Supreme Court Hears Arguments Against California's Same-Sex Marriage Ban, Punts

At approximately 10:15 this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court started hearing arguments on Proposition 8, the 2008 California initiative that banned same-sex marriage in the state. It was the court's first major hearing of gay rights in 10 years, and will be followed by consideration of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) tomorrow -- the 1996 law that struck down federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The Prop. 8 argument was scheduled for one hour, and by 11:32 a.m., the arguments were already over. As SCOTUSblog announced on Twitter, "#scotus won't uphold or strike down #prop8 bc Kennedy thinks it is too soon to rule on #ssm. #prop8 will stay invalidated."

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AG Eric Schneiderman Thinks SCOTUS Should/Will Strike Down DOMA

Today, the Supreme Court will begin hearings on the cases pending constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8. It is the first legal step in a process that will end in June, when the Nine are expected to release their opinion to the public--one that could have drastic effects on the rights of homosexuals across the country. On that day, all eyes will be on Washington.

It's obviously no surprise that the cases have gained serious attention from all over the place. The White House filed an amicus brief on behalf of same-sex marriage advocates; the ACLU and numerous other civil libertarian groups have inserted their opinion; even a whole set of Republicans have switched over to support the plight of those seeking matrimony in states that ban such an act.

Yesterday, the base of fanfare for a strike-down of DOMA grew right here in New York. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a main architect behind Gov. Cuomo's Marriage Equality Act and an amicus brief filer himself, appeared on The Brian Lehrer Show to give his crystal ball opinion on the case's fate.

One word: unconstitutional.

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White House Files Voluntary Amicus Brief, Demands SCOTUS Overturn Prop 8

Nothing like a Presidential push to get the ball rolling.

Yesterday was the deadline for parties to file amicus curae briefs -- or "Here's what we think you should do" memos -- to the Supreme Court before the Nine hears the arguments facing DOMA and Prop 8 at the end of March. And, in this past week, they came flooding in.

At the start, over eight Republican figures signed a brief, showing their support for same-sex marriage in the name of conservatism. This notion was followed by the ACLU, California Assembly Speaker John A. Perez and, most importantly, the White House (which also filed one against DOMA on Monday).

Warm up the bully pulpit.

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Supreme Court to Return to Campaign Finance; Citizens United Redux?

Get ready to enter the case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission into your "grab your pitchforks" political vocabulary.

The Nine announced yesterday that the highest court in the land will hear the above case this coming October; one that resurrects the campaign finance subject chopped and screwed by Citizens United in 2010. (For a quick summary, the Citizens United decision was the one that let all of this happen).

In its most recent reincarnation, Shaun McCutcheon, a GOP moneyman from Alabama, is suing the Federal Elections Commission for its restrictions on biennial donations. Those pertain to the overall amount of money an individual can spend on campaigns over two years, without the help of a SuperPAC or Karl Rove. Yes, there are still big time spenders that like to honestly play by the half-ass rules.

Ever since Watergate, the federal government has limited these amounts to the following: $2,600 to a candidate, $32,400 to a party's national committee, $10,000 to below-federal committees and $5,000 to any other committee. And that's just for one year; multiply those totals by two for biennial contributions (adjusting for loophole reasons, of course) and the limit is around $123,600. This total will be the limit that the case will try to upend.

So what's the chance that the Supreme Court will toss the Watergate-era limits into the trash? Well, just read the Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion in Citizens United on what defines "free speech" in our political campaigns these days.


[UPDATE]: Prop 8 and DOMA Head To The Supreme Court

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UPDATE: According to the New York Times, the Supreme Court agreed this afternoon to decide on the constitutionality of the Proposition 8 appeal and the Defense of Marriage Act.

It is, arguably, the most significant social battle in America's courts since Roe v. Wade or even Brown v. the Board of Education. It is an issue that is being fought in every state (as of the most recent Election Day, nine approve; 31 disapprove) and a situation that the White House has staked out its territory in. And it is a landmark case that is about to hit its flashpoint.

When Proposition 8's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was approved in California four years ago, civil rights lawyers slowly began the appeals process, and it was really only a matter of time until the case made its way up to the Supreme Court. 

On Friday, the nine justices met to discuss the future of this important legal provision; in other words, whether to hear the case. But the group left the conference silent, with no word on the impending same-sex marriage courtroom showdown. However, the Supreme Court will reconvene today and the week after, which will be its last private meeting until the middle of January. Around this time last year, the court made the decision to hear the health care reform law arguments, leading to the decision that defined the court in 2011. 

Now, once again, it is faced with a pressure just as grand in size; the speculation on what will happen begins.

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SCOTUS: Besides Obamacare, What Else Has The Supreme Court Decided Recently?

As we reported yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold President Barack Obama's individual mandate, meaning the Affordable Care Act has been deemed constitutional, as a "tax."

This got us thinking: What are some other recent decisions?

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BREAKING: Supreme Court Has Upheld Individual Mandate, Handing Obama Huge Victory on Healthcare Law

We're listening to the Brian Lehrer show and reading
SCOTUSblog's liveblog as the Supreme Court sits for what will probably be the final time of this term.

And...SCOTUSblog is saying that the mandate has survived as a tax, and that Chief Justice John Roberts has joined the left in this ruling. The Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA or "Obamacare," has been ruled constitutional.

Todd Zwillich of the Takeaway is reporting that in front of the Supreme Court building, it's a chaotic scene. "A cheer went up from certain sectors of the crowd, as you can imagine," Zwillich says.

According to Brian Lehrer, Medicaid expansion is "limited, but not invalidated."

More soon.

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SCOTUS: No Life Without Parole for Juveniles, Citizens United Trumps Montana Election Law, S.B. 1070 Largely Dead; No Obamacare Ruling (Yet)

Another Monday in June, another nail-biter waiting for the Supreme Court of the United States to rule on the biggest cases of the year.

It seems, so far, that the Supreme Court will not rule today on Obamacare (a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act). Though, being secretive SCOTUS, they could change their minds and release something momentarily.

SCOTUS did release rulings on three important cases, though. The A.P. is reporting that the high court ruled life without the possibility of parole is not possible for juveniles.

Also, a big Citizen's United case: MSNBC reports that, "The Supreme Court has overturned a Montana state law which banned independent political spending by corporations. The decision reversed a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court which had upheld the 1912 law."

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Should SCOTUS Justices Use The Word 'Alien' In Considering How Arizona's Immigration Law Impacts Citizens?

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There were two notable things that jumped out at us yesterday as the Obama administration challenged Arizona's controversial immigration law SB 1070 before the Supreme Court.

First of all, who the hell in the Obama administration let Solicitor General Donald Verrilli anywhere near the Supreme Court again? Last month Verrilli argued (if you can even call it that) the Affordable Care Act before the high court and got his clock cleaned by a far more polished, ready and able attorney, Paul Clement. When Arizona hired Clement to argue the constitutionality of SB 1070 before the Supremes, the administration would have been wise to find somebody -- anybody, really -- to argue their case other than Verrilli.

But they didn't. And so, what they ended up with were episodes like this, according to Politico::

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Police Can Now Break in As You're Flushing Your Stash

The Supreme Court decided in an 8-to-1 decision that police have the authority to break into your house if they suspect you're destroying drugs. The Chicago Tribune brings us part of Justice Alito's important decision: "'When law enforcement officers who are not armed with a warrant knock on a door, they do no more than any private citizen may do,' he wrote. A resident need not respond, he added. But the sounds of people moving and perhaps toilets being flushed could justify police entering without a warrant, he added." The court's decision definitely raises concern with the protection of the 4th Amendment -- that's the one that limits searches and seizures.

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