I'm a bit of a Court-watcher (being a lawyer by trade), although I admit I have not been keeping up with things as much this term. I hope to do this more often if there's interest; I realize that the large number of non-US readers may or may not be as interested.

But, better late than never, and here're the last three cases of the term, all decided today.

Vosine v. United States. Under federal law, it's illegal for someone convicted of certain crimes to purchase or own a firearm. In addition to felonies, so-called "misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence" also mean someone can't buy a gun. The petitioners in this case were both convicted under state domestic violence statutes, and were later prosecuted for violating the federal one (by owning guns). They argued that the state crimes under which they were convicted did not require intentional acts, only recklessness, and that they therefore didn't fall under the statute. Ruling 6-2, the Supreme Court disagreed.

Opinion (PDF).

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. This case involves a Texas law that puts additional requirements on doctors and facilities that perform abortions. Specifically, doctors that perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and the clinics themselves are required to have a lot of (expensive) facilities that are more akin to what's found in hospitals. The state argued that it was to protect women's health, whereas those challenging it say it was an attempt to restrict abortion. The Court ruled 5-3 that the requirements put an undue burden on a woman's right to an abortion, and so are unconstitutional.

Opinion (PDF).

McDonnell v. United States. An interesting one for me, as McDonnell was the former governor of my state of Virginia. He was convicted for violating a federal law that makes it a crime to provide "official services" in exchange for money. Specifically, a businessowner gave McDonnell and his wife (who was also convicted) large gifts and loans, and McDonnell provided him with access to regulatory people who may or may not have helped the businessowner get his products to market. The Court ruled unanimously that the jury who originally convicted McDonnell was given improper instructions as to what constitutes an "official act." Specifically, they said the instruction was far too broad, and that only more specific actions are enough. Just setting up a meeting is not enough, by itself, to violate the statute.

Opinion (PDF)

That's the end of the Court's term for a bit, so it'll be some months before new decisions are handed down. If I remember, I hope to do this again!


PLEASE keep doing these, johnnyFive!

The SCOTUS is where the rules hit the road, and therefore their decisions are very important for us to be informed about.

Your writeups are clear, concise, and help us lay-people understand the importance of SCOTUS decisions.

posted by johnnyFive: 1029 days ago