OC Political

A right-of-center blog covering local, statewide, and national politics

Posts Tagged ‘Antonin Scalia’

US Supreme Court Splits 4-4 in OC’s Friedrichs v. CTA

Posted by Chris Nguyen on March 29, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia (1936-2016)This morning, the United States Supreme Court issued a one-sentence ruling in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.”

That single sentence ruling while not setting a precedent leaves in place a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that it does not violate the First Amendment to require public employees (in this case, public school teachers) to object to having their dues used for political purposes rather than requiring they consent to political uses of their dues.  In other words, the Ninth Circuit ruled an opt-out system was constitutional, and unions did not have to subscribe to an opt-in system to use public employee union dues for political purposes.

This the second such 4-4 ruling since the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  Scalia had been widely expected to support striking down the Ninth Circuit ruling.

Had Scalia lived and the petitioners prevailed 5-4, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association would have represented a sea change in American and California politics and governance.

The 4-4 ruling in what would have been a landmark decision demonstrates the incredible impact of Scalia’s death on the closely-divided court.  This will only further highlight the importance of the nominee to succeed Scalia on the Supreme Court, which in turn will draw the Supreme Court further into the presidential election.

Public employee unions’ enormous sums of money for political campaigns have been fueled by the dues they collect from their members.  For an individual employee to opt out of contributing their dues for political purposes, that employee must during a six-week period each year send a letter to the union stating they wish to opt out (there’s even a confusing box on the CTA’s regular dues form that implies employees can opt out entirely but is actually a box that accomplishes a far narrower task).

Had the Supreme Court simplified the opt-out system or switched opt-out to opt-in, there would have been a precipitous fall in the amount of union money in politics.  This would have made it much tougher for union allies to win elected office in Congress, the State Legislature, and local government.  Fewer elected officials would have been beholden to teachers unions.

Led by Orange County teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, ten California teachers and the Christian Educators Association International had filed suit against the California Teachers Association (state teachers union), the National Education Association (national teachers union), and ten local teachers unions, including four from Orange County:

  • Savanna District Teachers Association
  • Saddleback Valley Educators Association
  • Orange Unified Education Association
  • Santa Ana Educators Association

Also among the respondents were the Superintendents of the Savanna School District, Saddleback Valley Unified School District, Orange Unified School District, and Santa Ana Unified School District.

For those wondering about the Supreme Court’s first 4-4 ruling, it was issued last week in Hawkins v. Community Bank, a case on whether spouses who guarantee commercial loans constitute “applicants” under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which would trigger protection from marital-status discrimination.

Posted in National, Orange Unified School District, Saddleback Valley Unified School District, Savanna School District | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Breaking News: Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage Throughout U.S.

Posted by Chris Nguyen on June 26, 2015

In a 5-4 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a sweeping Supreme Court opinion legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States. He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Justice Kennedy wrote, “…the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry…No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in this case demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Justice Scalia also wrote a separate concurring opinion, which Justice Thomas joined. Justice Thomas also wrote a separate concurring opinion, which Justice Scalia joined. Finally, Justice Samuel Alito wrote a fourth dissenting opinion, which Justices Scalia and Thomas joined.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “…the Court takes the extraordinary step of ordering every State to license and recognize same-sex marriage. Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration. But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening. Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens – through the democratic process – to adopt their view. That ends today. Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”

The full text of the decision and the four dissents are available here.

Posted in National | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Do Justice Kennedy’s Prior Rulings Tell Us What He’ll Do in the Prop 8 and DOMA Cases?

Posted by Chris Nguyen on March 26, 2013

I usually loathe reposting old stories from our blog, but in light of the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop 8 case) today and United States v. Windsor (DOMA case) tomorrow, I thought I would repost the story I wrote back on February 8, 2012, after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Prop 8.  (OC Political was a mere nine days old at that point, with our first post going up on January 31, 2012.)  The Supreme Court will likely issue its ruling in June.

Everyone expects Justice Anthony Kennedy to be pivotal in deciding what will happen in these two cases.

Here’s what I wrote on February 8, 2012:

After yesterday’s ruling from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Prop 8 supporters jeered, and Prop 8 opponents cheered.  The news showed jubilant same-sex marriage supporters celebrating the ruling and resolute traditional marriage supporters vowing to appeal.

In the May 2009 California Supreme Court ruling in Strauss v. Horton, the result was the opposite, with Prop 8 upheld.  The August 2010 U.S. District Court ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger struck down Prop 8.  Yesterday’s ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Perry v. Brown upheld the District Court.  Prop 8 proponents have 90 days (well, technically, 89 as of this morning) to decide whether to appeal to an 11-judge en banc panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or to appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If there’s any lesson to be learned from all the court battles involving Prop 8, it’s that it doesn’t matter what a particular court rules, the side that wins hails the ruling as a historic victory in defense of the legal concepts they support while the side that loses vows to go to another court.  The only way this cycle ends is to take this to the highest court in the land: only the United States Supreme Court can decide this issue once and for all.

In all likelihood, U.S. Supreme Court Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito will vote to uphold Prop 8 while Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan will vote to strike down Prop 8.  This means that whether marriage means one man and one woman or whether it means two people of any sex in California and in America rests in the hands of one man: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

There’s a certain irony that Kennedy will be the key to this issue, since Prop 8 comes from California, and Kennedy is a native Californian who spent the majority of his life in this state and was appointed to the Supreme Court by fellow Californian Ronald Reagan.  A Catholic educated at Stanford University and Harvard Law School, Kennedy was a lawyer in private practice and has been a law professor at McGeorge School of Law during his time as a lawyer and continuing to the present day.

Kennedy’s judicial track record does not make it clear how he’d come down on this issue.

In Beller v. Middendorf (1980), Kennedy (a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge back then) wrote the decision that upheld the ability of the U.S. Navy to discharge sailors for “engaging in homosexual acts.”  In Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston (1995), he joined a unanimous Supreme Court opinion allowing the St. Patrick’s Day Parade to exclude an Irish gay group.

In Romer v. Evans (1996), Kennedy wrote the decision invalidating a Colorado ballot measure prohibiting sexual orientation from becoming a protected class (protected classes include race, religion, etc.).  In Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000), Kennedy voted to uphold the right of the Boy Scouts of America as a private organization to exclude gay men from being scoutmasters.

Both sides of the issue can find favorable parts of Lawrence v. Texas (2003), where Kennedy wrote, “the Texas [anti-sodomy] statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual” but also wrote that the case “does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.”  So Lawrence v. Texas tells us that Kennedy opposed attempts to regulate the conduct of consenting adults but also wanted to make clear that the decision did not affect marriage.

In Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010), Kennedy joined a court decision that allowed a public school to refuse recognition to a student group that wished to exclude gay members.

Kennedy’s dizzying array of court decisions leaves little clarity as to how he will rule.  However, there is little doubt that the fate of Proposition 8 and of the definition of marriage in California and America rests in the hands of one Californian above all others: Anthony Kennedy.

Of course, we mustn’t forget that Chief Justice John Roberts could somehow determine that traditional marriage, same-sex marriage, all forms of marriage, Prop 8, or DOMA is a tax, and comes up with a ruling that surprises everyone (see excerpt of June 28 post below), but then again there is the marriage penalty:

The second opinion of the day was the one everyone was waiting for: in a 5-4 decision in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the entire health care law officially known as the Affordable Care Act but often called Obamacare.  The individual mandate was held unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause but was upheld under the power to tax.  The shocker: swing voter Anthony Kennedy was in the dissent.  It was conservative Chief Justice John Roberts who not only voted with the four liberal justices but who wrote the opinion.

Posted in California, National | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Obama Health Care Law; Declares Lying About Receiving the Medal of Honor is Free Speech

Posted by Chris Nguyen on June 28, 2012

In a busy day at the Supreme Court, the justices issued their first opinion of the day.  They ruled 6-3 in United States v. Alvarez that it is within a person’s First Amendment rights to lie about receiving the Medal of Honor, striking down the Stolen Valor Act as unconstitutional.  Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined conservative swing voter Anthony Kennedy and the court’s four liberal justices: Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  The dissenters were conservative justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia.  Kennedy authored the opinion.

The second opinion of the day was the one everyone was waiting for: in a 5-4 decision in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the entire health care law officially known as the Affordable Care Act but often called Obamacare.  The individual mandate was held unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause but was upheld under the power to tax.  The shocker: swing voter Anthony Kennedy was in the dissent.  It was conservative Chief Justice John Roberts who not only voted with the four liberal justices but who wrote the opinion.

Posted in National | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Supreme Court’s Weird Split on Arizona v. United States

Posted by Chris Nguyen on June 25, 2012

By now, you’ve likely heard about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Arizona v. United States which decided the constitutionality of Arizona’s S.B. 1070.  Legal experts often say that judicial ideology is hard to measure, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll use the layman’s categorization of which justices are conservatives and liberals.

Liberal justice Elena Kagan recused herself since she was Solicitor General at the time the Obama Administration decided to challenge S.B. 1070.

A lot of news coverage has left out how the justices voted, so here’s my quickie guide (my far-too-short analysis of the practical implications follows the guide):

The Court voted unanimously to uphold Section 2(B):

For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.  The person’s immigration status shall be verified with the federal government pursuant to 8 United States Code Section 1373(c).

In other words, law enforcement officers may determine the immigration status of any person “where reasonable suspicion exists” after the officers make a stop, detention, or arrest.


In a 6-2 decision, the Court struck down Section 3, which is a page and a half long (way too long to reproduce here, but accessible here).  In essence, that section made it misdemeanor trespassing to be illegally in Arizona.

In this portion, conservatives Samuel Alito and John Roberts joined with conservative swing voter Anthony Kennedy and liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor to strike down that portion of the S.B. 1070 as unconstitutional.  Conservatives Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia voted to uphold that portion of S.B. 1070.

In a 5-3 decision, the Court struck down Section 5(C):

It is unlawful for a person who is unlawfully present in the United States and who is an unauthorized alien to knowingly apply for work, solicit work in a public place or perform work as an employee or independent contractor in this state.

In other words, that section made it a misdemeanor to work or seek work in the United States without a green card, a visa, or U.S. citizenship.

Conservative Chief Justice Roberts joined with conservative swing voter Kennedy and liberals Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor to strike down Section 5(C) of S.B. 1070 as unconstitutional.  Conservatives Alito, Thomas, and Scalia voted to uphold that section of S.B. 1070.

In a 5-3 decision, the Court struck down Section 6, which is nearly 4 pages long (way, way too long to reproduce here, but can be accessed here).  In essence, that section allows a law enforcement officer to arrest someone without a warrant for “any public offense” that makes the person deportable.

As with Section 5(C), conservative Chief Justice Roberts joined with conservative swing voter Kennedy and liberals Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor to strike down Section 6 of S.B. 1070 as unconstitutional.  Conservatives Alito, Thomas, and Scalia voted to uphold that section of S.B. 1070.

Practical Implications

Sections 2(B) was the most potent clause of S.B. 1070, followed by Section 6 while Sections 3 and 5(C) were less significant.  Sections 3 and 5(C) dealt with creating specific misdemeanors, but Sections 2(B) and 6 gave Arizona police and sheriff’s vast powers of enforcement.  Section 6 allows law enforcement to arrest for any deportable offense even without a judicial order.  Section 2(B) allows law enforcement to demand proof of legal status from anyone they stop (if they’ve stopped them for another reason).

The Court’s ruling still allows Arizona law enforcement to demand proof of legal status, yet doesn’t allow them to enforce their two misdemeanors or make an arrest for a deportable offense without a judicial order.

It was weird enough that Roberts joined Kennedy and the liberals on the entire ruling and Alito joined them on 1 of the 3 non-unanimous portions of the decision.  However, it’s truly weird that the most potent portion of S.B. 1070 was upheld while the other portions were struck down.  While this may make legal sense, it has really odd practical implications.

Posted in National | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »