Congratulations to the Alabama Gazette on hitting sixteen years of publication. How has the law changed in these sixteen years?
PART I (PART II will be in November 2015)
Article III, Section I of the Unites States says, “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”
Because the supreme law of the land is vested in the United States Supreme Court, lets look at some cases since 2000.
In 2000, in Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640, a five to four vote stated essentially that, “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group's ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.” A New Jersey Scoutmaster , James Dale made known his homosexuality and was expelled from the Boy Scouts. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled for Dale saying that accommodation should be made for him but the Unites States Supreme Court felt that opposition to homosexuality by the Boy Scouts was an “expressive message”.
The 2001 case of Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98, involved a public forum discussion of religion (Christianity) by a couple that resided in New York and the “Good News Club”. The Club held meetings for about 15 months until it was determined that the Establishment Clause was being violated. The Supreme Court decided that the Good News Club, though Christian in nature and providing singing and Bible lessons, was moral in nature. This was considered similar to the Boy Scouts and even an Aesop’s Fable group that imparted morals to the children. The children were instructed after school by non-school instructors. Participation was only with parental agreement and it was felt that the young children would not have understood that the group was endorsed by the government.
In Watchtower Society v. Village of Stratton, 536 U.S. 150, 2002, the Village of Stratton required registration permits for anyone going door to door for such things as political, religious and unsolicited sales. The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that such registration process violated speech under the First Amendment.
In Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186 (2003), it was argued that the extension of copyrights by 20 years under the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act interfered with the then existing copyrights that were about to otherwise enter the public domain. The Supreme Court cited prior laws where terms were extended. The length of a human’s life was longer on the average than when prior laws were enacted and as well the European Union uses a life plus seventy years to protect copyrights and it was felt that United States copyrighted items should be protected for a similar time.
In Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1 (2004), it was challenged whether the term “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violated the Establishment Clause. The majority opinion by Chief Justice Rhenquist was that the term “under God” acknowledged the nation’s heritage and did not violate the Establishment Clause.
In Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709 (2005), the question was whether the Federal Government under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act violated the Establishment Clause in accommodating prisoners not involved in mainstream religions. The Court determined that such accommodation did not violate the Constitution by such extra accommodation for persons that were Wiccan, Satanist, white supremacist Christian or worshipped the pagan Asatru.
The right to free speech was challenged in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), in which Ceballos, as a Los Angeles deputy District Attorney had made statements regarding a Warrant and claimed he was retaliated against because of those statements. The Court majority held that being a public official did not protect him against disciplinary action for statements (free speech) that he made as opposed to making such statements as a private citizen.
Though overturned by other Courts, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 was upheld in Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007). Justice Thomas even stated that he did not believe at that time that the Supreme Court had enough power under the Commerce Clause to ban the law. You will recall the recent question by the Court regarding same sex marriage where the Court questioned its authority before overturning many existing State laws.
That concludes Part I of United States Supreme Court highlights (one case per year) during the years since publication of the Alabama Gazette began. Part II will be published in November 2015.
This article is informative only and not meant to be all inclusive. Additionally this article does not serve as legal advice to the reader and does not constitute an attorney- client relationship. The reader should seek counsel from their attorney should any questions exist.
"No representation is made that the quality of legal services performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers."
Ronald A. Holtsford, Esq.,
Ronald A. Holtsford, LLC,
7956 Vaughn Road,
Box #124, Montgomery, AL 36116