preside alone in some instances. The establishment of separate circuit judgeships in 1869 further relieved the circuit obligations of the justices. When Congress abolished the circuit courts in 1911, it finally made the justices’ circuit duty optional.
 

Throughout its first century, the Supreme Court was responsible for deciding most civil appeals, and the justices had little control over a docket that was increasingly overcrowded. The act establishing the circuit courts of appeals in 1891 authorized the justices to grant review through certiorari and allowed the courts of appeals to certify other cases for appeal to the high court at the same time that it restricted the right of automatic appeal to the Supreme Court. The Judges Bill of 1925 further increased the justices’ discretion in determining what cases to hear, and in 1988, Congress eliminated almost all types of mandatory jurisdiction.
 

The Supreme Court has exercised only limited administrative authority over the federal courts. In 1922 the act creating the Conference of Senior Circuit Judges required the chief justice or an associate justice to convene the conference, and the chief justice continues to preside over the Judicial Conference. Congress in 1934 granted the Supreme Court responsibility for drafting rules of federal procedure. The 1939 law creating the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts provided that the Supreme Court would appoint its director. Congress changed the law in 1990, vesting that authority in the chief justice in consultation with the Judicial Conference. The chief justice also chairs the board of the Federal Judicial Center.

 

During the modern, post-World War II era, the Supreme Court has been characterized by three eras of judicial leadership. The Warren Court (1953–1969, named after Chief Justice Earl Warren) issued the landmark ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, which eliminated segregation in public schools. The Burger Court (1969–1986, named after Chief Justice Warren Burger) ruled that abortion was a constitutional right (Roe v. Wade), made controversial rulings on affirmative action (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke) and campaign finance regulation (Buckley v. Valeo) and held that the implementation of the death penalty in many states was unconstitutional (Furman v. Georgia). The Rehnquist Court (1986–2005, named after Chief Justice William Rehnquist) may go down in history most famously for its ruling in Bush v. Gore, which resolved the 2000 presidential election in favor of George W. Bush. The court actually made several rulings in regards to the deadlocked election, overturning a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that aided the campaign of Al Gore in completing a recount of votes cast. The Supreme Court’s decisions essentially awarded Florida to Bush, giving him the victory.

Members of the Supreme Court (1789 to Present)

The Supreme Court Historical Society

Court Packing (University of Virginia)

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What it Does:

The United States Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices. At its discretion, and within certain guidelines established by Congress, the Supreme Court each year hears a limited number of the cases it is asked to decide. Those cases may begin in the federal or state courts, and they usually involve important questions about the Constitution or federal law.

 

Those currently serving on the court are Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Associate Justices Elena Kagan, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Samuel A. Alito, Jr. The US Supreme Court Justices Database is maintained by Northwestern University’s law school, with links to it from the U.S. Supreme Court Web site. The public database contains a wealth of information on individuals nominated (whether confirmed or not) to the Supreme Court.

 

In addition to the nine justices, court officers assist the court in the performance of its functions. They include the Administrative Assistant to the Chief Justice, the Clerk, the Reporter of Decisions, the Librarian, the Marshal, the Court Counsel, the Curator, the Director of Data Systems, and the Public Information Officer. The Chief Justice appoints the Administrative Assistant. The court appoints the Clerk, Reporter of Decisions, Librarian, and Marshal. The Chief Justice, in consultation with the court, appoints all other court officers.

 

The term of the Supreme Court begins, by law, on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October of the next year. Approximately 10,000 petitions are filed with the court each term. In addition, some 1,200 applications of various kinds are filed each year that can be acted upon by a single justice.

 

The automated docket system is the court’s case tracking system. It contains information about cases, both pending and decided. The docket database contains information regarding the status of cases for both the current term and prior terms.

 

During Supreme Court hearings, each side is allowed 30 minutes argument and up to 24 cases may be argued at one sitting. Since the majority of cases involve the review of a decision of some other court, there is no jury and no witnesses are heard.

 

Each week the justices must also evaluate more than 130 petitions seeking review of judgments of state and federal courts to determine which cases are to be granted full review with oral arguments by attorneys.

 

Prior to hearing oral argument, other business of the court is transacted. On Monday mornings this includes the release of an Order List, a public report of court actions including the acceptance and rejection of cases, and the admission of new members to the Court Bar.

 

In May and June the court sits only to announce orders and opinions. The court recesses at the end of June, but the justices continue their work, analyzing new petitions for review, considering motions and applications and making preparations for cases scheduled for fall argument.

 

The Supreme Court also provides information about Briefs on the Merits, Court Rules, Case Handling Guides, Opinions of the Court and Orders of the Court.  

 

The Supreme Court and Its Traditions The Supreme Court and Constitutional Interpretation

The Supreme Court Building (pdf)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USAspending.gov, the federal Web site that provides information on contracts awarded by Executive Branch agencies, does not collect information on any contracts that the administrative functions of U.S. Supreme Court may issue. The Supreme Court itself states that it does not maintain reports regarding contractor data. Alderson Court Reporting, which provides transcription services, does contract with the high court, providing transcripts of Supreme Court cases. It is not known how much Alderson is paid for this service.

 

The Supreme Court states that its proposed FY 2013 budget of $77,165,000 will be spent on salaries and expenses. An additional $11,963,000 has been requested by the Architect of the Capitol to pay for the care of the Supreme Court building and grounds, which includes salaries for 50 employees.

 

 

From the Web Site of the U.S. Supreme Court

 

About the Supreme Court

Bar Admissions

Biographies of Current Justices

Briefs on the Merits

Case Handling Guides

Contact Information

Court Building

Court News

Court Rules

Docket

FAQs

FAQs about Justices

FAQs for Locating Documents & Information

Journal: Official Minutes

Media Advisories

Opinions

Oral Arguments

Orders and Journal

Press Releases

Speeches

Term Statistics (pdf)

Visiting the Court

Year-End Reports

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Controversies:

Prison Overcrowding Ruling Causes Problems for California Gov. Jerry Brown

California has waged a longstanding legal battle with the federal courts regarding overcrowding in its state prisons. Time and again, the state’s lawyers have lost their cases before appellate and Supreme Court justices, who have ruled California must free thousands of prisoners.

 

In 2009, a federal judge said the state had violated inmates’ constitutional rights to adequate medical and health care by squeezing too many of them into facilities that had exceeded capacity (148,000 inmates were occupying space meant for 80,000). California was told to free up to 40,000 prisoners over two years.

 

Governor Jerry Brown rejected the ruling, saying it would risk public safety.

 

He had the state attorney general appeal the decision, asking to give California until 2016 to make things right. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011. But the state lost again, as justices upheld the lower court ruling.

 

The state, however, never fully complied with the order, setting off another round of court decisions that didn’t go California’s way.

 

In October 2013, the Supreme Court refused to consider California’s petition, leaving Brown with no further legal options for delaying the release of prisoners. Rather than putting at least 10,000 inmates on the streets by February 2014 as required, Brown planned to lease room in out-of-state prisons and privately owned facilities.

California Must Release Prisoners, Supreme Court Rules (BBC News)

California Governor is Still Intent on Defying the Supreme Court on Prison Overcrowding (by Nicole Flatow, Think Progress)

California Governor Proposes $315 Million Plan To Ease Prison Overcrowding (by Dan Whitcomb, Reuters)

California Gets Four Extra Weeks to Reduce Prison Overcrowding (Newsmax)

California Prison Overcrowding Case Turned Back By U.S. Supreme Court (by Howard Mintz, San Jose Mercury News)

 

Class-Action Suits Lose Out

The U.S. Supreme Court in recent years has repeatedly ruled against class-action lawsuits brought against corporations.

 

In 2011, the court’s conservative wing threw out a large employment discrimination case against Walmart, saying the plaintiffs did not have enough in common (since they worked in different Walmarts in different cities) to sue together.

 

The lawsuit began 10 years earlier when three female employees went after Walmart claiming the retail chain systematically discriminated against women. Women make up two-thirds of the hourly wage earners in the company, but hold only a third of management posts.

 

The plaintiffs had sought to expand their case into a class-action suit on behalf of every woman who had worked for Walmart at any time since December 1998—as many as 1.5 million.

 

Two years later, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Comcast Corp in an antitrust case over how much it charged cable TV subscribers.

 

The court said a group of cable TV subscribers in the Philadelphia area who accused Comcast of overcharging them as part of an effort to monopolize the market could not sue as a group, further curtailing the ability of Americans to pursue class-action lawsuits.

Walmart Case: Supreme Court Aids The Powerful (by Peter Goodman, Huffington Post)

Wal-Mart Case Revives a Longstanding Debate (by Cathy Young, Real Clear Politics)

Supreme Court Rules for Comcast in Class Action (by Jonathan Stempel, Reuters)

 

Obamacare in the Supreme Court

Much to the dismay of conservative opponents of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that most of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions were constitutional.

 

The 5-4 ruling, which included Chief Justice John Roberts, said the law’s most important provision—the mandate that individuals purchase health insurance—was constitutional because it could be construed as a tax, which fell within the powers of Congress.

 

Roberts was joined in the opinion by liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

 

The court upheld hundreds of other rules embedded in the law. But one part that compelled states to expand Medicaid or else risk losing federal monies was thrown out.

Supreme Court Health Care Decision: Individual Mandate Survives (by Mike Sacks, Huffington Post)

The Individual Mandate Survives As A Tax, Justices Find Fault With Medicaid Expansion (Kaiser Health News)

 

Politics in the Court

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was accused of politicizing the court in January 2011 by accepting an invitation to speak before the Tea Party caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

One legal expert, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said Scalia showed “exceedingly poor judgment” in deciding to address the group of conservative Republican lawmakers.

 

Turley told the Los Angeles Times that the meeting suggested “an alliance between the conservative members of the court and the conservative members of Congress,” which could lead to the court becoming overly politicized.

 

Scalia also made news in the same week when he told California Lawyer magazine that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment didn’t extend to discrimination based on gender or sexual preference.

Justice Scalia Courts Controversy For Agreeing To Speak To Tea Party Caucus (by Eyder Peralta, National Public Radio)

30 Seconds After Denying Court Is Politicized, Scalia Says Democrats Do ‘Not Stick To The Text’ Of The Constitution (by Ian Millhiser, Think Progress)

 

Citizens United Decision

In one of the most important and controversial rulings in recent court history, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2010 that the government cannot restrict corporations from contributing to election campaigns. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a narrow majority (5-4) threw out longstanding rules that limited giving by corporations as well as labor unions, though most attention was paid to the impact the ruling would have on corporate donations.

 

The conservative wing of the court (John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Samuel Alito) agreed to overrule two precedents: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates; and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 decision that upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain-Feingold) that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions.

 

The majority said to limit corporate giving would constitute a violation of the First Amendment, which grants free speech to individuals. Dissenters warned the ruling would allow corporate money to flood election campaigns and corrupt democracy.

 

President Barack Obama called Citizens United “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

 

The only solace for opponents was eight of the justices (minus Thomas) agreed that Congress can require corporations to disclose their spending and to run disclaimers with their advertisements.

 

Two years after the ruling, opponents were hoping the court would revisit the Citizens United ruling when it heard a challenge to Montana’s century-old law banning corporations from spending money in state elections. The court, however, did not reconsider the precedent while ruling the Montana law unconstitutional.

Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Spending Limit (by Adam Liptak, New York Times)

Citizens United v. FEC (Amicus Brief) (Brennan Center for Justice)

Supreme Court Faces Pressure To Reconsider Citizens United Ruling (by Robert Barnes, Washington Post)

 

Bush v. Gore

In December 2000, the Supreme Court essentially decided the outcome of the contested presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. After Election Day, the awarding of Florida’s electoral votes was undetermined due to the extremely close margin between votes cast for Bush and Gore, leaving the nation wondering who won the race. Florida state law automatically triggered a recount, and voting irregularities in some areas of Florida exacerbated an already tense, high-stakes situation.

 

The matter of the recount was first addressed on December 8 in the Florida Supreme Court, which sided with the Gore campaign’s request for a hand count of ballots in four counties. The Bush camp appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which four days after the Florida court’s decision, overruled the lower court. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7–2 that the Florida Supreme Court decision, which ordered a statewide recount, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The high court made a separate 5-4 ruling that in effect ended any chance of a recount, leaving Bush slightly ahead of Gore in the vote and giving the Republican the electoral votes needed to be declared the winner. What was most shocking about the majority opinion was that the five justices declared that their decision applied only to the current case and was not to be considered precedent for any future cases.

 

Four justices—John Paul Stevens, Ruth Ginsburg, David Souter and Stephen Breyer—dissented with the court’s decision to stop the recount. In the dissenting opinion, Justice Stevens accused the majority of undermining the public’s “confidence in the impartiality” of state judges. “Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision,” he added. “One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

George W. Bush, Et Al., Petitioners V. Albert Gore, Jr., Et Al. (Cornell University Law School)

Bush v. Gore (Oyez Project)

Election 2000 Timeline (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Scalia and Stevens clash over recount stay in Bush v. Gore (CNN)

Yet Another Article on Bush vs. Gore (by Ronald Rotunda, Ohio State Law Journal) (pdf)

The Supreme Court Commits Suicide (by Jeffrey Rosen, New Republic)

Has Bush v. Gore Become the Case That Must Not Be Named (by Adam Cohen, New York Times)

Bush v. Gore: What Were They Thinking? (by David A. Strauss, The Vote: Bush, Gore & the Supreme Court)

Bush v. Gore: and the Boundary Between Law and Politics (by Jack M. Balkin, Yale Law Journal) (pdf)

 

Supreme Court Grants Detainees Rights in Federal Court

In June 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court handed the Bush administration a stinging defeat when it ruled that suspected terrorists and foreign fighters held by the U.S. military at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to challenge their detention in federal court.

 

Writing for the majority in the 5-4 ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “the laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system reconciled within the framework of the law.” Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, was supported by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer, generally considered the liberal contingent.

 

Four justices disagreed, including Justice Antonin Scalia. In a sharp dissent, read in part from the bench, Scalia said the majority “warps our Constitution.” He added: “The nation will live to regret what the court has done today.” He was supported by the conservative wing of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

 

The ruling affected legislation adopted by Congress in 2006 after the high court ruled then that the administration’s plan to try detainees before military commissions was unconstitutional. In 2004, the justices also affirmed the right of prisoners to challenge their detention in federal court.

 

Republicans in Congress and the administration had sought to restrict the access of detainees to U.S. courts. The Justice Department argued that the high court should have allowed the first wave of tribunals to take place before making a decision about the legal rights of detainees. Administration officials also argued the prisoners have sufficient legal safeguards.

Guantánamo Detainees Win Right to Court Review (by Warren Richey, Christian Science Monitor)

Justices: Gitmo detainees can challenge detention in U.S. courts (by Bill Mears, CNN)

High court ruling opens U.S. courts to Gitmo detainee trials (by Joan Biskupic, USA Today)

Boumediene et al v. Bush, President of the United States et al (pdf)

Legal Analysis: Boumediene v Bush/Al Odah v United States (Center for Constitutional Rights)

Boumediene v Bush (Oyez)

 

High Court Backs School Vouchers

In 2002, supporters of school vouchers won a major victory before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that a school voucher program in Cleveland did not infringe upon the constitutional separation of church and state. President George W. Bush hailed the decision as a “landmark ruling” and a victory for the American family.

 

In the 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said the school voucher program did not constitute the establishment of religion. The much-anticipated ruling addressed a pilot project involving inner-city Cleveland schools. The ruling reversed an appeals court decision that struck down the program because nearly all the families receiving the tax-supported state tuition scholarships attend Catholic schools in Cleveland.

 

The Supreme Court majority said the parents have a sufficient range of choices among secular and religious schools that Ohio’s voucher plan did not violate the First Amendment prohibition against the establishment of religion. “We believe the program challenged here is a program of true private choice,” wrote then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist. “The Ohio program is neutral in all respects toward religion. It is part of a general and multifaceted undertaking by the State of Ohio to provide educational opportunities to the children of a failed school district.”

 

Rehnquist was joined by then-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas.

 

In a lengthy and bitter dissent, Justice David Souter acknowledged that Cleveland public schools had failed, but said that is not reason enough to provide tax money for religious purposes. “If there were an excuse for giving short shrift to the establishment clause, it would probably apply here. But there is no excuse,” Souter argued.

Supreme Court affirms school voucher program (by Terry Frieden, CNN)

Zelman, Superintendent of Public Instruction of Ohio, et al v. Simmons-Harris et al

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (Oyez)

 

Appellate and Supreme Court Strike Down D.C. Gun Law

In 2007, a federal appeals court made one of the most important rulings on gun control in decades, as it struck down a gun law in the District of Columbia. In a 2-1 decision, the court overturned D.C.’s longstanding ban on handguns in the district, rejecting the city’s argument that the Second Amendment right to bear arms applied only to militias.

 

The majority held that the activities protected by the Second Amendment “are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual’s enjoyment of the right contingent” on enrollment in a militia. “The district’s definition of the militia is just too narrow,” Judge Laurence Silberman wrote for the majority. “There are too many instances of ‘bear arms’ indicating private use to conclude that the drafters intended only a military sense.”

 

Judge Karen Henderson dissented, writing that the Second Amendment does not apply to the District of Columbia because it is not a state.

 

D.C. lawyers appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2008, the high court upheld the appellate ruling, opening the way for other legal challenges by gun activists, such as the National Rifle Association, to try to overturn local gun control measures in other parts of the country.

 

In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court extended to all 50 states its 2008 District of Columbia v Heller ruling that interpreted the Second Amendment of the Constitution as supporting an individual’s right to bear arms in the nation’s capital. The new ruling—a 5-4 decision whose majority opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito on behalf of the Court’s conservative wing—stated that the right to bear arms cannot be violated by state and local governments.

Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Gun Ban, Upholds Individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms (Associated Press)

Q&A: Gun Laws in Washington DC (BBC News)

District of Columbia et al v. Heller (pdf)

District of Columbia v. Heller: The Federalist Society Online Debate Series

DC v. Heller (Scotus Wiki)

District of Columbia v. Heller (Oyez)

Supreme Court affirms fundamental right to bear arms (by Robert Barnes and Dan Eggen, Washington Post)

Ruling May Echo in Gun Debate (By Jonathan Saltzman, boston.com)

 

Court Outlaws Executions of Child Rapists

In June 2008 the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that child rapists cannot be executed. Only those convicted of murder can be subjected to capital punishment.

 

The ruling stemmed from the case of Patrick Kennedy, who appealed the 2003 death sentence he received in Louisiana after being convicted of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter.

 

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, wrote in the majority opinion that execution in this case would violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, citing “evolving standards of decency” in the United States. Such standards, the justice wrote, forbid capital punishment for any crime against an individual other than murder.

 

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissent, saying, “The harm that is caused to the victims and to society at large by the worst child rapist is grave.” He was supported by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Alito also wrote that the majority ruled against the death penalty “no matter how young the child, no matter how many times the child is raped, no matter how many children the perpetrator rapes, no matter how sadistic the crime, no matter how much physical or psychological trauma is inflicted and no matter how heinous the perpetrator’s criminal record may be.”

Child rapists can't be executed, Supreme Court rules (by Bill Mears, CNN)

Kennedy v. Louisiana (Oyez)

 

High Court Ends Executions for Children

The Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that minors cannot be executed, removing the U.S. from a list of only a handful of countries that had the juvenile death penalty. The United States has been responsible for four out of the six juvenile executions worldwide since 2002.  
 
The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Christopher Simmons, who was arrested at age 17 in 1993 and sentenced to death for the murder of Shirley Crook. In August 2003, the Missouri Supreme Court halted Simmons’s execution on grounds that it was cruel and unusual.  


Justice Anthony Kennedy argued for the majority opinion that juveniles are “categorically less culpable” than adult criminals and that “the death penalty is disproportionate punishment for offenders under 18.”

U.S.: Supreme Court Ends Child Executions (Human Rights Watch)

Roper v. Simmons (Oyez)

 

High Court Backs School Vouchers

In 2002, supporters of school vouchers won a major victory before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that a school voucher program in Cleveland did not infringe upon the constitutional separation of church and state. President George W. Bush hailed the decision as a “landmark ruling” and a victory for the American family.

 

In the 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said the school voucher program did not constitute the establishment of religion. The much-anticipated ruling addressed a pilot project involving inner-city Cleveland schools. The ruling reversed an appeals court decision that struck down the program because nearly all the families receiving the tax-supported state tuition scholarships attend Catholic schools in Cleveland.

 

The Supreme Court majority said the parents have a sufficient range of choices among secular and religious schools that Ohio’s voucher plan did not violate the First Amendment prohibition against the establishment of religion. “We believe the program challenged here is a program of true private choice,” wrote then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist. “The Ohio program is neutral in all respects toward religion. It is part of a general and multifaceted undertaking by the State of Ohio to provide educational opportunities to the children of a failed school district.”

 

Rehnquist was joined by then-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas.

 

In a lengthy and bitter dissent, then-Justice David Souter acknowledged that Cleveland public schools had failed, but said that is not reason enough to provide tax money for religious purposes. “If there were an excuse for giving short shrift to the establishment clause, it would probably apply here. But there is no excuse,” Souter argued.

Supreme Court affirms school voucher program (by Terry Frieden, CNN)

Zelman, Superintendent of Public Instruction of Ohio, et al v. Simmons-Harris et al

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (Oyez)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Suggested Reforms:

Open the Supreme Court to the Public

Over the past three decades, the judicial process has increasingly become a living room spectacle, as many lower courts have opened their doors to television cameras and cable broadcasts of court proceedings. This change came about as a result of a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Richmond Newspapers v. Virginia, which stated that a public trial belonged not only to the accused but to the public and press as well.

 

Although the ruling opened the way for some trials to be televised, the U.S. Supreme Court itself has steadfastly refused to open its own proceedings to cameras. But this should change, argues Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania), a leading voice for judicial reform in Congress.

 

Specter insists that if ever there was a time when the high court should have opened itself up to TV coverage, it was Dec. 11, 2000, the day the Supreme Court justices made their landmark ruling that settled the outcome of the 2000 presidential race between Al Gore and George Bush.

 

Given the justices’ refusal to allow cameras in their court room, Specter says Congress should take up the matter through legislation. He says Congress has every right to make this decision for the high court, given the many other dictates lawmakers have imposed, such as when the court’s term begins (the first Monday in October), the number of justices on the court and the number of justices that constitute a quorum (six). In addition, acts of Congress govern the federal courts regarding establishment of jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases, speedy-trial rules and time limits in deciding habeas corpus cases.

 

Specter has sponsored legislation that mandates television coverage of the Supreme Court unless it is barred by the court on a case-by-case basis on the grounds that it would adversely affect the proceedings. Two justices, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas, testified before a House subcommittee that Congress should mind its own business and respect the court’s autonomy, just as the court has respected Congress’s autonomy.

 

Specter countered that the Supreme Court has not respected Congress’ autonomy, citing legal decisions affecting legislation protecting women against violence and another prohibiting discrimination in employment.

Hidden Justice(s) (by Arlen Spector, Washington Post)

Should Congress Mandate Supreme Court TV? (by Howard J. Bashman, Law.com)

U.S. Supreme Court: Justice Alito cites ‘observer effect’ in opposing cameras in court

(by Donal Brown, First Amendment Coalition)  

It's time to televise U.S. Supreme Court hearings (by Jason Mercier, Washington Policy Center)

Senate Committee Votes to Require Supreme Court on TV (by Patricia Murphy, Huffington Post)

Cameras in Courts (U.S. Courts website)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Debate:

Should campaign financing be reformed?

Since the 1970s, reformers have tried to curb the influence of big money in American elections, which has caused the costs of national elections to reach the billion-dollar level. In the 2000 election, House and Senate candidates spent about $1 billion while presidential candidates spent $500 million. To finance elections, political parties and candidates are largely dependent on private donations from individuals, corporations, and special interests. The debate over campaign finance reform has coalesced around whether there should be any rules governing the giving and spending of money for political campaigns.

 

Following the Watergate era, Congress adopted the Federal Election Campaign Act which, sought to place strict limits on how much money individuals can donate to campaigns, and how much candidates can spend to get elected. The restrictions were largely ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo. The ruling was such a setback for reformers that it would be another 20 years before another ambitious attempt would be made in Congress to address the rising power of money affecting American elections.

 

In 2002, Congress adopted the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, otherwise known as McCain-Feingold after the bill’s primary authors, Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin). McCain-Feingold was designed to address the increased role of soft money in campaign financing by prohibiting national political party committees from raising or spending any funds not subject to federal limits, even for state and local races or issue discussion. It also sought to tackle the proliferation of issue ads by defining as “electioneering communications” broadcast ads that name a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election, and prohibiting any such ad paid for by a corporation (including non-profit issue organizations such as Right to Life or the Environmental Defense Fund) or paid for by an unincorporated entity using any corporate or union funds.

 

In December 2003, the Supreme Court upheld most of the legislation in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, much to the delight of campaign finance reformers. Subsequently, however, other legal challenges in 2007 and 2008 were made against specific parts of McCain-Feingold that resulted in key provisions being invalidated and again centering the debate on the issue of money restrictions and the rights of free speech.

Supreme Court rejects 'millionaire's amendment' to campaign finance reform (by Richard B. Schmitt, Los Angeles Times)

In Blow to Campaign Finance Reform, Supreme Court Throws Out Restrictions on Special Interest Campaign Ads (Democracy Now!)

Court could toss key part of campaign finance law (by Bill Mears, CNN)

US Supreme Court Case on Campaign Finance Reform  (Wisconsin Legislative Council) (pdf)

Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy (by L. Paige Whitaker, CRS Report for Congress) (pdf)

 

Pro (For Reform):

According to supporters of campaign finance reform, some regulations on money in campaigns are necessary to combat governmental corruption. The electoral process must be protected from quid pro quo exchanges in which contributors provide cash to officeholders in exchange for political favors.

 

As part of McCain-Feingold, an attempt was made to limit the power of rich candidates to overwhelm their opponents by imposing a “millionaire amendment.” This provision permitted candidates to receive larger campaign contributions when their opponents spent heavily out of their own pockets. The intention, supporters argued, was to level the playing field for candidates and to prevent personal wealth from becoming a qualification for elected office.

 

Another part of McCain-Feingold tried to limit the use of issue advertisements during the closing days of elections. The provision was designed to prevent the airing of issue ads that cast candidates in positive or negative lights while stopping short of explicitly advocating their election or defeat.

 

But the Supreme Court threw out this provision of McCain-Feingold. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 5-4 decision saying that the prohibition against corporate ads mentioning a candidate’s name was an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of corporations.

Supreme Court: 5-4 for Campaign Finance Reform, Constitution: 0 (Center for Individual Freedom)

 

Con (Against Reform):

Opponents and numerous Supreme Court justices argue that campaign finance regulations violate freedom of speech as protected by the Constitution. People communicate ideas by donating money to candidates, parties and other organizations that support their political viewpoints. As such, restrictions on contributions have the effect of abridging political speech.

 

As for McCain-Feingold, strict limits that affect how much corporations and labor unions can contribute in “soft money” to a political party, but leave political action committees alone, make no sense at all and are simply unfair.

 

In the decision striking down limits on issue ads, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “Discussion of issues cannot be suppressed simply because the issues may also be pertinent in an election. Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.” Others have pointed out that all forms of advertising, including television advertising, are crucial means for communicating ideas, values and arguments, all of which are forms of free speech.

 

With the millionaire amendment, critics said the rule was a thinly disguised maneuver to protect entrenched incumbents from upstart and well-to-do challengers. The Supreme Court said that the amendment violated the First Amendment because it penalized a candidate who robustly exercised his free-speech rights by spending heavily.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the amendment required “a candidate to choose between the First Amendment right to engage in unfettered political speech and subjection to discriminatory fundraising limitations.”

Campaign Finance Limits Violate Free Speech (by Andrew Lewis, Capitalism Magazine)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Former Directors:

William H. Rehnquist (September 26, 1986-September 3, 2005)

Warren Burger (June 23, 1969 - September 26, 1986)

Earl Warren (October 5, 1953 - June 23, 1969)

Fred Moore Vinson (June 24, 1946 - September 8, 1953)

Harlan Fiske Stone (July 3, 1941 - April 22, 1946)

Charles Evans Hughes (February 24, 1930 - June 30, 1941)

William Howard Taft (July 11, 1921 - February 3, 1930)

Edward White (December 19, 1910 - May 19, 1921)

Melville Fuller (October 8, 1888 - July 4, 1910)

Morrison Waite (March 4, 1874 March 23, 1888)

Salmon Chase (December 15, 1864 - May 7, 1873)

Roger Brooke Taney (March 28, 1836 - October 12, 1864)

John Marshall (February 4, 1801 - July 6, 1835)

Oliver Ellsworth (March 8, 1796 - December 15, 1800)

John Rutledge (August 12, 1795 - December 15, 1795)

John Jay (October 19, 1789 - June 29, 1795)

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Founded: 1787
Annual Budget: $77.165 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 497 (FY 2013 Estimate)
United States Supreme Court
Roberts, John
Chief Justice
A native of Buffalo, NY, John G. Roberts, Jr. has served as the Chief Justice of the United States since September 29, 2005. In this capacity, Roberts serves as the head of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which functions as the policymaking body for all US federal courts.
 
Roberts received a BA from Harvard College in 1976 and a JD from Harvard Law School in 1979. He served as a law clerk for Judge Henry J. Friendly of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1979–1980 and as a law clerk for then-Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist of the Supreme Court during the 1980 term.
 
Roberts was special assistant to the US Attorney General from 1981–1982 and associate counsel to President Ronald Reagan from 1982–1986. He then went into private practice, joining the firm Hogan & Hartson.
 
Roberts rejoined government ranks when he accepted the position of Principal Deputy Solicitor General in the Justice Department from 1989–1993. During this time, Roberts argued 39 cases for the government before the Supreme Court, prevailing in 25 of them. He represented 18 states in United States v. Microsoft. In 1992, President George H. W. Bush nominated Roberts to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but no Senate vote was held, and Roberts’ nomination expired when Bush left office after losing the 1992 presidential election.
 
In 1993, Roberts went back to Hogan & Hartson and stayed there until 2003 when President George W. Bush successfully appointed Roberts to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, gaining Senate approval.
 
Roberts also has served as an adjunct faculty member at the Georgetown University Law Center.
 
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Overview:

The United States Supreme Court is the highest court of law in the country. The cases it hears begin in federal or state courts, and they usually involve important questions about the Constitution or federal law. Its rulings are final and cannot be appealed to any other court. Because it represents the last stop in the judicial system, the Supreme Court wields tremendous power in the American political system. The court has established legalities regarding abortion, campaign finance, and the detention of terrorist suspects, to name just a few, determining the legal boundaries for these critical public policy issues. Due to its position of power, justices on the high court have been caught up in high-stakes political battles in Congress, where the U.S. Senate must confirm presidential court appointees.

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History:

 

 

 

 

The United States Supreme Court was established under the US Constitution. Article III dictates that the judicial power of the federal government resides in “one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts” that Congress establishes. The Constitution granted the Supreme Court original jurisdiction in cases involving states and diplomats, but left Congress to decide the size and responsibilities of the Supreme Court.

 

These added details were created under the Judiciary Act of 1789, which dictated that the court would have one chief justice and five associate justices. The act further defined the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to include appellate jurisdiction in larger civil cases and cases in which state courts ruled on federal statutes. Congress required the justices of the Supreme Court to preside with the local federal judges on the U.S. circuit courts that met in judicial districts throughout the nation. This was done to ensure that members of the highest court would participate in the principal trial courts of the federal judiciary and be familiar with the procedures of the state courts.
 

The size of the Supreme Court grew to accommodate the establishment of new circuits as the nation expanded. In 1807 a seventh justice was added to the court, and in 1837, an eighth and ninth justice joined the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reached its largest size in 1863 with the creation of a Tenth Circuit on the west coast and the appointment of a tenth justice. In 1866, Congress reduced the size of the court to seven justices and provided that no vacant seats would be filled until that number was reached. The number of sitting justices fell to eight before an act of 1869 provided for nine justices, one for each of the judicial circuits established in 1866.

 

The most ambitious plan to expand the size of the court came during the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937. In an effort to pull the country out of a steep Depression, FDR pushed through several groundbreaking pieces of legislation that came to be known as the New Deal. While some of Roosevelt’s plans were put into effect, the Supreme Court rejected others. With some of his most important reforms (National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, and Social Security Act) still awaiting decisions before the high court, Roosevelt decided on a controversial effort to increase the number of justices from nine to 15. Roosevelt proposed that he be allowed to appoint an extra judge to the Supreme Court for every judge over the age of 70 who had served for 10 years and who refused to retire. This proposal, which came to be known as FDR’s “court-packing” scheme, would have given him the right to change the balance of the Supreme Court by appointing six new justices. Many of the conservative justices on the court who had opposed some of Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms showed no signs of retiring, leaving the President without the option of appointing more liberal justices.

 

Opposition to Roosevelt’s judicial reform plan was intense, even from his own party, and critics accused him of trying to “pack” the court with New Deal-friendly supporters. Before Roosevelt’s plan could be seriously tested in Congress, the high court ruled in favor of the NLRB Act and Social Security Act, and Justice Van Devanter announced his retirement. The appearance of court support for his policies and an opportunity for a Supreme Court appointment took the steam out of Roosevelt’s plan and the measure died quietly in committee.

 

The duties of circuit riding required the Supreme Court justices to spend most of their time traveling and prompted recurrent efforts to reduce or eliminate this responsibility. In 1793, Congress reduced the number of justices required to hold circuit court from two to one. In the Judiciary Act of 1801, Congress created separate circuit judgeships and freed the justices from any circuit court duties, but this exemption was short-lived. In 1802 Congress again assigned the justices to serve on the U.S. circuit courts, although it allowed the district judge to preside alone in some instances. The establishment of separate circuit judgeships in 1869 further relieved the circuit obligations of the justices. When Congress abolished the circuit courts in 1911, it finally made the justices’ circuit duty optional.
 

Throughout its first century, the Supreme Court was responsible for deciding most civil appeals, and the justices had little control over a docket that was increasingly overcrowded. The act establishing the circuit courts of appeals in 1891 authorized the justices to grant review through certiorari and allowed the courts of appeals to certify other cases for appeal to the high court at the same time that it restricted the right of automatic appeal to the Supreme Court. The Judges Bill of 1925 further increased the justices’ discretion in determining what cases to hear, and in 1988, Congress eliminated almost all types of mandatory jurisdiction.
 

The Supreme Court has exercised only limited administrative authority over the federal courts. In 1922 the act creating the Conference of Senior Circuit Judges required the chief justice or an associate justice to convene the conference, and the chief justice continues to preside over the Judicial Conference. Congress in 1934 granted the Supreme Court responsibility for drafting rules of federal procedure. The 1939 law creating the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts provided that the Supreme Court would appoint its director. Congress changed the law in 1990, vesting that authority in the chief justice in consultation with the Judicial Conference. The chief justice also chairs the board of the Federal Judicial Center.

 

During the modern, post-World War II era, the Supreme Court has been characterized by three eras of judicial leadership. The Warren Court (1953–1969, named after Chief Justice Earl Warren) issued the landmark ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, which eliminated segregation in public schools. The Burger Court (1969–1986, named after Chief Justice Warren Burger) ruled that abortion was a constitutional right (Roe v. Wade), made controversial rulings on affirmative action (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke) and campaign finance regulation (Buckley v. Valeo) and held that the implementation of the death penalty in many states was unconstitutional (Furman v. Georgia). The Rehnquist Court (1986–2005, named after Chief Justice William Rehnquist) may go down in history most famously for its ruling in Bush v. Gore, which resolved the 2000 presidential election in favor of George W. Bush. The court actually made several rulings in regards to the deadlocked election, overturning a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that aided the campaign of Al Gore in completing a recount of votes cast. The Supreme Court’s decisions essentially awarded Florida to Bush, giving him the victory.

Members of the Supreme Court (1789 to Present)

The Supreme Court Historical Society

Court Packing (University of Virginia)

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What it Does:

The United States Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices. At its discretion, and within certain guidelines established by Congress, the Supreme Court each year hears a limited number of the cases it is asked to decide. Those cases may begin in the federal or state courts, and they usually involve important questions about the Constitution or federal law.

 

Those currently serving on the court are Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Associate Justices Elena Kagan, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Samuel A. Alito, Jr. The US Supreme Court Justices Database is maintained by Northwestern University’s law school, with links to it from the U.S. Supreme Court Web site. The public database contains a wealth of information on individuals nominated (whether confirmed or not) to the Supreme Court.

 

In addition to the nine justices, court officers assist the court in the performance of its functions. They include the Administrative Assistant to the Chief Justice, the Clerk, the Reporter of Decisions, the Librarian, the Marshal, the Court Counsel, the Curator, the Director of Data Systems, and the Public Information Officer. The Chief Justice appoints the Administrative Assistant. The court appoints the Clerk, Reporter of Decisions, Librarian, and Marshal. The Chief Justice, in consultation with the court, appoints all other court officers.

 

The term of the Supreme Court begins, by law, on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October of the next year. Approximately 10,000 petitions are filed with the court each term. In addition, some 1,200 applications of various kinds are filed each year that can be acted upon by a single justice.

 

The automated docket system is the court’s case tracking system. It contains information about cases, both pending and decided. The docket database contains information regarding the status of cases for both the current term and prior terms.

 

During Supreme Court hearings, each side is allowed 30 minutes argument and up to 24 cases may be argued at one sitting. Since the majority of cases involve the review of a decision of some other court, there is no jury and no witnesses are heard.

 

Each week the justices must also evaluate more than 130 petitions seeking review of judgments of state and federal courts to determine which cases are to be granted full review with oral arguments by attorneys.

 

Prior to hearing oral argument, other business of the court is transacted. On Monday mornings this includes the release of an Order List, a public report of court actions including the acceptance and rejection of cases, and the admission of new members to the Court Bar.

 

In May and June the court sits only to announce orders and opinions. The court recesses at the end of June, but the justices continue their work, analyzing new petitions for review, considering motions and applications and making preparations for cases scheduled for fall argument.

 

The Supreme Court also provides information about Briefs on the Merits, Court Rules, Case Handling Guides, Opinions of the Court and Orders of the Court.  

 

The Supreme Court and Its Traditions The Supreme Court and Constitutional Interpretation

The Supreme Court Building (pdf)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USAspending.gov, the federal Web site that provides information on contracts awarded by Executive Branch agencies, does not collect information on any contracts that the administrative functions of U.S. Supreme Court may issue. The Supreme Court itself states that it does not maintain reports regarding contractor data. Alderson Court Reporting, which provides transcription services, does contract with the high court, providing transcripts of Supreme Court cases. It is not known how much Alderson is paid for this service.

 

The Supreme Court states that its proposed FY 2013 budget of $77,165,000 will be spent on salaries and expenses. An additional $11,963,000 has been requested by the Architect of the Capitol to pay for the care of the Supreme Court building and grounds, which includes salaries for 50 employees.

 

 

From the Web Site of the U.S. Supreme Court

 

About the Supreme Court

Bar Admissions

Biographies of Current Justices

Briefs on the Merits

Case Handling Guides

Contact Information

Court Building

Court News

Court Rules

Docket

FAQs

FAQs about Justices

FAQs for Locating Documents & Information

Journal: Official Minutes

Media Advisories

Opinions

Oral Arguments

Orders and Journal

Press Releases

Speeches

Term Statistics (pdf)

Visiting the Court

Year-End Reports

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Controversies:

Prison Overcrowding Ruling Causes Problems for California Gov. Jerry Brown

California has waged a longstanding legal battle with the federal courts regarding overcrowding in its state prisons. Time and again, the state’s lawyers have lost their cases before appellate and Supreme Court justices, who have ruled California must free thousands of prisoners.

 

In 2009, a federal judge said the state had violated inmates’ constitutional rights to adequate medical and health care by squeezing too many of them into facilities that had exceeded capacity (148,000 inmates were occupying space meant for 80,000). California was told to free up to 40,000 prisoners over two years.

 

Governor Jerry Brown rejected the ruling, saying it would risk public safety.

 

He had the state attorney general appeal the decision, asking to give California until 2016 to make things right. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011. But the state lost again, as justices upheld the lower court ruling.

 

The state, however, never fully complied with the order, setting off another round of court decisions that didn’t go California’s way.

 

In October 2013, the Supreme Court refused to consider California’s petition, leaving Brown with no further legal options for delaying the release of prisoners. Rather than putting at least 10,000 inmates on the streets by February 2014 as required, Brown planned to lease room in out-of-state prisons and privately owned facilities.

California Must Release Prisoners, Supreme Court Rules (BBC News)

California Governor is Still Intent on Defying the Supreme Court on Prison Overcrowding (by Nicole Flatow, Think Progress)

California Governor Proposes $315 Million Plan To Ease Prison Overcrowding (by Dan Whitcomb, Reuters)

California Gets Four Extra Weeks to Reduce Prison Overcrowding (Newsmax)

California Prison Overcrowding Case Turned Back By U.S. Supreme Court (by Howard Mintz, San Jose Mercury News)

 

Class-Action Suits Lose Out

The U.S. Supreme Court in recent years has repeatedly ruled against class-action lawsuits brought against corporations.

 

In 2011, the court’s conservative wing threw out a large employment discrimination case against Walmart, saying the plaintiffs did not have enough in common (since they worked in different Walmarts in different cities) to sue together.

 

The lawsuit began 10 years earlier when three female employees went after Walmart claiming the retail chain systematically discriminated against women. Women make up two-thirds of the hourly wage earners in the company, but hold only a third of management posts.

 

The plaintiffs had sought to expand their case into a class-action suit on behalf of every woman who had worked for Walmart at any time since December 1998—as many as 1.5 million.

 

Two years later, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Comcast Corp in an antitrust case over how much it charged cable TV subscribers.

 

The court said a group of cable TV subscribers in the Philadelphia area who accused Comcast of overcharging them as part of an effort to monopolize the market could not sue as a group, further curtailing the ability of Americans to pursue class-action lawsuits.

Walmart Case: Supreme Court Aids The Powerful (by Peter Goodman, Huffington Post)

Wal-Mart Case Revives a Longstanding Debate (by Cathy Young, Real Clear Politics)

Supreme Court Rules for Comcast in Class Action (by Jonathan Stempel, Reuters)

 

Obamacare in the Supreme Court

Much to the dismay of conservative opponents of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that most of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions were constitutional.

 

The 5-4 ruling, which included Chief Justice John Roberts, said the law’s most important provision—the mandate that individuals purchase health insurance—was constitutional because it could be construed as a tax, which fell within the powers of Congress.

 

Roberts was joined in the opinion by liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

 

The court upheld hundreds of other rules embedded in the law. But one part that compelled states to expand Medicaid or else risk losing federal monies was thrown out.

Supreme Court Health Care Decision: Individual Mandate Survives (by Mike Sacks, Huffington Post)

The Individual Mandate Survives As A Tax, Justices Find Fault With Medicaid Expansion (Kaiser Health News)

 

Politics in the Court

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was accused of politicizing the court in January 2011 by accepting an invitation to speak before the Tea Party caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

One legal expert, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said Scalia showed “exceedingly poor judgment” in deciding to address the group of conservative Republican lawmakers.

 

Turley told the Los Angeles Times that the meeting suggested “an alliance between the conservative members of the court and the conservative members of Congress,” which could lead to the court becoming overly politicized.

 

Scalia also made news in the same week when he told California Lawyer magazine that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment didn’t extend to discrimination based on gender or sexual preference.

Justice Scalia Courts Controversy For Agreeing To Speak To Tea Party Caucus (by Eyder Peralta, National Public Radio)

30 Seconds After Denying Court Is Politicized, Scalia Says Democrats Do ‘Not Stick To The Text’ Of The Constitution (by Ian Millhiser, Think Progress)

 

Citizens United Decision

In one of the most important and controversial rulings in recent court history, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2010 that the government cannot restrict corporations from contributing to election campaigns. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a narrow majority (5-4) threw out longstanding rules that limited giving by corporations as well as labor unions, though most attention was paid to the impact the ruling would have on corporate donations.

 

The conservative wing of the court (John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Samuel Alito) agreed to overrule two precedents: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates; and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 decision that upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain-Feingold) that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions.

 

The majority said to limit corporate giving would constitute a violation of the First Amendment, which grants free speech to individuals. Dissenters warned the ruling would allow corporate money to flood election campaigns and corrupt democracy.

 

President Barack Obama called Citizens United “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

 

The only solace for opponents was eight of the justices (minus Thomas) agreed that Congress can require corporations to disclose their spending and to run disclaimers with their advertisements.

 

Two years after the ruling, opponents were hoping the court would revisit the Citizens United ruling when it heard a challenge to Montana’s century-old law banning corporations from spending money in state elections. The court, however, did not reconsider the precedent while ruling the Montana law unconstitutional.

Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Spending Limit (by Adam Liptak, New York Times)

Citizens United v. FEC (Amicus Brief) (Brennan Center for Justice)

Supreme Court Faces Pressure To Reconsider Citizens United Ruling (by Robert Barnes, Washington Post)

 

Bush v. Gore

In December 2000, the Supreme Court essentially decided the outcome of the contested presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. After Election Day, the awarding of Florida’s electoral votes was undetermined due to the extremely close margin between votes cast for Bush and Gore, leaving the nation wondering who won the race. Florida state law automatically triggered a recount, and voting irregularities in some areas of Florida exacerbated an already tense, high-stakes situation.

 

The matter of the recount was first addressed on December 8 in the Florida Supreme Court, which sided with the Gore campaign’s request for a hand count of ballots in four counties. The Bush camp appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which four days after the Florida court’s decision, overruled the lower court. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7–2 that the Florida Supreme Court decision, which ordered a statewide recount, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The high court made a separate 5-4 ruling that in effect ended any chance of a recount, leaving Bush slightly ahead of Gore in the vote and giving the Republican the electoral votes needed to be declared the winner. What was most shocking about the majority opinion was that the five justices declared that their decision applied only to the current case and was not to be considered precedent for any future cases.

 

Four justices—John Paul Stevens, Ruth Ginsburg, David Souter and Stephen Breyer—dissented with the court’s decision to stop the recount. In the dissenting opinion, Justice Stevens accused the majority of undermining the public’s “confidence in the impartiality” of state judges. “Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision,” he added. “One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

George W. Bush, Et Al., Petitioners V. Albert Gore, Jr., Et Al. (Cornell University Law School)

Bush v. Gore (Oyez Project)

Election 2000 Timeline (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Scalia and Stevens clash over recount stay in Bush v. Gore (CNN)

Yet Another Article on Bush vs. Gore (by Ronald Rotunda, Ohio State Law Journal) (pdf)

The Supreme Court Commits Suicide (by Jeffrey Rosen, New Republic)

Has Bush v. Gore Become the Case That Must Not Be Named (by Adam Cohen, New York Times)

Bush v. Gore: What Were They Thinking? (by David A. Strauss, The Vote: Bush, Gore & the Supreme Court)

Bush v. Gore: and the Boundary Between Law and Politics (by Jack M. Balkin, Yale Law Journal) (pdf)

 

Supreme Court Grants Detainees Rights in Federal Court

In June 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court handed the Bush administration a stinging defeat when it ruled that suspected terrorists and foreign fighters held by the U.S. military at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to challenge their detention in federal court.

 

Writing for the majority in the 5-4 ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “the laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system reconciled within the framework of the law.” Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, was supported by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer, generally considered the liberal contingent.

 

Four justices disagreed, including Justice Antonin Scalia. In a sharp dissent, read in part from the bench, Scalia said the majority “warps our Constitution.” He added: “The nation will live to regret what the court has done today.” He was supported by the conservative wing of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

 

The ruling affected legislation adopted by Congress in 2006 after the high court ruled then that the administration’s plan to try detainees before military commissions was unconstitutional. In 2004, the justices also affirmed the right of prisoners to challenge their detention in federal court.

 

Republicans in Congress and the administration had sought to restrict the access of detainees to U.S. courts. The Justice Department argued that the high court should have allowed the first wave of tribunals to take place before making a decision about the legal rights of detainees. Administration officials also argued the prisoners have sufficient legal safeguards.

Guantánamo Detainees Win Right to Court Review (by Warren Richey, Christian Science Monitor)

Justices: Gitmo detainees can challenge detention in U.S. courts (by Bill Mears, CNN)

High court ruling opens U.S. courts to Gitmo detainee trials (by Joan Biskupic, USA Today)

Boumediene et al v. Bush, President of the United States et al (pdf)

Legal Analysis: Boumediene v Bush/Al Odah v United States (Center for Constitutional Rights)

Boumediene v Bush (Oyez)

 

High Court Backs School Vouchers

In 2002, supporters of school vouchers won a major victory before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that a school voucher program in Cleveland did not infringe upon the constitutional separation of church and state. President George W. Bush hailed the decision as a “landmark ruling” and a victory for the American family.

 

In the 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said the school voucher program did not constitute the establishment of religion. The much-anticipated ruling addressed a pilot project involving inner-city Cleveland schools. The ruling reversed an appeals court decision that struck down the program because nearly all the families receiving the tax-supported state tuition scholarships attend Catholic schools in Cleveland.

 

The Supreme Court majority said the parents have a sufficient range of choices among secular and religious schools that Ohio’s voucher plan did not violate the First Amendment prohibition against the establishment of religion. “We believe the program challenged here is a program of true private choice,” wrote then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist. “The Ohio program is neutral in all respects toward religion. It is part of a general and multifaceted undertaking by the State of Ohio to provide educational opportunities to the children of a failed school district.”

 

Rehnquist was joined by then-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas.

 

In a lengthy and bitter dissent, Justice David Souter acknowledged that Cleveland public schools had failed, but said that is not reason enough to provide tax money for religious purposes. “If there were an excuse for giving short shrift to the establishment clause, it would probably apply here. But there is no excuse,” Souter argued.

Supreme Court affirms school voucher program (by Terry Frieden, CNN)

Zelman, Superintendent of Public Instruction of Ohio, et al v. Simmons-Harris et al

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (Oyez)

 

Appellate and Supreme Court Strike Down D.C. Gun Law

In 2007, a federal appeals court made one of the most important rulings on gun control in decades, as it struck down a gun law in the District of Columbia. In a 2-1 decision, the court overturned D.C.’s longstanding ban on handguns in the district, rejecting the city’s argument that the Second Amendment right to bear arms applied only to militias.

 

The majority held that the activities protected by the Second Amendment “are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual’s enjoyment of the right contingent” on enrollment in a militia. “The district’s definition of the militia is just too narrow,” Judge Laurence Silberman wrote for the majority. “There are too many instances of ‘bear arms’ indicating private use to conclude that the drafters intended only a military sense.”

 

Judge Karen Henderson dissented, writing that the Second Amendment does not apply to the District of Columbia because it is not a state.

 

D.C. lawyers appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2008, the high court upheld the appellate ruling, opening the way for other legal challenges by gun activists, such as the National Rifle Association, to try to overturn local gun control measures in other parts of the country.

 

In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court extended to all 50 states its 2008 District of Columbia v Heller ruling that interpreted the Second Amendment of the Constitution as supporting an individual’s right to bear arms in the nation’s capital. The new ruling—a 5-4 decision whose majority opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito on behalf of the Court’s conservative wing—stated that the right to bear arms cannot be violated by state and local governments.

Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Gun Ban, Upholds Individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms (Associated Press)

Q&A: Gun Laws in Washington DC (BBC News)

District of Columbia et al v. Heller (pdf)

District of Columbia v. Heller: The Federalist Society Online Debate Series

DC v. Heller (Scotus Wiki)

District of Columbia v. Heller (Oyez)

Supreme Court affirms fundamental right to bear arms (by Robert Barnes and Dan Eggen, Washington Post)

Ruling May Echo in Gun Debate (By Jonathan Saltzman, boston.com)

 

Court Outlaws Executions of Child Rapists

In June 2008 the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that child rapists cannot be executed. Only those convicted of murder can be subjected to capital punishment.

 

The ruling stemmed from the case of Patrick Kennedy, who appealed the 2003 death sentence he received in Louisiana after being convicted of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter.

 

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, wrote in the majority opinion that execution in this case would violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, citing “evolving standards of decency” in the United States. Such standards, the justice wrote, forbid capital punishment for any crime against an individual other than murder.

 

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissent, saying, “The harm that is caused to the victims and to society at large by the worst child rapist is grave.” He was supported by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Alito also wrote that the majority ruled against the death penalty “no matter how young the child, no matter how many times the child is raped, no matter how many children the perpetrator rapes, no matter how sadistic the crime, no matter how much physical or psychological trauma is inflicted and no matter how heinous the perpetrator’s criminal record may be.”

Child rapists can't be executed, Supreme Court rules (by Bill Mears, CNN)

Kennedy v. Louisiana (Oyez)

 

High Court Ends Executions for Children

The Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that minors cannot be executed, removing the U.S. from a list of only a handful of countries that had the juvenile death penalty. The United States has been responsible for four out of the six juvenile executions worldwide since 2002.  
 
The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Christopher Simmons, who was arrested at age 17 in 1993 and sentenced to death for the murder of Shirley Crook. In August 2003, the Missouri Supreme Court halted Simmons’s execution on grounds that it was cruel and unusual.  


Justice Anthony Kennedy argued for the majority opinion that juveniles are “categorically less culpable” than adult criminals and that “the death penalty is disproportionate punishment for offenders under 18.”

U.S.: Supreme Court Ends Child Executions (Human Rights Watch)

Roper v. Simmons (Oyez)

 

High Court Backs School Vouchers

In 2002, supporters of school vouchers won a major victory before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that a school voucher program in Cleveland did not infringe upon the constitutional separation of church and state. President George W. Bush hailed the decision as a “landmark ruling” and a victory for the American family.

 

In the 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said the school voucher program did not constitute the establishment of religion. The much-anticipated ruling addressed a pilot project involving inner-city Cleveland schools. The ruling reversed an appeals court decision that struck down the program because nearly all the families receiving the tax-supported state tuition scholarships attend Catholic schools in Cleveland.

 

The Supreme Court majority said the parents have a sufficient range of choices among secular and religious schools that Ohio’s voucher plan did not violate the First Amendment prohibition against the establishment of religion. “We believe the program challenged here is a program of true private choice,” wrote then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist. “The Ohio program is neutral in all respects toward religion. It is part of a general and multifaceted undertaking by the State of Ohio to provide educational opportunities to the children of a failed school district.”

 

Rehnquist was joined by then-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas.

 

In a lengthy and bitter dissent, then-Justice David Souter acknowledged that Cleveland public schools had failed, but said that is not reason enough to provide tax money for religious purposes. “If there were an excuse for giving short shrift to the establishment clause, it would probably apply here. But there is no excuse,” Souter argued.

Supreme Court affirms school voucher program (by Terry Frieden, CNN)

Zelman, Superintendent of Public Instruction of Ohio, et al v. Simmons-Harris et al

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (Oyez)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Suggested Reforms:

Open the Supreme Court to the Public

Over the past three decades, the judicial process has increasingly become a living room spectacle, as many lower courts have opened their doors to television cameras and cable broadcasts of court proceedings. This change came about as a result of a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Richmond Newspapers v. Virginia, which stated that a public trial belonged not only to the accused but to the public and press as well.

 

Although the ruling opened the way for some trials to be televised, the U.S. Supreme Court itself has steadfastly refused to open its own proceedings to cameras. But this should change, argues Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania), a leading voice for judicial reform in Congress.

 

Specter insists that if ever there was a time when the high court should have opened itself up to TV coverage, it was Dec. 11, 2000, the day the Supreme Court justices made their landmark ruling that settled the outcome of the 2000 presidential race between Al Gore and George Bush.

 

Given the justices’ refusal to allow cameras in their court room, Specter says Congress should take up the matter through legislation. He says Congress has every right to make this decision for the high court, given the many other dictates lawmakers have imposed, such as when the court’s term begins (the first Monday in October), the number of justices on the court and the number of justices that constitute a quorum (six). In addition, acts of Congress govern the federal courts regarding establishment of jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases, speedy-trial rules and time limits in deciding habeas corpus cases.

 

Specter has sponsored legislation that mandates television coverage of the Supreme Court unless it is barred by the court on a case-by-case basis on the grounds that it would adversely affect the proceedings. Two justices, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas, testified before a House subcommittee that Congress should mind its own business and respect the court’s autonomy, just as the court has respected Congress’s autonomy.

 

Specter countered that the Supreme Court has not respected Congress’ autonomy, citing legal decisions affecting legislation protecting women against violence and another prohibiting discrimination in employment.

Hidden Justice(s) (by Arlen Spector, Washington Post)

Should Congress Mandate Supreme Court TV? (by Howard J. Bashman, Law.com)

U.S. Supreme Court: Justice Alito cites ‘observer effect’ in opposing cameras in court

(by Donal Brown, First Amendment Coalition)  

It's time to televise U.S. Supreme Court hearings (by Jason Mercier, Washington Policy Center)

Senate Committee Votes to Require Supreme Court on TV (by Patricia Murphy, Huffington Post)

Cameras in Courts (U.S. Courts website)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Debate:

Should campaign financing be reformed?

Since the 1970s, reformers have tried to curb the influence of big money in American elections, which has caused the costs of national elections to reach the billion-dollar level. In the 2000 election, House and Senate candidates spent about $1 billion while presidential candidates spent $500 million. To finance elections, political parties and candidates are largely dependent on private donations from individuals, corporations, and special interests. The debate over campaign finance reform has coalesced around whether there should be any rules governing the giving and spending of money for political campaigns.

 

Following the Watergate era, Congress adopted the Federal Election Campaign Act which, sought to place strict limits on how much money individuals can donate to campaigns, and how much candidates can spend to get elected. The restrictions were largely ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo. The ruling was such a setback for reformers that it would be another 20 years before another ambitious attempt would be made in Congress to address the rising power of money affecting American elections.

 

In 2002, Congress adopted the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, otherwise known as McCain-Feingold after the bill’s primary authors, Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin). McCain-Feingold was designed to address the increased role of soft money in campaign financing by prohibiting national political party committees from raising or spending any funds not subject to federal limits, even for state and local races or issue discussion. It also sought to tackle the proliferation of issue ads by defining as “electioneering communications” broadcast ads that name a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election, and prohibiting any such ad paid for by a corporation (including non-profit issue organizations such as Right to Life or the Environmental Defense Fund) or paid for by an unincorporated entity using any corporate or union funds.

 

In December 2003, the Supreme Court upheld most of the legislation in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, much to the delight of campaign finance reformers. Subsequently, however, other legal challenges in 2007 and 2008 were made against specific parts of McCain-Feingold that resulted in key provisions being invalidated and again centering the debate on the issue of money restrictions and the rights of free speech.

Supreme Court rejects 'millionaire's amendment' to campaign finance reform (by Richard B. Schmitt, Los Angeles Times)

In Blow to Campaign Finance Reform, Supreme Court Throws Out Restrictions on Special Interest Campaign Ads (Democracy Now!)

Court could toss key part of campaign finance law (by Bill Mears, CNN)

US Supreme Court Case on Campaign Finance Reform  (Wisconsin Legislative Council) (pdf)

Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy (by L. Paige Whitaker, CRS Report for Congress) (pdf)

 

Pro (For Reform):

According to supporters of campaign finance reform, some regulations on money in campaigns are necessary to combat governmental corruption. The electoral process must be protected from quid pro quo exchanges in which contributors provide cash to officeholders in exchange for political favors.

 

As part of McCain-Feingold, an attempt was made to limit the power of rich candidates to overwhelm their opponents by imposing a “millionaire amendment.” This provision permitted candidates to receive larger campaign contributions when their opponents spent heavily out of their own pockets. The intention, supporters argued, was to level the playing field for candidates and to prevent personal wealth from becoming a qualification for elected office.

 

Another part of McCain-Feingold tried to limit the use of issue advertisements during the closing days of elections. The provision was designed to prevent the airing of issue ads that cast candidates in positive or negative lights while stopping short of explicitly advocating their election or defeat.

 

But the Supreme Court threw out this provision of McCain-Feingold. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 5-4 decision saying that the prohibition against corporate ads mentioning a candidate’s name was an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of corporations.

Supreme Court: 5-4 for Campaign Finance Reform, Constitution: 0 (Center for Individual Freedom)

 

Con (Against Reform):

Opponents and numerous Supreme Court justices argue that campaign finance regulations violate freedom of speech as protected by the Constitution. People communicate ideas by donating money to candidates, parties and other organizations that support their political viewpoints. As such, restrictions on contributions have the effect of abridging political speech.

 

As for McCain-Feingold, strict limits that affect how much corporations and labor unions can contribute in “soft money” to a political party, but leave political action committees alone, make no sense at all and are simply unfair.

 

In the decision striking down limits on issue ads, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “Discussion of issues cannot be suppressed simply because the issues may also be pertinent in an election. Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.” Others have pointed out that all forms of advertising, including television advertising, are crucial means for communicating ideas, values and arguments, all of which are forms of free speech.

 

With the millionaire amendment, critics said the rule was a thinly disguised maneuver to protect entrenched incumbents from upstart and well-to-do challengers. The Supreme Court said that the amendment violated the First Amendment because it penalized a candidate who robustly exercised his free-speech rights by spending heavily.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the amendment required “a candidate to choose between the First Amendment right to engage in unfettered political speech and subjection to discriminatory fundraising limitations.”

Campaign Finance Limits Violate Free Speech (by Andrew Lewis, Capitalism Magazine)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Former Directors:

William H. Rehnquist (September 26, 1986-September 3, 2005)

Warren Burger (June 23, 1969 - September 26, 1986)

Earl Warren (October 5, 1953 - June 23, 1969)

Fred Moore Vinson (June 24, 1946 - September 8, 1953)

Harlan Fiske Stone (July 3, 1941 - April 22, 1946)

Charles Evans Hughes (February 24, 1930 - June 30, 1941)

William Howard Taft (July 11, 1921 - February 3, 1930)

Edward White (December 19, 1910 - May 19, 1921)

Melville Fuller (October 8, 1888 - July 4, 1910)

Morrison Waite (March 4, 1874 March 23, 1888)

Salmon Chase (December 15, 1864 - May 7, 1873)

Roger Brooke Taney (March 28, 1836 - October 12, 1864)

John Marshall (February 4, 1801 - July 6, 1835)

Oliver Ellsworth (March 8, 1796 - December 15, 1800)

John Rutledge (August 12, 1795 - December 15, 1795)

John Jay (October 19, 1789 - June 29, 1795)

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Founded: 1787
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United States Supreme Court
Roberts, John
Chief Justice
A native of Buffalo, NY, John G. Roberts, Jr. has served as the Chief Justice of the United States since September 29, 2005. In this capacity, Roberts serves as the head of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which functions as the policymaking body for all US federal courts.
 
Roberts received a BA from Harvard College in 1976 and a JD from Harvard Law School in 1979. He served as a law clerk for Judge Henry J. Friendly of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1979–1980 and as a law clerk for then-Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist of the Supreme Court during the 1980 term.
 
Roberts was special assistant to the US Attorney General from 1981–1982 and associate counsel to President Ronald Reagan from 1982–1986. He then went into private practice, joining the firm Hogan & Hartson.
 
Roberts rejoined government ranks when he accepted the position of Principal Deputy Solicitor General in the Justice Department from 1989–1993. During this time, Roberts argued 39 cases for the government before the Supreme Court, prevailing in 25 of them. He represented 18 states in United States v. Microsoft. In 1992, President George H. W. Bush nominated Roberts to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but no Senate vote was held, and Roberts’ nomination expired when Bush left office after losing the 1992 presidential election.
 
In 1993, Roberts went back to Hogan & Hartson and stayed there until 2003 when President George W. Bush successfully appointed Roberts to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, gaining Senate approval.
 
Roberts also has served as an adjunct faculty member at the Georgetown University Law Center.
 
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