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Betting on the Supreme Court

Caricature of Steve

As predicted elsewhere, today marks the start of what could be an historic term—far more so that usual.

Several pundits have focused on the conservative leaning court and whether that ideology will affect the ultimate rulings of the high bench. Such analysis, unfortunately, contains too much hype and too little realism.

Yes, the cases before the nine justices are important. But a number of eventual decisions are easily predictable. The others are less clear and most likely will have to be revisited later when the underlying legal questions are more clearly stated.

Same-sex marriage

The central point is whether individual states have the right to determine who can be legally wed within their geographic boundaries.   However, the more fundamental human rights concept is so deeply protected by the Constitution that the Court will reject the states-right argument.

I would not be surprised by a unanimous verdict upholding the right of gays and lesbians to marry in all 50 states.

Online hate speech

At first blush there appears to be sufficient precedence in U.S. history to determine whether hate speech or published threats constitute a crime. However, Elonis v. U.S. requires the Supreme Court to examine social media as the vehicles of such dissemination.

Common sense infers that the justices will rely on the relationship of legacy media and speech and rule against the defendant. But common sense and legal rulings do not always share the same bed.

A close shave

Inmates certainly deserve basic rights to proper food, accommodations and protection. But the occupants of America’s prisons and jails still are serving time for convictions and any privilege that increases risk either to themselves, other prisoners or staff, should be limited.

Holt v. Hobbs asks whether a Muslim inmate in Arkansas should be permitted to grow a half-inch beard. The question revolves around the fear that he could use the facial growth to conceal either small weapons or contraband. This is a confluence of states rights, religious freedom, and security for residents and staff.

Among many Muslim males there is a cultural imperative to sport a beard. That is their right. However, prisons have a right to restrict the length of hair.

Too close to call.


Our Congressional and state districts are so ludicrously drawn as to defy either logical explanation or legitimate defense. As usual, this case hinges on whether such districts were devised to deprive minorities an equitable ratio of fair representation.

The court should find in favor of the plaintiffs in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama. The districts should be redrawn.

Heavy lifting

This should be an easy decision to decide. Are businesses required to provide special accommodations for employees based on either their permanent or temporary health or physical condition?

Young v. United Parcel Service asks that question in the case of a worker who is pregnant and does not want to lift heavy packages.   Yes, if her physician and company doctor agree there is risk.

The stamp of approval

The Supreme Court should have tossed this question into the wastebasket.   The question is whether U.S. passports should list Americans born in Jerusalem as Israelis as well as Americans. It should have been adjudicated decades ago. Persons carrying American passports are U.S. citizens or residents.

Persons who claim dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship and have two passports should be Americans on U.S. passports and Israeli on Israel passports.

My passport reads “Iowa, U.S.A.” The Department of State recognizes Israel and the CIA World Factbook recognizes Jerusalem as one of the country’s six administrative Districts.

The U.S. passports should read simply “Jerusalem, Israel.” Case closed.

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