On Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the federal government’s ability to regulate green house cases. In United Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, which was consolidated with six other cases, the Court considered “[w]hether the EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources.”
On Thursday, Arizona lawmakers approved a bill allowing state business owners to refuse to serve individuals for “religious reasons.” Critics denounce the law as a state-approved discrimination against LGBT individuals.
The bill will now go to Governor Jan Brewer, who has five days to sign the law. The voting for the bill took place largely along party lines, and the Arizona House Minority Leader has already released a statement urging Brewer to veto the bill, arguing that it targets the LGBT community and promotes discrimination.
On Thursday, a judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia struck down Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, made law in 2006 after Virginia voters ratified Article I, Section 15-A to the constitution, defining marriage as a union between a man and woman only. The opinion states that the ban was a violation of a “fundamental freedom”, as well as a violation of due process and equal protection rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
On Saturday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government will begin giving same-sex couples the same benefits as heterosexual couples when filing for bankruptcy and when visiting family members in court. The benefits include allowing same-sex couples to be covered by spousal privilege in criminal investigations. The federal government will also recognize same-sex couple for programs such as the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration declined to define “natural” in the realm of food labeling in a published response letter. The letter, a response to three cases considering whether food products containing bioengineered ingredients can be labeled as “natural”, explains that it would take a public process to come up with a definition and the creation of such a definition would involve the interests of other agencies.
Currently, existing policy states that the term “natural” on food labels means that “nothing artificial synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food.” 58 Fed. Reg. 2302, 2407 (Jan. 6, 1993).
On Tuesday, Chief Justice Jean Toal was re-elected as the chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court in a joint session of the General Assembly. She was challenged by Associate Justice Costa Pleicones in a 95-74 vote.
South Carolina is one of only two states where the lawmakers elect the judges that interpret the laws they pass. The Judicial Merit Selection Commission, a 10-person panel of appointees selected by legislators vet candidates’ qualifications for the seat and nominate up to three people to fill the position.
Toal, the first woman to serve on the state Supreme Court, has already said that she will step down at the end of next year when she reaches the mandatory age of retirement for state judges–72.
Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court granted review for two cases on the issue of whether policy have authority to search the contents of an arrested person’s cell phone: Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie. Riley involves a cell phone that was described as being more like a hand-held computer, while Wurie involves a flip-phone. Both searches took place without an arrest.
For more on the cases, see SCOTUSblog’s coverage.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court held oral arguments on whether the requirement that publicly traded companies disclose the use of certain minerals from certain African countries is a violation of the First Amendment and whether the SEC took arbitrary actions when adopting the rule.
A trio of business groups challenged the Securities and Exchange Commission’s conflict minerals rule, but the district court upheld the rule. The rule, meant to cut off funding for those perpetrating human rights abuses, requires companies to disclose whether their products contain tin, tunsten, tantalum, or gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo and its neighbors, but the business groups question whether the rule would help the African people and argue that complying with the rule would cost companies billions of dollars. They also argue that the SEC could make compliance less of a burden by exempting those companies who use only trace amounts of the minerals in question. The First Amendment argument is that the rule forces them to criticize their own products; during the oral arguments, the panel seemed concern that making companies share this information could be a “slippery slope.” The SEC argues that it is following its Congressional mandate by creating the rule.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in NLRB v. Noel Canning to decide whether the president’s power to make recess appointments can be exercised:
- during a recess that occurs within a session of the Senate OR is limited to recesses that occur between enumerated sessions of the Senate
- to fill any vacancy that exists during a recess OR is limited to those that arise during the recess
Last January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that three appointments to the National Labor Relations Board by President Obama were unconstitutional. The government appeals that decision.
For a review of the argument, see this SCOTUSblog post.
This morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of United States v. Apel, concerning whether military bases have the authority to punish anti-war protestors who violate the rules of access to military facilities. The military base in question is Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, a base that the public needs special permission to enter, but across which runs Pacific Coast Highway, a public road, which are generally open to free speech activity. In the late 1980s, a commander set up a public protest area just outside the main gate, along the highway. There are laws making it a crime to enter a military base for an illegal purpose and to reenter a base after having been barred or removed from a base, but the federal government formally gave the state of California an easement to use the part of the Pacific Coast Highway that runs across the edge of the base as a public road. The protest zone is within the space covered by the easement.
The defendant in the case is no longer welcome in the protest zone due to an earlier incident in which he through blood on a sign at the gate of the base and then again years later for trespassing. In 2010, Mr. Apel entered the protest zone on three occasions. He was charged for violating the provision hat criminalizes entering a base after having been barred previously and convicted. The Ninth Circuit overturned that conviction, relying on a prior case from the same military base that stated the Air Force can only punish those entering a base without permission if the military has “the exclusive right of possession” of the property and concluding that it shares authority over the protest zone and the part of Pacific Coast Highway because of the easement.
Check out SCOTUSblog’s analysis on the upcoming arguments to see the issues that will likely arise and what the court will be considering.