The Daily Parker

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First three major Supreme Court decisions this morning

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down three decisions in the last few minutes that generally change nothing, though one of them was unexpectedly unanimous.

First, in Arizona v. U.S., a unanimous court (except Justice Kagan, who recused herself) agreed that the supremacy and naturalization clauses make Arizona's draconian immigration law unconstitutional. Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion; Republican party operatives Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissented in part.

In his dissent, Scalia proposes changing U.S. law to allow individual states to exile people:

Today’s opinion...deprives States of what most would consider the defining characteristic of sovereignty: the power to exclude from the sovereign’s territory people who have no right to be there.

What the...? For argument, even if individual states had that power at some point in U.S. history, states long ago gave it up. By "long ago" I mean in 1865, when the principle of national sovereignty was demonstrated conclusively. Scalia quotes from a 1758 treatise and the Articles of Confederation, and the Sedition Act to shore up his opinion. I'd say he's lost his mind but that presupposes facts not in evidence.

Thomas agrees with the result but dissents on the grounds that, well, the supremacy clause doesn't exist. Actually, he finds "that there is no conflict between the 'ordinary meanin[g]' of the relevant federal laws and that of the four provisions of Arizona law at issue here," which makes his view of the relevant statutes—how does one say?—uniquely narrow.

Alito's partial dissent has a little more nuance, but still comes from a belief in limiting federal power and granting states more authority within their borders.

Second, the Court issued a 5-4 per curiam decision (without a signed opinion) in American Tradition Partnership v. Montana, striking down a century-old Montana law prohibiting corporations from spending money on elections. No surprise there; the party hacks simply upheld Citizens United. However, Justice Breyer wrote a short dissent that encapsulates the frustration the non-stooges on the court feel about the majority:

Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.

Were the matter up to me, I would vote to grant the petition for certiorari in order to reconsider Citizens United or, at least, its application in this case. But given the Court’s per curiam disposition, I do not see a significant possibility of reconsideration.

Finally, the Court ruled 5-4 in Miller v. Alabama that 14-year-old children can't be sentenced to life without parole, no matter what they've done. Justice Kagan delivered the opinion for the rational side of the court, saying the 8th Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments means that children should have a chance at parole, someday. Roberts wrote the general dissent for the other bunch, with Thomas and Alito offering additional dissents because they weren't happy just voting "no" once. Roberts says that life without parole isn't in itself cruel or unusual; Thomas says the decision violates original intent; and Alito says that some crimes are so big they deserve big punishments.

Stay tuned for the big decision on the Affordable Care Act this Thursday...

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