SCOTUS Round Up: Here Are A Few Other Big Decisions The Supreme Court Made This Term

July 1, 2014  |  

With yesterday marking the end of the 2013 term, the Supreme Court justices have been busy handing down decisions on major cases they heard in the fall. We’ve written about some of the key decisions that have been handed down, for instance, the Riley v. California, US v. Wurie case that determine police need a search warrant to look through a suspect’s mobile phone.  And yesterday, the country exploded after the Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn decisions came down.

Here are a few more big decisions from the highest court in the land.

McCullen v. Coakley

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that barred protests near abortion clinics. The 35-foot buffer zone created around abortion clinics was put into law in 2007 as a response to the harassment and occasional violence that occurred at abortion clinics in the area. Many claimed the buffer zones were an infringement on freedom of speech, and was challenged by those who felt their right to discuss alternatives to abortion had been taken away. The court agreed.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged that this decision is a blow to the pro-choice movement, but expressed relief at the narrow nature of the decision. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley says the state is working with the five impacted clinics to make sure women are protected despite the ruling. Politico notes that since there was no distance specified, there’s still room there for creating another buffer zone.

“If the Commonwealth is particularly concerned about harassment, it could also consider an ordinance such as the one adopted in New York City that not only prohibits obstructing access to a clinic, but also makes it a crime ‘to follow and harass another person within 15 feet of the premises of a reproductive health care facility,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning

In this unanimous decision, the court decided that President Obama went a step too far with his recess appointments. The justices ruled that the President “violated the Constitution” when he made appointments to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate took a three-day break from its work. The court ruled that these appointments were permissible, however, in a majority opinion from the more liberal judges, when the Senate takes breaks of 10 days or more.

Even with this push back, the court says that it has widened the scope of executive powers with this decision. The houses of Congress have to agree on prolonged recess periods and Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “The majority practically bends over backwards to ensure that recess appointments will remain a powerful weapon in the president’s arsenal.”

The power became an issue when Noel Canning, a soft-drink bottling company, said that a ruling against it in a labor dispute was unfair because most of the appointees on the NLRB were made while the Senate was in recess. Many cases were on hold while the SCOTUS decision was pending, and now other decisions that the NLRB made could be in trouble.

ABC v. Aereo

Justices ruled in a 6-3 decision on the side of ABC television network that technology company Aereo was indeed violating copyright laws by streaming copyrighted content to subscribed users without paying for it.

The company, based out of Boston, gained popularity as a service used to stream over-the-air television on Internet-connected devices. The court ruled that by capturing broadcast TV signals and delivering them to paying subscribers, Aereo was illegally capturing these signals using antennas in warehouses.

Normally, cable and satellite companies pay broadcasters “retransmission fees” in order to have the right to stream broadcast content. Aereo was not paying such fees and was collecting profit from subscribers watching the “stolen” broadcasts.

Since the decision was handed down, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia posted a letter to consumers saying that the company would cease operations while it decided what to do next. Time predicts that if the company comes back (if) it will be much different. If it decides to pay the retransmission fees, the subscription cost, previously $8, will go up dramatically.

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