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Entries in US Supreme Court (4)

Wednesday
Mar282012

Obamacare: Supreme Court Turns to Medicaid

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With the hoopla of the arguments surrounding the individual insurance mandate being over, there are two important issues not to be overlooked on Wednesday when Supreme Court hearings on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act continue.

If the court strikes down the individual mandate, what happens to the rest of the  law? It contains many provisions that have little to do with the mandate. Should the whole law go down?

Lawyers for the Obama administration say that if the mandate falls, two popular provisions would also fall, but the rest of the law should survive. The most popular part of the law that would fall is the “guaranteed issue” that, in part, requires health insurance companies to offer and renew coverage even if an individual has a pre-existing condition.

But at a recent event hosted by Bloomberg Law and Scotusblog, Michael Carvin, a lawyer representing the National Federation of Independent Business and four individuals, said the entire law must fall if the mandate is struck down.

“Once you’ve ripped the heart and the lung out of the body, it doesn’t matter that the fingers continue to actually move, ” Carvin said. “What matters is if they can move in the way Congress intended.”

The court has appointed a lawyer to argue a third position that was taken by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals: Even if the mandate falls, every other provision of the law should still stand.

To recap: If the individual mandate is struck down, the challengers of the law argue every other part of the law should fall. The government argues that only two popular provisions should fall and the Amicus counsel argues that every other provision should still be able to stand.

On Wednesday the court will also hear an hour of arguments on the law’s expansion of Medicaid.

“In all the excitement of the individual mandate, don’t lose sight of this issue,” Paul Clement, the lawyer for the states, warned recently at an event at Georgetown University Law Center, referring to a part of the law that expands Medicaid.

No lower court has struck down the Medicaid expansion of the law, but the Supreme Court thought the issue was important enough to warrant an hour of oral argument.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar072012

FBI Turns Off 3,000 GPS Devices Following Supreme Court Ruling

iStockphot​o/Thinksto​ck(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. Supreme Court decision prompted the FBI to turn off nearly 3,000 Global Positioning System (GPS) devices used to track suspects, according to the agency’s general counsel.

When the decision–U.S. v. Jones–was released at the end of January, agents were ordered to stop using GPS devices immediately and told to await guidance on retrieving the devices, FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann said in a recent talk at a University of San Francisco conference.  Weissmann said the court’s ruling lacked clarity and the agency needs new guidance or it risks having cases overturned.

The Jones case stemmed from the conviction of night club owner Antoine Jones on drug charges. Law enforcement had used a variety of techniques to link him to co-conspirators in the case, including information gathered from a GPS device that was placed on a Jeep primarily used by Jones. Law enforcement had no valid warrant to place the device on the car.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for a five-member majority, held that the installation and use of the device constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment based on trespassing grounds. The ruling overturned Jones’ conviction.

“It is important to be clear about what occurred in this case,” Scalia wrote. “The government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information. We have no doubt that such a physical intrusion would have been considered a ‘search’ within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.”

It was a narrow ruling only directly impacting those devices that were physically placed on vehicles.

Weissmann said it wasn’t Scalia’s majority opinion that caused such turmoil in the bureau, but a concurring opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito. Alito, whose opinion was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, agreed with the Court’s conclusion in the case but wrote separately because his legal reasoning differed from the majority.

Alito focused not on the attachment of the device, but the fact that law enforcement monitored Jones for about a month. Alito said “the use of longer-term GPS monitoring in investigations of most offenses impinges on expectations of privacy.”  He also suggested that Scalia’s reliance on laws of trespass, will “provide no protection” for surveillance accomplished without committing a trespass.

“For example,” Alito wrote, “suppose that the officers in the present case had followed respondent by surreptitiously activating a stolen vehicle detection system that came with the car when it was purchased?”

In his talk at a University of San Francisco Law Review Symposium, Weissmann suggested that Alito’s concurrence means that several members of the court are concerned with long-term surveillance by technologies beyond GPS systems and that the FBI needs new guidance in order to ensure that evidence does not get thrown out.

“I just can’t stress enough,” Weissmann said, “what a sea change that is perceived to be within the department.”

He said that after agents were told to turn off the devices, his office had to issue guidance on how some of the devices that had been used without a warrant could actually be retrieved without violating the law.

Weissmann said the FBI is working on two memos for agents in the field. One seeks to give guidance about using GPS devices.  A second one targets other technologies beyond the GPS as they may also face restrictions.

“I think the court did not wrestle with the problems their decision creates,” said Weissmann.

In the Jones opinion, he said, the court didn’t offer much clarity or any bright line rules that would have been helpful to law enforcement.

Catherine Crump, an attorney with the ACLU, welcomed the court’s ruling as a first step toward preserving privacy rights.

“Alito’s concurrence concerned the FBI because if tracking someone’s movements violates their privacy, that should be true no matter what technology the FBI uses,” says Crump. “The FBI now needs to give guidance to agents in the field, and the Alito decision raises serious questions about the constitutionality of other ways of tracking suspects.”

As for Antoine Jones, the man whose conviction was thrown out because of the ruling, the government has announced that it wants to retry Jones without using evidence obtained from the GPS device. The trial is expected to start in May.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep212011

Troy Davis Executed After Stay Is Denied by Supreme Court

ERIK S. LESSER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute stay of execution for Troy Davis after a delay to weigh arguments from Davis' legal team and the state of Georgia over whether his execution should be blocked.

The court's decision to deny the stay came without comment after 10 p.m. ET, more than three hours after Davis' execution originally was scheduled Wednesday.

The execution took place Wednesday at 11:08 p.m. ET.

At 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, five minutes after his scheduled death, Davis' supporters erupted in cheers, hugs and tears outside the jail in Jackson, Ga., as supporters believed Davis had been saved from the death penalty. But the Supreme Court only granted a temporary reprieve as it considered the decision.

Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of Savannah cop Mark MacPhail, and had his execution stayed four times over the course of his 22-year stay on death row, but multiple legal appeals during that time failed to prove his innocence.

Public support grew for Davis based on the recanted testimony of seven witnesses from his trial and the possible confession of another suspect, which his defense team claimed casted too much doubt on Davis' guilt to follow through with an execution.

Davis spent 22 years on death row and in recent years support for his plea of innocence has grown as several witnesses recanted their testimony that he fired the shot that killed MacPhail.

A tide of celebrities, politicians, and social media users called for the execution to be delayed because of "too much doubt" present in his case.

At a protest in front of the White House Wednesday at least 12 Howard University students were arrested for failing to move off the White House sidewalk, according to ABC News affiliate WJLA.

A flurry of messages on Twitter using the hashtags #TroyDavis and #TooMuchDoubt showed thousands of supporters of Davis were intent on flooding the Jackson Distirct Attorney's office, Georgia Judge Penny Freezeman's office, and the U.S. Attorney General's office with phone calls and emails to beg for a stay on the execution.

Some users accused Twitter of blocking the topic from trending on Tuesday, though a representative from Twitter told ABC News there was no such action taken. The hashtags were trending Wednesday in cities around the U.S. as well as Germany, the UK, Sweden, and France. Many Tweets called the case a symbol of a return to Jim Crow laws and racial inequalities in the justice system.

The NAACP and the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson held a news conference Wednesday calling for the execution to be halted.

Others who have voiced support for Davis include former president Jimmy Carter, the pope and a former FBI director.

Davis's execution had been stayed four times for appeals since his conviction in 1989, and the Supreme Court gave him a rare chance to prove his innocence last year, but rejected his plea.

A Georgia board of pardons and paroles rejected Davis's plea for clemency on Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep212011

Troy Davis Execution Delayed

ERIK S. LESSER/AFP/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Troy Davis' execution was delayed Wednesday night as the Supreme Court weighed arguments by Davis' legal team and the state of Georgia over whether he deserves a stay.

At 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, five minutes after his scheduled death, Davis' supporters erupted in cheers, hugs and tears outside the jail in Jackson, Ga., as supporters believed Davis had been saved from the death penalty. But the Supreme Court only granted a temporary reprieve as it considers the decision.

The Supreme Court could decide at any time Wednesday night or in the next seven days whether to go through with his execution.

Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of Savannah cop Mark MacPhail, and had his execution stayed four times over the course of his 22-year stay on death row, but multiple legal appeals during that time failed to prove his innocence.

Public support grew for Davis based on the recanted testimony of seven witnesses from his trial and the possible confession of another suspect, which his defense team claims cast too much doubt on Davis' guilt to follow through with an execution.

Davis has spent 22 years on death row and in recent years support for his plea of innocence has grown as several witnesses recanted their testimony that he fired the shot that killed MacPhail. His impending execution has brought those efforts to a head.

A growing tide of celebrities, politicians, and social media users called for the execution to be delayed because of "too much doubt" present in his case.

At a protest in front of the White House Wednesday at least 12 Howard University students were arrested for failing to move off the White House sidewalk, according to ABC News affiliate WJLA. The protest there is expected to last until 7 p.m.

A flurry of messages on Twitter using the hashtags #TroyDavis and #TooMuchDoubt showed thousands of supporters of Davis were intent on flooding the Jackson Distirct Attorney's office, Georgia Judge Penny Freezeman's office, and the U.S. Attorney General's office with phone calls and emails to beg for a stay on the execution.

Some users accused Twitter of blocking the topic from trending on Tuesday, though a representative from Twitter told ABC News there was no such action taken. The hashtags were trending today in cities around the US as well as Germany, the UK, Sweden, and France. Many Tweets called the case a symbol of a return to Jim Crow laws and racial inequalities in the justice system.

The NAACP and the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson held a news conference today calling for the execution to be halted.

Others who have voiced support for Davis include former president Jimmy Carter, the pope and a former FBI director.

Davis's execution has been stayed four times for appeals since his conviction in 1989, and the Supreme Court gave him a rare chance to prove his innocence last year, but rejected his plea.

A Georgia board of pardons and paroles rejected Davis's plea for clemency on Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio