SCOTUS rules on FCC case, still no health care decision

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The highly anticipated decision by the United States Supreme Court on health care will come another day. The justices released four opinions Thursday, which did not include the challenges to the health care law. They did decide the case before them involving the Federal Communications Commission.

The justices were asked to rule on whether the FCC’s standards for indecency on television are too vague to be constitutional. The justices sidestepped the constitutionality issue by deciding the case under the Due Process Clause. They also did not reconsider their decision in FCC. v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726.

The FCC opinion was the last one issued Thursday morning by the SCOTUS. In Federal Communications Commission, et al. v. Fox Television Stations Inc., et al., 10-1293, the majority held that because the Federal Communications Commission didn’t give Fox or ABC fair notice before the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent, the FCC’s standards as applied to these broadcasts were vague.

Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the opinion of the court to which all justices but Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor joined. Ginsburg filed a concurring opinion and Sotomayor didn’t take part in the consideration or decision of the case.

The high court handed down three other decisions Thursday.

In a 6-3 decision authored by Sotomayor, Southern Union Co. v. United States, 11-94, the majority held that the rule of Apprendi v. New Jersey applies to the imposition of criminal fines. The Constitution requires that a jury, instead of a judge, must find beyond a reasonable doubt any fact that leads to a higher fine for a criminal defendant. The case came to the court from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Atonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan and Ginsburg joined Sotomayor’s opinion. Justice Stephen Breyer dissented, to which Kennedy and Samuel Alito joined.

In a 7-2 decision authored by Alito, the SCOTUS in Knox, et al. v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, 10-1121, reversed the 9th Circuit. The high court ruled that under the First Amendment, when a union imposes a special assessment or dues increase to meet expenses that were not disclosed when the regular assessment was set, the union must provide a new notice and may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent.

Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas joined Alito’s opinion. Sotomayor filed a concurring opinion, in which Ginsburg joined. Breyer dissented, in which Kagan joined.

The justices issued their consolidated decision in Dorsey v. United States, 11-5683, and Hill v. United States, 11-5271, both from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 5-4 ruling holds that the Fair Sentencing Act’s new, lower mandatory minimums apply to the post-act sentencing of pre-act crack cocaine offenders. Breyer authored the opinion in which Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan joined. Scalia filed a dissent, to which Roberts, Thomas and Alito joined. 


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.