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Supreme Court Quickies


The Supreme Court. Back: Justices Sotomayor, Breyer, Alito and Kagan. Front: Justices Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy and Bader Ginsberg

There are five weeks remaining in the Supreme Court’s term and over 20 cases still undecided. On Monday, they released decisions on three minor cases.

The basic theme of yesterday’s decisions was the courts should not read into laws more than what is actually there.

The U. S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the Pacific territories, had ruled that non-citizens how had committed deportable offenses, could apply the residency of their parents to the requirement that if they had been lawful residents for at least five years, residing in the United States continually for seven years and have not been found guilty of any aggravated felony could seek cancellation of their deportation orders. In an unanimous decision written by Justice Elena Kagan, the Court ruled that people could not apply the residency of their parents because that is not what the law says.

In the second case, the Court ruled that a Japanese baseball player did not have to pay translation fees because lost his lawsuit against a Northern Mariana Islands resort. The law says that the loser of a case pays for an interpreter for the documents involved. The Court ruled that the law calls for losers paying for “interpreters” not for written translations, therefore, the law does not cover document translation. The ruling was written by Justice Samuel Alito, with five justices concurring, including Justice Kagan. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

In the third case, Justice Ginsberg wrote for the whole Court that children born from frozen sperm after the death of the sperm donor do not qualify for survivors’ benefits under Social Security. The ruling was in response to and supported state laws that limit inheritance to children born or conceived during the deceased’s lifetime, not those conceived after death. The only way that these laws can be overruled is if the deceased had made provisions for possible posthumous births in his will.

The Court accepted for next term a lawsuit brought by attorneys, journalists and human rights organizations including Amnesty International over a Federal wiretapping law allowing warrantless tapping of non-citizens or resident outside the United States for purpose of collecting foreign intelligence. The Court is being asked to consider if the plaintiffs have a right to challenge the law based on a fear of being wiretapped and not evidence that they have been wiretapped. Presumably, the wiretapping involves calls or internet communications to persons inside the United States, since tapping phones and computers in foreign countries is so not legal.

Three down and the biggies yet to go. We are still waiting for a ruling on the Affordable Care Act.




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