SCOTUS Today: Kagan Hearings, Handgun Legislation, AZ Undocumented Workers Law, Gays in Campus Organizations and More!

7 years ago

The Supreme Court was front and center in today's news -- from a handgun decision to Congressional activity on the approval of Kagan as the next justice to anti-gay prejudice in a campus organization to an announcement that they will hear a case challenging a 2007 Arizona immigration law. The Court was just as provocative because of the issues they announced would not come before them.

First, the Illinois Handgun Decision

(voted 5-4 by conservative majority)

This is a complex one. Chicago has had a ban on handguns for 28 years, and this ban is the last of its kind in the nation.

A man holds a PARA handgun during the National Rifle Association's 139th annual meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 15, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES - Tags: MILITARY)

The Supreme Court had to make a decision about the Bill of Rights. The BoR applies to the national government. Over time, the Supreme Court has, issue by issue, extended its influence to state and local governments. According to The Christian Science Monitor:

"...the Supreme Court has not applied all of the rights in the Bill of Rights to the states. Some state courts do not recognize a right to a grand jury indictment or a jury trial in certain civil cases. Yet both of those rights are guaranteed in federal court by the Constitution. On Monday, the high court extended its holdings in this area to declare that the Second Amendment can now be enforced at the state and local levels."

So, the Chicago handgun law has not been voted down by the Supreme Court, but Illinois has been told to take it back to their courts and look at it under the new decision by the Supreme Court that they must have a law in place that is in harmony with the Second Amendment.

States have placed limits on where people could have handguns, however -- most typically only in the home. There is considerable concern today about whether or not this decision will result in the fall of local and state laws that limit where handguns may be found. At minimum, the door is now open for an increase in challenges to state and local gun legislation in the near future.

The official reaction statement published by The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence said:

We are reassured that the Court has rejected, once again, the gun lobby argument that its ‘any gun, for anybody, anywhere’ agenda is protected by the Constitution. The Court again recognized that the Second Amendment allows for reasonable restrictions on firearms, including who can have them and under what conditions, where they can be taken, and what types of firearms are available.

In what can only be called dreadful irony, despite the ban on handguns in Chicago, the past two weekends there have been marked with handgun violence -- according to the Huffington Post:

Last weekend, at least 52 were shot and ten killed in just three days, and this weekend...shots were fired into a group of about 30 people...Two men were wounded in the incident, at least one suffered serious injuries.

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Kagan's Inquisition Begins

The Senate Judiciary Committee opened hearings today on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. While it is generally held that she will be approved -- given the Democratic majority on Capitol Hill -- the GOP is not expected to let her pass without a struggle.

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan smiles as she listens to her introduction at the start of her U.S. Senate confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington June 28, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW HEADSHOT)

In CNN's "State of Union" TV broadcast, Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey appeared with Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and spoke about "unattainable GOP standards."

"I think if John and some of his colleagues in the Republican caucus had 10 angels coming from above swearing that this person was the most qualified ... for the Supreme Court, was a centrist and would follow the rule of law and obey precedent, they would say 'too extreme,'

NPR offers streaming video of the confirmation hearings.

SCOTUS Agrees to Take on a 2007 Arizona Immigration Law

Arizona currently has a law that requires employers to verify the eligibility of prospective workers through a federal database called E-Verify. Sanctions are imposed on any business that knowingly hires undocumented workers. A lower court ruling upheld the law. The SCOTUS agreed to hear the challenge from the Chamber of Commerce, American Civil Liberties Union and others. The results of this hearing will be watched closely as other legislation about immigrants in Arizona may also be taken before the Supreme Court at future dates.

Decision: a Recognized Campus Group Cannot Discriminate on Basis of Sexual Orientation or Religious Belief When That Discrimination Is Not the Campus Policy

(Vote 5-4 - Liberals and one moderate)

According to CBS News, The University of California's Hastings College of the Law denied funding and recognition to the Christian Legal Society because the CLS required that "voting members sign a statement of faith and regards 'unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle' as being inconsistent with that faith."

However, Hastings refused to allow the exclusion of anyone based on religious belief or sexual orientation. They will be allowed to not fund or recognize/provide services to any campus group that does bias entry.

What the Court Will Not Hear

What will not be considered by the court (and why) is often as interesting as what they will consider. Today's rejects are:

1. According to the Wall Street Journal, "The high court rejected appeals by both the tobacco industry and the government. The industry was seeking to overturn lower-court holdings that it violated racketeering laws, while the government was seeking to revive its rejected attempt to get tobacco companies to forfeit up to $280 billion in profits and pay $10 billion for smoking-cessation programs. "

2. The Vatican had been sued in the state of Oregon for transferring a priest who was a known pedophile -- Rev. Andrew Ronan -- to a parish there. The Vatican said that it could not be sued because it was a sovereign country and asked the Supreme Court to stop the Oregon trials. The Supreme Court refused, and the trials will proceed. It is interesting to note that five of the justices are Catholic.

Which of these issues do you care the most about?

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