Monday, June 27, 2005

SCOTUS Watch: Rulings Are In

Lots of news from the Supreme Court so far this morning, but as of yet, no retirement announcement. Here's how some of the cases came down:

- In a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled that police officers cannot be sued for their methods in enforcing restraining orders (Castle Rock, CO v. Gonzales).

- Cable companies may keep competitors from using existing lines to provide high-speed Internet access, according to a 6-3 ruling. (NCTA v. Brand X Internet Services, FCC v. Brand X Internet Services). Not good for competition.

- The entertainment industry can sue file-sharing services if their intent is to allow users to violate copyright laws, the Court said unanimously. Justice Souter wrote for the Court, saying in part "One who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright ... is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties using the device, regardless of the device's lawful uses." (MGM v. Grokster). Regardless of anyone's views on copyright law, this decision seems quite fair.

- In what many will regard as a serious blow to freedom of the press, the Court refused to hear an appeal from reporters Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper, both of whom have resisted revealing sources they spoke with regarding the leak of an undercover CIA' operative's name. Cooper and Miller's cases now go back to a lower court, and they could face jail time if they continue to withhold the names of their sources. (Miller v. United States, Cooper v. United States). This is an unfortunate ruling.

- The Ten Commandments cases were the main attraction at the Court today, of course, and not surprisingly, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor proved the swing vote and arbiter. By 5-4 rulings, the Court said a monument featuring the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas state capitol is permissible, but said that certain displays of the Commandments inside courthouses are not. (Van Orden v. Perry, McCreary County v. ACLU). I haven't read these decisions, and since they're so narrow I don't want to say too much until I've gotten a chance to do so, but generally I think this was probably the right call in each case. Neither decision surprises me in the slightest, and with O'Connor's penchant for splitting hairs on religious questions, both make sense.

[Update: A whoops correction to the above: it was Justice Breyer whose vote changed in the Ten Commandments cases, not Justice O'Connor. He concurred with Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and Rehnquist in the Texas case. More once I've read the decisions. -- 12:00 p.m.]

More to come once I've had a chance to read over the rulings. And of course, retirement news could still be on the horizon. Stay tuned.

[Update: I've added links to the decisions, via How Appealing. -- 12:05 p.m.]


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