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All-purpose 2005-06 SCOTUS Cases Thread

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Here is the place to discuss cases before the Court this term. Discuss cases that haven't been heard yet but you think are interesting, cases that have been heard but not yet decided, or cases that have been decided. If there is lengthy discussion on one case in particular we might split that off into its own thread.

One that interests me is Gonzalez v. Oregon, in which the question presented (as stated in the petitioner's brief) is:

"Whether the Attorney General has permissibly construed the Controlled Substances Act . . . and its implementing regulations to prohibit the distribution of federally controlled substances for the purpose of facilitating an individual's suicide, regardless of any state law purporting to authorize such distribution."

Edited by softwareNerd
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Based on my quick reading of the petitioner's brief*, that appears to be the major issue. From the brief, p.24 (p. 36 in Acrobat):

"As the court of appeals recognized, the principal question presented by this case is 'who gets to decide' . . . whether particular conduct comports with the federal requirement under the CSA that a prescription be issued for a 'legitimate medical purpose' and in the 'usual course of professional treatment[.]'"

On a much more general level, I see a chunk of argument based on statutory interpretation principles, i.e. what the general rules are for determining what a statute means.

In case you are not aware (and I mean no offense if you are), when a federal law trumps a state law it's called "preemption." Now you can impress your friends at parties! :)

*"Quick" as in three minutes, on no sleep, and it's a party brief so it's a work of advocacy, not objective legal analysis.

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Well, the obvious difference is that Raich was an as-applied Commerce Clause challenge, whereas this case (according to petitioner's brief) is one of general statutory interpretation.

In this case, the AG's power to regulate is given in the statute. The petitioner argues that the disputed portions of the CSA are clear, and even if they aren't, the AG's interpretations are owed deference if they're reasonable. Additionally, the petitioner argues that there is a presumption in favor of a national standard, and that Congress didn't intend to make its definitions subject to state law.

Also, the petitioner disputes the lower court's finding that, based on Gregory v. Ashcroft, state law must control the question whether something is a "legitimate medical practice" under the CSA absent a clear statement by Congress that federal law governs. Finally, the petitioner argues that there is no preemption issue, but rather that the issue is whether the AG can interpret a provision of federal, not state, law.

Gosh, this case is a little hard for me to digest at the moment, but I hope some of this helps. :) Basically, there was a preemption issue in Raich because the challenge was to Congress' authority to regulate under the Commerce Clause which, if valid, preempted the California law because of the Supremacy Clause. (See p. 26, 29 Acrobat of the opinion.) Whereas in this case, if the petitioner is right that there's no preemption issue, then there's no preemption issue.

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Here is how I heard a commentator on NPR describe the difference between the previous Raich case and the current Oregon case.

In Raich, the court said the Feds could control certain substances. The Fed law was expressly for the purpose of stopping the abuse of drugs. The state could not allow such abuse.

In the Oregon case, the state law does not allow typical drug-abuse. What it allows is precription for the purpose of suicide. So, Oregon's main argument is that the Fed law was not intended to stop people from commiting suicide.

Do people have rights any more or is it all about Fed and State rights!

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FYI for those interested, transcripts of oral arguments are available here for free within 10-15 business days after the close of each argument session. Oregon was argued today (Wednesday), and the current argument session ends on the 12th, so by my quick math the transcript should be out around the 26th. Should provide some insight both into how the Court might rule on this case and into some of Roberts' legal thinking.

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ARI released an op-ed today about this argument and noted that the one entity left out of the discussion is the individual. We are now at a point where an argument in law about rights have nothing to do with the individual. Of course, they always argue law, as opposed to principle.

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Georgia v. Randolph, argued on November 8, presents an interesting issue. According to the petitioner's brief, the question presented is whether an occupant can "give law enforcement valid consent to search the common areas of the premises shared with another, even though another occupant is present and objects to the search[.]" Is this something that should be entirely governed by contract/lease/etc.? What should be the rule in situations in which there was no prior agreement, written or oral?

[Edit: Argument transcript now available. Changed "set for argument" to "argued." Also, Justice Scalia asked a question along the lines of what I was wondering, namely what the influence of property law is on this Fourth Amendment issue. See PDF p. 19.]

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For those interested in Miranda issues, the argument transcript of Maryland v. Blake is now available. Here is a short summary of the case.

[Edit: This Miranda issue will have to stay unresolved for now. On Nov. 14, just 13 days after argument, the Court dismissed this case, saying only that certiorari was "improvidently granted." Since I am very new to learning about the technical aspects of Supreme Court litigation, I can not hypothesize why cert would be revoked after having been granted and the case argued.]

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On November 30, the Court heard arguments in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of New England. This case will address, among other things, the New Hampshire Parental Notification Prior to Abortion Act.

[Edit: While transcripts will be available in a couple weeks, we have better than transcripts this time! I don't know for how long this will be up, but for now C-Span has the entire argument available for listening. Scroll down to the middle of the page. The link is under "Video/Audio," "Recent Programs." Enjoy!]

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While searching for stuff on which Justices will vote which way in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, I stumbled upon a great resource, the "Web Guide to Supreme Court Research." From the Introduction:

"The Web Guide to U.S. Supreme Court Research is intended to facilitate the convenience and speed that we expect when turning to the Internet for our research needs. Often, we are unimpressed by the performance of search engines primarily because of problems with the quantity or relevancy of the results. This Web Guide attempts to overcome the shortcomings of general web searching by providing a selection of annotated links to the most reliable, substantive sites for U.S. Supreme Court research. The sites mentioned here focus predominantly on information that is freely, or inexpensively, available on the Internet."

David, softwareNerd, and whomever else, I'd be delighted to hear if you use this resource and how good you think it is.

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Now that I've had a chance to peruse the Guide, I agree entirely with your appraisal, David. One thing that may interest you and others is the LII Bulletin, which is "'a free current awareness service via E-mail, distributing the syllabi of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in bulletin format within hours after their release.' These are not the decisions themselves nor excerpts from them, but summaries (syllabi) prepared by the Court's Reporter of Decisions."

Talk about taking some of the effort out of keeping up with SCOTUS. They bring it right to you. Yay technology!

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Great resources, thanks.

My sister is 2nd chair (if that's the right term, I'm not sure) for FAIR for the "Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (“FAIR”), 04-1152" case on Dec 6th, so I'd be interested to hear what any of you have to say about it.

I brought it up awhile back in the below thread, but since it's only a couple days away I thought I'd ask again.

OO.net Thread - Solomon Amendment - Fair V. Rumsfeld

Cheers,

Rob

Edited by rob.sfo
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Rob and others interested:

According to the online schedule, C-Span2 will be broadcasting the audio of the FAIR oral arguments tonight (Tuesday) at 10:33p EST, and again at 4:08a EST Wednesday. The arguments will be followed by some brief press stuff outside the court. (Rob, maybe you'll see your sis on TV!) I have no idea if/when this might be broadcast again, nor whether it will be available on C-Span's website, though I imagine it would.

This stuff being available on TV and internet and so soon, is, to quote Peter Griffin, "freakin' sweet." What fun it would be if the Court ever allows video.

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We have Chief Justice Roberts' first opinion! It comes to us in Martin et ux v. Franklin Capital Corp.. Unless you're a lawyer or law student, the subject of this case--what standard governs an award of attorney's fees when a case is remanded back to state court under 1447©--probably isn't very interesting to you. Nonetheless, as the first opinion issued by the 17th Chief Justice, it has some historical value.

Also, for those of you looking for insight into how he might rule on something like abortion, you get no insight this time. That is, unless you can get that insight from an opinion on a technical jurisdiction rule.

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An upcoming argument that interests me is tomorrow (1/10) in the Texaco v. Dagher/Shell v. Dagher case. According to this, the question presented is "whether it is illegal per se under Section 1 of the Sherman Act for a lawful, economically integrated joint venture to set the prices at which the joint venture sells its products." I have limited knowledge about antitrust, so I can't really place this issue in the context of the whole body of antitrust law. That said, I think the fewer "per se" illegal acts there are, the better. Making the bastards prove it is better than not.

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It's interesting the way they pick and choose the issues where they think "states' rights" should apply.
Yes. At least looking at the popular cases, it would seem that the judges decide what they want as an outcome, and then figure out how they can argue for it.
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I know the idea of "states' rights" is not a good one. With that said, I don't see what argument they could have made under current law that would have been stronger than principles of federalism (following resolution of the administrative law issues). Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and the federal government is one of enumerated powers. You can't just ask a federal court to overturn something because it sucks. You need grounds. So what alternative is there? Due process? As far as I know, that would require overturning Glucksberg. That would be hard for a few reasons, two of which are (1) that the Court is generally reluctant to overturn its own precedents at all, and is even more reluctant to do so to a very recent precedent, and (2) that in general you want to try to go with the narrowest argument possible, i.e. the one that requires the Court to make the least change in the law. Asking them to say something is consistent with federalism principles is probably less of a change than asking them to overturn a recent precedent.

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It's probably the best excuse we could have expected. However, when it comes to protecting individual rights against government, one would hope dream that the court will overturn precedent.

From the Glucksberg opinion: "this Court's decisions lead to the conclusion that respondents' asserted "right" to assistance in committing suicide is not a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause"

The other thing that I take heart in is that the decision was 6-3. Alito replacing Connor would probably have made it 5-4. So, that tells us that the court is not completely in the pocket of the witch-doctors.

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