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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

SCOTUS Ends Term With Historic Decisions

Chief Justice John Roberts
On the penultimate business day in June, the United States Supreme Court concluded its term with the announcement of its historic decision in National Federation of Independent Business v Sebelius; the Obamacare case that tested the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.  As unlikely a jurist as could be found, a visibly uncomfortable Chief Justice John Roberts, announced that Obamacare was upheld in a 5-4 opinion that he authored.

The ACA was upheld on the somewhat questionable grounds of Congress' power to levy a tax.  More than a few legal scholars characterize the so-called "individual mandate" requiring individuals to secure health insurance or pay a penalty, as Congress levying a punishment, not a tax.  The consensus among these same scholars, however, is that challenging the constitutionality of the ACA was a colossal waste of time; legislation of this nature has routinely passed constitutional muster dating back to the social programs of the 1930s.

We here at the Law Blogger cannot wait for the contribution from our guest blogger, Professor Robert Sedler, to weigh in on this decision.  Stay tuned for that.

Here is a summary of some of the more significant decisions issued by SCOTUS this term:

  • Churches are entitled to a "ministerial exception" to their adherence to state and federal employment laws, enabling them to hire whomever they want to stand at the pulpit; the remaining question in this case is how deep into the employee roster this ministerial exception goes.
  • Police must secure a warrant, as required under the 4th Amendment's "search and seizure" clause, prior to attaching a GPS tracking device on a vehicle.
  • Corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns as the Court upheld it's game-changing Citizens United decision and applied it to a Montana law.
  • An accused has a right to the effective assistance of legal counsel under the Sixth Amendment during the criminal plea-bargaining process.
  • The prosecutor's expert witness may discuss laboratory test results [usually involving blood samples and DNA] without the live testimony of lab analysis that assisted in processing the sample, and this does not violate the "confrontation clause" of the Fifth Amendment.
  • State criminal laws that require that a juvenile convicted of murder be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional.
The justices will reconvene for the 2012-2013 term in October.  Must be nice to be one of nine justices on the High Court.  After deciding such weighty decisions that affect our lives, you really get to enjoy your summer!

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