"Activist" Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Provision of Voting Rights Act

by Paul Siciliano


Okay, I am being a little tongue and cheek calling the conservative justices "activist" in today's 5-4 ruling Shelby County v. Holder  (my analysis here).  No, I am not being tongue and cheek here.  In this case, the Supreme Court decided it's judgment as to where extra scrutiny of changes to voting laws is needed is superior to that of the U.S. Congress.  

Basically, the majority did not approve of Congress just retaining the covered jurisdictions it has had for preclearance for the past 40 years.  Congress needs to update the law.  That may be true, but that is something for Congress to decide, and they did so in 2006.  The re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act came after extensive hearings and debates.  There was evidence that many of those covered jurisdictions continued to propose suspect voting changes.  Those jurisdictions were represented in Congress and could have voted against the bill or seek such changes.  The bill also allowed for jurisdictions to "bail out" of the preclearance requirement if it had complied with the Voting Rights Act for a period of time.

To me, this is a matter of institutional competence, and Congress is more competent to make this determination.  The U.S. Supreme Court should have deferred to Congressional will in this matter.  Although Justice Robert's narrowed the decision to still allow for preclearance, practically it is dead until Congress acts (and we know that will never happen).  Shameful! 

Supreme Court Find Federal Government Can't Compel Beneficiaries of HIV/AIDS Program To Espouse Anti-Prostitution View

by Paul Siciliano

Who would promote such a thing?

Who would promote such a thing?

Okay, that title was too long for my own good, but oh well.  None of the much hyped cases were announced today, but there were a few interesting ones.  In the first one discussed, Agency for International Development v. Alliance For Open Society International , the Supreme Court found that groups which received funds under the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculous and Malaria Act of 2003 do not have to be forced to have an affirmative policy opposed to prostitution and/or human trafficking.  Such a compulsion is a violation of the organization's First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech.

In a nutshell, if the Federal Government is providing funding, it is okay to dictate how that money will be spent, but it is not okay to tell what the organization must believe unless it is part of the program - which was not in this case.  My analysis here


Supreme Court Allows For Antitrust Scrutiny of Some Patent Litigation Settlements

by Paul Siciliano


Yay!!! I get to use the monopoly man.  Besides criminal law and procedure, I am a big fan of antitrust law.  This is one of the rare cases in recent memory when the intersection of patent law and antitrust law came out in favor of antitrust law.   

The U.S. Supreme Court did the right thing in this case, Federal Trade Commission v. Actavis.  Pharmaceutical companies were really engaging in sham settlements whereby patent holders were paying generic companies they were accusing of infringement not to enter the market.  Sometimes, the reasons for such a settlement may be legitimate - but at least let it be litigated. 

My analysis here

U.S. Supreme Balks On Fifth Amendment Case

by Paul Siciliano

On Monday, the Supreme Court published its opinion in Salinas v. Texas .  The question for the court was whether the prosecution could use a defendant's assertion of the privilege against self incrimination during a non-custodial interview as part of its case in chief.

Instead, the Court found that Salinas never asserted his Fifth Amendment right so he was no entitled to its privileges.  For the plurality, mere silence alone in the face of a question is not an assertion of Fifth Amendment rights.  More here

U.S. Supreme Court Favors Jury Over Judges In Mandatory Minimum Sentences

by Paul Siciliano

I am not a superman, so I won't be able to analyze all the interesting (interesting to me) Supreme Court decisions published today in one day.

For me, this case, Alleyne v. United States, is more interesting than the Arizona voter one which really involved federal pre-emption of state law.  In this matter, the Supreme Court found that any factor which increases the mandatory minimum sentence for a criminal defendant must be determined by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.  It's always fun to have Thomas siding with the four more liberal justices.  It's also fun as Breyer tries to explain his change of heart from a similar case 11 years ago.   

The practical effects of the case is negligible but I still like it.  My analysis is here

Supreme Court Strike Arizona Citizenship Proof Requirement

by Paul Siciliano

In a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Arizona's requirement that individuals registering to vote in federal elections must show proof of U.S. citizenship (passport, birth certificate, etc.) because it was pre-empted by federal law which only required people to attest to U.S. Citizenship.  The decision, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., was not surprising and really a simple matter of pre-emption and statutory interpretation.  More here.