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All Purpose 2006-07 Scotus Cases Thread

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Might it be a little early for this? Methinks not. Some interesting cases recently granted cert are an appeal from Philip Morris that punitive damages assessed against it were excessive (they were 100 times the compensatory damages) (article), and an affirmative action case involving diversity in public K-12 schools (article). I don't know much about the cases. Ask me in August. :D

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  • 3 months later...

Here's your link to Northwestern's On the Docket. I have not reviewed these cases thoroughly, nor have I checked any other sources for their summaries. That said, here are some cases that interest me preliminarily, based on their questions presented:

Gonzales v. Carhart: "Whether, notwithstanding Congress's determination that a health exception was unnecessary to preserve the health of the mother, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 is invalid because it lacks a health exception or is otherwise unconstitutional on its face?"

Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District #1: "(2) Is racial diversity a compelling interest that can justify the use of race in selecting students for admission to public high schools? (3) May a school district that is not racially segregated and that normally permits a student to attend any high school of her choosing deny a child admission to her chosen school solely because of her race in an effort to achieve a desired racial balance in particular schools, or does such racial balancing violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment?"

and similarly, Meredith v. Jefferson County Bd. of Education: "(1) Should Grutter v. Bollinger and Regents of University of California v. Bakke and Gratz v. Bollinger be overturned and/or misapplied by the Jefferson County Board of Education to use race as the sole factor to assign students to the regular (non-traditional) schools in the Jefferson County public schools? (2) Whether the race-conscious Student Assignment Plan with mechanical and inflexible quota systems of not less than 50% of African American students without individually or holistic review of any student, meets the 14th Amendment requirement of the use of race which is a compelling interest narrowly tailored with strict scrutiny?"

Philip Morris USA v. Williams: "(1) Whether, in reviewing a jury's award of punitive damages, an appellate court's conclusion that a defendant's conduct was highly reprehensible and analagous to crime can override the constitutional requirement that punitive damages must be reasonably related to the harm to the plaintiff? (2) Whether due process permits a jury to punish a defendant for the effects of its conduct on non-parties?"

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  • 11 months later...

An interesting case (Teen Ranch, et al., v. Udow, et al.) has made its way to the SCOTUS. Here are the facts, as I understand them from a brief reading alone:

Current law -- not the U.S. Constitution, but Federal law and Michigan state law -- allow the government to use the services of faith-based organizations, to give them vouchers, etc., under certain conditions:

  • Even though the organization is faith-based, the programs themselves are not [aside: this is my own reading, but appears somewhat disputed]
  • Individuals receiving benefits via such programs are allowed to object to the faith-base nature of the organizations, and must be offered an alternative

The law allows the government to deal with such organizations without making them change their internal governance, nor requiring them to remove religious icons and symbols, icons.

The state of Michigan deals with just under 100 organizations that provide rehab-services (I assume for juvenile delinquents). Over 30 of these are faith-based. However, only one -- an organization called "Teen Ranch" -- includes religious activities in its program.

A recent audit by the state found that it should not deal with Teen Ranch, because its programs have religious elements. [Oddly, the state has dealt with them since 1966! Better late than never? Or could it be that the Democrat governor is hitting out at opponents?] Either way, the state told Teen Ranch: "It is not only improper to force youth to participate in religious

practices, but it is also improper to incorporate religious teachings into the on-going daily activities of youth and their treatment plans."

When Teen Ranch sued, the District Court and the Circuit Court both upheld the government's position that the youths were not being offered a true choice of an alternative. In another case -- Freedom from Religion Foundation v. McCallum -- another Circuit Court seems to have upheld a similar religion-based program, with a similar opt-out clause.

So, now, the SCOTUS gets to decide.

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