Get Ready.

We had a great break.

SCOTUS is back. Arguments start in a week. Decisions after that.

Get your decision breakdowns right here.

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Hollingsworth v. Perry

Decision: June 26, 2013

California has a messy history of changing its opinion on gay marriage.

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The case In Re Marriage Cases in 2008 determined that state laws barring gay marriage violated the state constitution. Marriage!

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Then prop 8 happened. No marriage!

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Then a case called Strauss v. Horton happened.

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It said that prop 8 was constitutional, but the marriages that happened before it went into effect were still valid. Marriage…ish!

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These dudes throwing shade are Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier. They wanted to get married, but were denied a license because they’re both women. They sued.

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Ruling on that lawsuit, the district court overturned prop 8. Marriage!

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An appellate court agreed. Marriage!

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SCOTUS ruled that there was no standing for the appeal from the district court. Marriage!

US v. Windsor/Hollingsworth v. Perry: Basic Version

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United States v. Windsor

Decision June 26, 2013 (5-4)

This post at Buzzfeed

The year is 1965, and Thea Spyer wants Edie Windsor to know something.

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The two of them date, cohabitate, and fall in love. When they decide to get married, they jet off to Canada, where it’s legal.

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By now, it’s 2007. New York has a policy that recognizes gay marriages that were performed in other jurisdictions, so in the eyes of the state, they’re hitched.

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Uh, New York. Right. Cute. Anyway.

Sadly, Thea died in 2009, leaving Edie a pretty big inheritance.

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The state demanded about 300 large in estate taxes on this money, which Edie wouldn’t have to pay if she qualified for a “spousal deduction,” a benefit straight couples get. So she sued in the district court.

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The law that deals with all of this is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Edie’s case specifically is about section 3, which, among other things, defines a married couple as a man and a woman, and a bunch of other stuff to that effect. 

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So the BLAG was all,

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Buuuut the district court said that section 3 was unconstitutional under the fifth amendment.

(While this happened, a group called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, or BLAG, seriously, BLAG, which is part of the House of Representatives, intervened on behalf of the government. This is important later.)

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On appeal, the Second Circuit agreed that section 3 was unconstitutional. At this point, the Obama administration stopped enforcing DOMA and publicly announced that it disagrees with the legislation. But it dutifully filed a petition to SCOTUS anyway.

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SCOTUS is asking 3 questions about Windsor’s case. the first one, obviously, is if section 3 of DOMA is constitutional.

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The second one is if the suit is even a thing, because the US obviously actually agrees with the second circuit.

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The third one is whether BLAG even has the right to be a party to the case under Article III. 

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By a 5-4 ruling, SCOTUS declares DOMA unconstitutional. Marriage falls under the provisions of equal protection.

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Wow, hi.

Um, there are suddenly like 700 of you guys.

Welcome, and thank you for following! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s decisions on (we hope) gay marriage.

Fisher v. University of Texas

Decision: June 24, 2013, 7-1

This post at Buzzfeed

Summary at SCOTUSBlog

This is Abigail Fisher.

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No, hold on. This is Abigail Fisher.

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She applied to the University of Texas with a 3.59 and an 1180 SAT in 2008, and they didn’t let her in.

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She filed a lawsuit, saying U Texas was all:

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…racially discriminating against her, a white girl, because other, minority students, had been admitted with lower quality applications.

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U Texas won, and she appealed.

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PRECEDENT BREAK: the relevant case here is Grutter v. Bollinger, which says affirmative action (the consideration of race [and since, other diversity-achieving factors in school admissions]) is legit.

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The reasoning in Grutter was that schools have an interest in maintaining diversity.

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The ruling in Fisher changes that a little, by changing the legal test that an affirmative action program must pass in order to be kosher under the law: the “strict scrutiny” test.

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It narrows the standard, requiring lower courts to OK the use of race in their admissions programs as a way to achieve diversity.

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They have to establish that there is no other non-racially focused factor that would also create a diverse student body.

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SCOTUS sent the case back to the lower court to rule on U Texas’s program.

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Meanwhile, Fisher has graduated from LSU.

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So, affirmative action lives on, but with a little more supervision.

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On Deck

Stay tuned for the Affirmative Action breakdown in Fisher, plus bonus blurbs!

Throwback Thursday: Mapp v. Ohio

Decision: June 19, 1961 (6-3)


It’s 1957 in a quiet suburb of Cleveland at the house of Dolltree Mapp.

No, Dolltree. DOLL TREE. Anyway. Three police officers, having received a tip that a suspect in a bombing case might be hiding in there, are trying to get into Dolltree’s house.

She told them no way, not without a warrant. So two of them left for a hot minute.

They came back a couple of hours later, waving a piece of paper, and they broke down her door.

Dolltree snatched the paper and stuffed it down her dress. The officers tried to take the paper, and she fought back.

They cuffed her for her “belligerence” and searched the house. All they found was porn. But, it’s 1957. No porn allowed. Dolltree goes to court and is found guilty of possessing lewd material.


She appealed on the first amendment grounds of freedom of expression, but SCOTUS had its own thing to say.

 

The opinion said that any evidence obtained as the result of an illegal search can’t be admitted in court, ruling on a previously uncontested fourth amendment issue. This created the “exclusionary rule,” which determines how courts treat “tainted” evidence.






Assn. for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc.

Decision: June 13, 2013, 9-0

Summary at SCOTUSBlog

The reason we are the way we are is DNA.

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The reason Angelina Jolie is the way that she is has to do with two mutations in her DNA, specifically ones that predispose her to breast and ovarian cancer.

The two genes we’re talking about here are called BRCA1 and BRCA2, and they occur naturally in the body.

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A company called Myriad Genetics acquired patents for these two genes, because they created a cancer-detecting test (the BRCAnalysis) that uses them.

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A bunch of people (like, actual people, and then also the ACLU) got really mad about this and filed suit in New York.

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A federal court invalidated the BRCA patents in 2010, but in 2011, an appeals court overturned the ruling.

LAW BREAK. So, like, patent law is really boring, but one of the most CRAZY BASIC things about it is that in order to get a patent, you have to have done something. You can’t patent stuff that occurs in nature.

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Myriad’s argument was that it took a bunch of work and proprietary methodology to isolate BRCA in the first place.

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SCOTUS’s opinion was, basically, “HEY, HAVE YOU HEARD OF PATENT LAW?”

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So, right, you can’t patent naturally-occuring stuff. DNA occurs naturally — Clarence was all, the sequence of code in the BRCA genes in the Myriad lab is the same as the sequence in the human body. The court also said that synthetic DNA, known as cDNA, is patentable.

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This isn’t a total loss for Myriad. They are also entitled to claim “method patents,” which would cover stuff like the DNA extraction process, the breast cancer test, and whatever the hell else they’re doing over there.

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Science!

Horne v. Department of Agriculture

Decision: June 10, 2013, 9-0

Summary at SCOTUSBlog

Y’all wanna talk about raisins?

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The federal government runs this marketing program for California raisins that takes some of the crop off the market in order to make the price more consistent.

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There’s a committee that decides how many raisins you can sell on the market each year, and the rest have to be sold in non-competitive ways (like to the government, to feed prisoners… or children)

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A group of grape farmers (vineyarders?) started processing their own grapes into raisins for sale, arguing that since they were “producers,” not “processors,” the law didn’t apply.

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The Department of Agriculture went to court and got an order for the vineyarders to cough up $483,844 in fines.

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LAW BREAK. So, the fifth amendment of the constitution prevents the government from taking your crap without paying you a fair price for it. That part of the amendment is called the “takings clause.”

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The vineyarders, headed by a couple called Horne, argued in court that the DOA was just “taking” their crap without just compensation. (note: SCOTUS says it’s unclear if the vineyarders are talking about the fine or the raisin-withholding)

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The judge sided with the DOA, saying the vineyards were acting as “processors,” so they fell under the marketing program, and their raisins were not unfairly taken private property.

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They ran to the Ninth Circuit, and they said hey guys you have to take this to a special court called the Court of Federal Claims because this thing called the Tucker Act says so.

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The Hornes were like, SO WHERE THE HELL CAN WE SUE YOU PEOPLE? And they ran to SCOTUS for an answer.

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Traditionally, agricultural marketing orders like this one are enforced by DOA, and you can’t challenge them in normal courts before paying first.

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AND THEN IT ALL CHANGED.

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This opinion says that private entities subject to government regulation have to be able to challenge the constitutionality of their fines before they pay up.

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So now, a farmer or packer or drier or whatever the hell else you do to raisins-er can go to regular federal district court with a “takings” claim, and they can get a ruling on the fine’s validity before they have to pay.

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The Hornes have to run back down to the lower court and sort their shit out.

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