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Upcoming Supreme Court Cases
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 13, 2014 4:05 pm    Post subject: Upcoming Supreme Court Cases Reply with quote

Yes, we can probably find out all about these cases directly from The Supreme Court's home page but this AJA article is a nice overview, as well. The ones to watch--the important ones--will be McCullen v. Coakley (free speech zones), NLRB v. Noel Canning (the President's power of recess appointments), and two other cases, Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie (both about police needing a warrant to search a cell phone during an arrest--Fourth Amendment issues).
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 13, 2014 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for posting.

NLRB v Canning will certainly be a political, not a judicial, ruling.

Cell phone searches, disappointingly, but unsurprisingly, will be allowed ("business records").

"Free Speech Zones" is really about attacking abortion rights. That will get ugly. I hope, but do not expect, that safety trumps where you stand to have free speech, but there's too much politics to know.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 13, 2014 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
NLRB v Canning will certainly be a political, not a judicial, ruling.


I agree. I also suspect the Court will rule that the Senate cannot keep itself in session with shady sidestep maneuvers and thus uphold the appointment, as well as any made by future Presidents under similar circumstances, as valid.

wayfriend wrote:
Cell phone searches, disappointingly, but unsurprisingly, will be allowed ("business records").


I certainly hope not--these sorts of searches will be abused and "may I have your cell phone or mobile device, please?" will become part of every random traffic stop.

wayfriend wrote:
"Free Speech Zones" is really about attacking abortion rights. That will get ugly. I hope, but do not expect, that safety trumps where you stand to have free speech, but there's too much politics to know.


People need to get over the fact that abortion is a legally-obtainable medical service. No one has to like it but they certainly have to live with it. No one going to a clinic where abortion procedures are performed needs some nosy busy-body shoving a pamphlet in their face. If the nosy busy-body is so desperate that the child lives then they should cough up the money for the delivery procedure then adopt the child. If they aren't willing to do those things then they need to back off and leave people alone.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One decision was handed down today, but not for any of the cases specifically mentioned earlier.

Quote:
A divided Supreme Court sided with gun-control groups and the Obama administration on Monday, ruling that the federal ban on purchasing a gun for another person can be enforced even if the ultimate buyer is legally allowed to own a gun.

The justices ruled 5-4 that the federal background check law applied to Bruce James Abramski, Jr. when he bought a Glock 19 handgun in Collinsville, Virginia, in 2009 and later transferred it to his uncle in Easton, Pennsylvania.

The ruling settles a split among appeals courts over federal gun laws intended to prevent sham buyers from obtaining guns for the sole purpose of giving them to another person. The laws were part of Congress' effort to make sure firearms did not get into the hands of unlawful recipients.

Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan said the federal government's elaborate system of background checks and record-keeping requirements help law enforcement investigate crimes by tracing guns to their buyers. Those provisions would mean little, she said, if a would-be gun buyer could evade them by simply getting another person to buy the gun a fill out the paperwork.

In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said the language of the law does not support making it a crime for one lawful gun owner to buy a gun for another lawful gun owner.

The case began after Bruce James Abramski, Jr. bought a Glock 19 handgun in Collinsville, Virginia, in 2009 and later transferred it to his uncle in Easton, Pennsylvania. Abramski, a former police officer, had assured the Virginia dealer he was the "actual buyer" of the weapon even though he had already offered to buy the gun for his uncle using a police discount.

Abramski purchased the gun three days after his uncle had written him a check for $400 with "Glock 19 handgun" written in the memo line. During the transaction, he answered "yes" on a federal form asking "Are you the actual transferee buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form? Warning: You are not the actual buyer if you are acquiring the firearm(s) on behalf of another person. If you are not the actual buyer, the dealer cannot transfer the firearm(s) to you."

Police later arrested Abramski after they thought he was involved in a bank robbery in Rocky Mount, Virginia. No charges were ever filed on the bank robbery, but officials charged him with making false statements about the purchase of the gun.


On the one hand, I can understand the logic in trying to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't be owning them and using a straw buyer is the typical method of doing this. On the other hand, once I purchase a gun and it is mine then it is my property and I can do with it as I please, as long as what I do is legal. I can paint it, put it in a drawer and never look at it again, throw it into a lake, bury it in the back yard, or sell it to someone else as long as the registration is paid and filed, just like with a car.

This ruling will prevent anyone from ever giving a gun as a birthday, anniversary, or Christmas gift ever again. How are they going to enforce this law, anyway? What if I loan my gun to someone to use for a weekend of deer hunting? What if I bought a gun, it is legally kept in its safe to keep the kids out (complete with trigger lock), but my wife gets it out to use against someone breaking in?

Anyway...no, apparently there were several other decisions, as well.


Quote:
The Supreme Court also ruled that holders of defaulted Argentine bonds can force the South American country to reveal where its assets are held around the world.

The court's 7-1 ruling Monday will make it easier for the bond holders to collect on U.S. court judgments.

The decision followed a separate action Monday in which the justices turned down the country's appeal of a lower court ruling ordering it to pay $1.3 billion to hedge funds that hold some of the bonds.

The Supreme Court also agreed on Monday to the free speech rights of people who use violent or threatening language on Facebook and other electronic media where the speaker's intent is not always clear.

The case is about an eastern Pennsylvania man sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for posting violent online rants against his estranged wife, law enforcement officials and former co-workers.

A federal appeals court rejected Anthony Elonis' claim that his comments were protected by the First Amendment. He says he never meant to carry out the threats. He claims he was depressed and made the online posts in the form of rap lyrics as a way of venting his frustration after his wife left him.

At his trial, the jury was instructed that Elonis could be found guilty if an objective person could consider his posts to be threatening. Attorneys for Elonis argue that the jury should have been told to apply a subjective standard and decide whether Elonis meant the messages to be understood as threats.

Elonis's lawyers say a subjective standard is appropriate given the impersonal nature of communication over the Internet, which can lead people to misinterpret messages. They argue that comments intended for a smaller audience can be viewed by others unfamiliar with the context and interpret the statements differently than was intended.

The high court said it will consider whether conviction of threatening another person under federal law "requires proof of the defendant's subjective intent to threaten."

For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has said that "true threats" to harm another person are not protected speech under the First Amendment. But the court has cautioned that laws prohibiting threats must not infringe on constitutionally protected speech. That includes "political hyperbole" or "unpleasantly sharp attacks" that fall shy of true threats.


Here's a thought--how about you never make threats against other people, even if the threats are veiled, open to interpretation, or you never meant to carry them out? If you don't plan on knocking someone in the head with a hammer (a random example) then don't say "I'm going to knock you in the head with a hammer".
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is a good one that we missed earlier: 13-483 Lane v Franks, which is about First Amendment protections for public employees (people employed by school districts, police departments, city offices, etc).

Quote:
Almost 50 years ago, this Court declared that citizens do not surrender their First Amendment rights by accepting public employment. Rather, the First Amendment protection of a public employee’s speech depends on a careful balance “between the interests of the [employee], as a citizen, in commenting upon matters of public concern and the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees.” Pickering v. Board of Ed. of Township High School Dist. 205, Will Cty., 391 U. S. 563, 568 (1968). In Pickering , the Court struck the balance in favor of the public employee, extending First Amendment protection to a teacher who was fired after writing a letter to the editor of a local newspaper criticizing the school board that employed him. Today, we consider whether the First Amendment similarly protects a public employee who provided truthful sworn testimony, compelled by subpoena, outside the course of his ordinary job responsibilities. We hold that it does.


I haven't finished reading the full text but it would appear that this guarantees someone's right to speak out against their employer, even if that employer is a city, State, or Federal government office. Good--more coverage for whistleblowers.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another opinion which was handed out today: 12-1146, Utility Air Regulatory Group v Environmental Protection Agency et al. I will skip down to the opinion summary (page 32 if you are actually reading the .pdf, wihch is something you probably should do to familiarize yourself with Supreme Court decisions).

Quote:
To sum up: We hold that EPA exceeded its statutory authority when it interpreted the Clean Air Act to require PSD and Title V permitting for stationary sources based on their greenhouse-gas emission s. Specifically, the Agency may not treat greenhouse gases as a pollutant for purposes of defining a “major emitting facility” (or a “modification” thereof) in the PSD context or a “major source” in the Title V context. To the extent its regulations purport to do so, they are invalid. EPA may, however, continue to treat greenhouse gases as a “pollutant subject to regulation under this chapter” for purposes of requiring BACT for “anyway” sources. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed in part and reversed in part.


Curiously, AJA edited the title of the article from which I linked the actual decision. The original article was titled "Supreme Court limits EPA regulation of emissions" but now it reads "With small limits, Supreme Court backs EPA authority over carbon emissions". Which one is it, AJA? Your bias is showing.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2014 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hashi Lebwohl wrote:

[color=green]Curiously, AJA edited the title of the article from which I linked the actual decision. The original article was titled "Supreme Court limits EPA regulation of emissions" but now it reads "With small limits, Supreme Court backs EPA authority over carbon emissions". Which one is it, AJA? Your bias is showing.


Maybe they got too many emails and/or tweets telling them the first title is badly misleading?

From what I saw on the decision, the second is correct: the courts stopped one tiny little technical detail, but the general authority stands.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, here's a decision that I think everyone here will like...and it was 9-0. [I haven't read all the details yet, but here's a key quote]:

Quote:
"Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple — get a warrant."

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great news. A unanimous decision, wow. It seems a no-brainer to me, but I can't believe every single one of them had to sense to get this one right.

I think even WF will be happy to have been wrong about this one. One's personal documents/photos/etc. (including medical records, as the ruling noted) are nothing at all like business records, which apply to metadata involved in processing a call, and not the content of one's phone's memory.

I had no idea that the Obama administration was actually fighting for the police's right to search cell phones, putting Obama himself on the wrong side of this issue (yet again). When it comes to protecting our rights, spefically our privacy, his admin is one of the worst in our history.


Quote:
...

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police cannot go snooping through people’s cell phones without a warrant, in a unanimous decision that amounts to a major statement in favor of privacy rights.

Police agencies had argued that searching through the data on cell phones was no different than asking someone to turn out his pockets, but the justices rejected that, saying a cell phone is more fundamental.

The ruling amounts to a 21st century update to legal understanding of privacy rights.

“The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the unanimous court.

“Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple— get a warrant.”

Justices even said police cannot check a cellphone’s call log, saying even those contain more information that just phone numbers, and so perusing them is a violation of privacy that can only be justified with a warrant.

The chief justice said cellphones are different not only because people can carry around so much more data — the equivalent of millions of pages of documents — that police would have access to, but that the data itself is qualitatively different than what someone might otherwise carry.

He said it could lay bare someone’s entire personal history, from their medical records to their “specific movements down to the minute.”


The chief justice cited court precedent that found a difference between asking someone to turn out his pockets versus “ransacking his house for everything which may incriminate him” — and the court found that a cellphone falls into that second category.

Complicating matters further is the question of where the data is actually stored. The Obama administration and the state of California, both of which sought to justify cell phone searches, acknowledged that remotely stored data couldn’t be searched — but Chief Justice Roberts said with cloud computing, it’s now sometimes impossible to know the difference.


http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jun/25/supreme-court-bans-warrantless-cell-phone-searches/]link

It will be interesting to see if Obama is criticized in light of this.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wayfriend,

Quote:
Cell phone searches, disappointingly, but unsurprisingly, will be allowed ("business records").


Nope, see Vraith's link 9-0 you can't search a cell phone without a warrent to allow that search. Good decision.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a very good decision, and heartening that it was unanimous.

Unfortunately there will be zero fallout for the administration supporting such a massive invasion of privacy.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've read the entire ruling, now. It's an amazing display of common sense and recognition of modern technology--not just how things have changed since previous rulings, but also how they will undoubtedly change in the future, faster than the issue can be honed in a nuanced manner on a case-by-case basis as cops make judgment calls which might lead to more court challenges. Therefore, a standard rule guiding police actions had to be decided, and in that case, they chose privacy over crime enforcement ... allowing for the possibility that various legislatures will come up with more nuanced positions later, since they are better equiped to make faster decisions as technology changes.

The ruling uses terms like "Faraday bags, " "cloud computing," "data encryption," "remote wiping," etc., considering each of these in terms of their relevance to the possibility of evidence destruction.

And it has gems of common sense like this:


Quote:
In 1926, Learned Hand observed (in an opinion later quoted in Chimel) that it is “a totally different thing to search a man’s pockets and use against him what they contain, from ransacking his house for everything which may incriminate him.” United States v. Kirschenblatt, 16 F. 2d 202, 203 (CA2). If his pockets contain a cell phone, however, that is no longer true. Indeed, a cell phone search would typically expose to the government far more than the most exhaustive search of a house: A phone not only contains in digital form many sensitive records previously found in the home; it also contains a broad array ofprivate information never found in a home in any form—unless the phone is.


No shit!

And gems like this:

Quote:
Finally, at oral argument California suggested a different limiting principle, under which officers could search cell phone data if they could have obtained the same in-formation from a pre-digital counterpart. See Tr. of Oral Arg. in No. 13–132, at 38–43; see also Flores-Lopez, 670
F. 3d, at 807 (“If police are entitled to open a pocket diary to copy the owner’s address, they should be entitled toturn on a cell phone to learn its number.”). But the fact that a search in the pre-digital era could have turned up aphotograph or two in a wallet does not justify a search of thousands of photos in a digital gallery. The fact that someone could have tucked a paper bank statement in apocket does not justify a search of every bank statement from the last five years. And to make matters worse, such an analogue test would allow law enforcement to search a range of items contained on a phone, even though peoplewould be unlikely to carry such a variety of information in physical form. In Riley’s case, for example, it is implausible that he would have strolled around with video tapes, photo albums, and an address book all crammed into his pockets. But because each of those items has a pre-digital analogue, police under California’s proposal would be able to search a phone for all of those items—a significant diminution of privacy.



Just look at that sentence: ...it is implausible that he would have strolled around with video tapes, photo albums, and an address book all crammed into his pockets. I don't believe I've ever seen a SCOTUS ruling with such blatant humor/sarcasm--the same kind of mocking frustration we all feel at the outrageous and nonsensical liberties our government so often takes in justifying its intrusions into our lives.

This one, too, gets another Zarathustra, "No shit!" It's too obvious and crucial to dress it up in legalese (even if I could, heh).
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was pleasantly surprised at this decision, myself. I would have to look into it, but I think unanimous decisions from the Supreme Court are quite rare. The fact that they unanimously decided in favor of personal privacy is--or should be--a clear call to the rest of the Federal Government to start backing off.

The only problem I see in the near future is that police departments will start including cell phones on any/all warrants and that they will have what amount to fill-in-the-blank warrants which can be quickly generated and signed to allow for seizure of cell phones/smart devices during routine stops. My advice is "don't be engaged in criminal activity" but if you absolutely must do so then my advice becomes "don't conduct your criminal activity using a cell phone or smart device".

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hashi Lebwohl wrote:

The only problem I see in the near future is that police departments will start including cell phones on any/all warrants and that they will have what amount to fill-in-the-blank warrants which can be quickly generated and signed to allow for seizure of cell phones/smart devices during routine stops.
Only if they arrest you for a crime, first. They can't simply get a warrant to search your cell phone for a routine stop. They might, of course, find some reason to arrest you during a routine stop, but even then the warrant to search your phone must be related to the crime for which you're being arrested (I believe, according to my reading of the ruling). If you're arrested for reckless driving, for instance, they can't get a warrant to search for evidence of drug trafficking on your phone. However, I imagine they could get a warrant to see if you were texting ... and then if you also happen to have other incriminating evidence on your phone, you're screwed.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:
However, I imagine they could get a warrant to see if you were texting ... and then if you also happen to have other incriminating evidence on your phone, you're screwed.


Even then, one could hope for a specific/strict interpretation...
Meaning for instance, they can check to see if you were texting during the period in question, [we pulled her over cuz she was weaving, and seemed to be occupied with other tasks...] or a reasonably close time period...after all texts come with a time stamp...so they can't just scroll through all the texts you have for the last 6 hours or days or years. Maybe that's wishful thinking...but it would be in keeping with the logic of the rest of the ruling AFAICT so far.

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the hyperbole is a beauty...for we are then allowed to say a little more than the truth...and language is more efficient when it goes beyond reality than when it stops short of it.
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Hashi Lebwohl
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 2:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:
Only if they arrest you for a crime, first. They can't simply get a warrant to search your cell phone for a routine stop. They might, of course, find some reason to arrest you during a routine stop, but even then the warrant to search your phone must be related to the crime for which you're being arrested (I believe, according to my reading of the ruling). If you're arrested for reckless driving, for instance, they can't get a warrant to search for evidence of drug trafficking on your phone. However, I imagine they could get a warrant to see if you were texting ... and then if you also happen to have other incriminating evidence on your phone, you're screwed.


The usual tactic is to have a drug dog present and--what are the odds?--it happens to "alert" to the presence of drugs. Don't worry, though--drug dogs cannot possibly be trained to alert on every car or from a signal given by the handler so you'll be fine. *nudge* *wink*

Of course, as part of a typical arrest your belongings are taken from you and cataloged then stored until you are released. It is simply a shame that something happened to your phone while it was in police custody or maybe you broke it when you struggled while being placed under arrest.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Given the way the Court seems to have lactched onto the increased scope a generalized search of pockets gives police if Cell phones are included in a random pocket search I wonder if they will revisit the non-search analysis regarding telephone meta-data in the context of generalized cataloging of such meta-data for further use as it becomes necessary?
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BTW, before anyone says that the Obama DOJ didn't support it, here's their writ of certiorari explaining why the 4th Amendment doesn't apply.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cail,

Shocking. The current administration advocating for increased police powers and reductions of liberty protections for individuals. Whoda thunk?

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Last edited by SerScot on Thu Jun 26, 2014 2:59 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SerScot wrote:
Cail,

Shocking. The current administration advocating for increased police powers and reductions of liberty protections for individuals. Whoda thunk?

Wink
I know, right?
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