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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Bankrupt Homeowners Can't Void Second Mortgages

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that homeowners who declare bankruptcy can't void second mortgages even if their homes aren't worth what they owe on their primary mortgages, the Associated Press reports. The court was unanimous in the decision.

The Floridian homeowners said their second loans were worthless.

What's In Your Mind Matters For Criminal Threats, Supreme Court Rules

The U.S. Supreme Court has made it harder for prosecutors to convict people who make threats on social media, The Washington Post's Robert Barnes reports.

Petitioner Anthony Elonis was convicted of threatening to kill his estranged wife, law enforcement officials and a kindergarten class through Facebook posts written in a rap lyric-esque way; he was convicted under a federal law that makes it a crime to communicate '''any threat to injure the person of another.'"

But the high court, in a narrow opinion, said that Elonis' state of mind had to be considered, Barnes reports. The majority of the justices rejected the idea that a poster's intent is immaterial in judging whether he or she has stepped outside the bounds of the First Amendment and truly threatened others. Lower courts have found that what matters is only if a reasonable person would interpret the words as a threat.

The court's narrow ruling leaves it up to the lower courts to develop exactly what standard should be applied to determine if a poster has made a true threat.

Supreme Court Ruling Gives Bankruptcy Judges More Power

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that bankruptcy judges can decide issues that would normally be handled by federal district judges--if the parties involved consent, Supreme Court Brief's Marcia Coyle reports. The consent can be implied.

Sotomayor opined that it doesn't violate the separation of powers to allow bankruptcy courts, which are created by Congress under Article I of the Constitution, to decide claims submitted to them by consent so long as there is supervision by Article III courts, which are the judicial branch of the federal government as defined by Article III of the Constitution. 

Framers of Health Care Law Say Four Words Imperiling Its Future Were Mistake

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether low-income taxpayers can only receive subsidies for health insurance if they purchased their policies on state-run insurance exchanges, not federal exchanges. The four words at issue in the Affordable Care Act? "Established by a state." The New York Times' Robert Pear reports that the two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law say those four words were not meant to make tax subsidies in the law available only in states that established their own health insurance marketplaces.

For example, former Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, said the words in dispute are a "'drafting error."' Christopher E. Condeluci, who was a staff lawyer for Republicans on the Finance Committee, told Pear that, when senators drafted a backup plan to allow the federal government to establish an exchange in any state that didn't have its own, it was an oversight to not include a cross-reference to the section of the tax code providing subsidies.

But Pear notes that some Supreme Court justices, including Justice Antonin Scalia, interpret laws based not on "'what Congress would have wanted, but what Congress enacted.”'

Patent Lawsuits Fall for First Time in Five Years

The pace of patent litigation has fallen for the first time in five years, which can be directly traced to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last year about software patents in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, The Washington Post's Brian Fung reports. That case raised the bar for patentability and enforcement of software patents.

Supreme Court Considers Letting Businesses Pay to End Class Actions

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a defendant in a class action case can end litigation by offering full payment to the lead plaintiff, Bloomberg's Greg Stohr reports.

Plaintiff Campbell-Ewald Co. is facing hundreds of millions of dollars for allegedly violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by sending automated text messages. The lead plaintiff was offered $1,503 for each text mesage he received, which Campbell-Ewald said makes the case legally moot because the lead plaintiff was offered everything to which he might be entitled.

The TCPA is being criticized by Campbell-Ewald as "' an extortionist weapon in the hands of class action attorneys seeking to extract lucrative attorneys’ fees for class-wide settlements.'"

Supreme Court Finds Police Immune from Suit in Shooting of Mentally Ill Woman

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that police are immune from being sued over the shooting of a mentally ill woman in San Francisco, the Associated Press reports. While the shooting victim Teresa Sheehan said the police should have made reasonable accommodations for her under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the court said that it was not taking up that question because it hadn't been fully considered by the lower courts.

The court's decision is here:

Supreme Court Protesters Challenge Arrest Under the First Amendment

During the current session of the U.S. Supreme Court, protesters have interrupted oral arguments multiple times, and they have been arrested for it. The Legal Times' Zoe Tillman reports that some of the protesters are arguing that a prohibiting "a 'harangue or oration' or other 'loud' language at the high court violates the First Amendment." In particular, their lawyer is arguing that the law is overbroad and does not advance any compeling governmental interest.

Little Public Awareness with Major Supreme Court Rulings Pending

Even though the Supreme Court is going to issue rulings that could affect health care, capital punishment and same-sex marriage in the next few weeks, Pew Research Center's Meredith Dost reports that polling shows many Americans know very little about the highest court in the country. For example, only one-third knew that there are three women on the court and only 28 percent correctly identified Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote.

Why Do We Shackle Kids When They Go to Court?

Robert May, the director of a documentary about the corrupt Pennsylvania judges convicted of wrongdoing regarding juvenile crimes, writes in the Washington Post that children should not be shackled when brought into courtrooms if adults are not. He notes the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently "held that shackling adult defendants in handcuffs, leg irons and belly chains should be limited to the most extreme cases. The court, however, has remained silent on restraining juveniles." He notes that mental health experts say that automatic juvenile shackling is inconsistent with the goals of rehabilitation within the juvenile justice system and can do permanent harm to children, especially those who are already traumatized. If defendants accused of murder can be left unshackled in court, then children should be too, May said.


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