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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 like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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