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US Supreme Court decides 5 cases, grants cert. in 4

The United States Supreme Court issued five opinions this morning.

In Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, the Court ruled that taxpayers lack standing to challenge an Executive Branch created program which provides that religious-based community grounds are eligible for federal financial support. The primary opinion was authored by Justice Alito and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy. A concurring opinion was authored by Justice Scalia and joined by Justice Thomas. Justice Souter authored a dissenting opinion which was joined by Justices Stevens, Ginsburg and Breyer.

In Wilkie v. Robbins, the Court held that a private landowner could not base a RICO lawsuit against federal personnel in their individual capacities for actions taken that were for the benefit of the federal government rather than private gain. Justice Souter issued the majority opinion, which was joined by Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, Alito and Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Thomas authored a concurring opinion which was joined by Justice Scalia. Justice Ginsburg issued an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, which was joined by Justice Stevens.

In Morse v. Frederick (the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case), the Court held that because schools may take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech that can reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use, school officials did not violate the First Amendment by confiscating a banner and suspending a student. Chief Justice Roberts authored the majority opinion, which was joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito. Justice Thomas authored a concurring opinion. Justice Alito authored a concurring opinion which was joined by Justice Kennedy. Justice Breyer authored an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part. Justice Stevens authored a dissenting opinion which was joined by Justices Souter and Ginsburg.

In National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife, the Court concluded that a federal agency that is required by law to take a specific action is not required to follow a conflicting mandate imposed by the Endangered Species Act. The majority opinion was authored by Justice Alito and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas. Justice Stevens authored a dissenting opinion which was joined by Justices Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. Justice Breyer also filed a separate dissenting opinion.

In FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, the Court issued a 93 page opinion concerning issue ads and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court with respects to Parts I and II, concluding that the Court had jurisdiction to decide these cases (a mootness argument was raised because they concerned the 2004 election). Chief Justice Roberts authored an opinion, which was joined by Justice Alito, in which he concluded that the BCRA is unconstitutional as applied to the ads at issue because they were not express advocacy for or against a specific candidate. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito concluded that these cases did not present the occasion to revisit McConnell's holding that a corporation's express advocacy of a candidate or his opponent shortly before an election may be prohibited. Justice Scalia authored an opinion which was joined by Justices Kennedy and Thomas in which they concurred in the judgment but would also overrule portions on McConnell. Justice Souter filed a dissenting opinion which was joined by Justices Stevens, Ginsburg and Breyer.

The Court granted certiorari in four cases, which Scotusblog summarizes as follows:
"[T]he Supreme Court on Monday granted four cases for review next Term, including a significant test case on the use of references to the O.J. Simpson not-guilty verdict to help persuade an all-white jury to impose a death sentence on a black defendant. Other granted cases include a test of state power to regulate commercial shipments of tobacco and other products harmful to childrren and a case involving state's authority to allow damage claims against makers of medical devices approved by federal authorities. In the fourth granted case, the Court indicated it will sort out a conflict among lower courts on the deductibility of expenses for trusts and estates."

Scotusblog summarizes the capital case referencing OJ Simpson in this post.

The next and final opinion release day is Thursday, June 28.

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