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To get the Supreme Court's attention these days, try saying your speech rights are being violated.

Whether the underlying topic is abortion, elections, labor unions or wedding cakes, the First Amendment is starting to dominate the Supreme Court's agenda.

The court on Monday granted three new speech cases, including a challenge to a California law that requires licensed pregnancy-counseling clinics to tell patients they might be eligible for free or discounted abortions. The nine-month term now features six cases, out of 44 total, that turn on the reach of the Constitution's free speech guarantee.

Several will be among the term's most closely watched. They include a high-profile fight over a Colorado baker who refuses to make cakes for same-sex weddings and a challenge to the requirement in some states that public-sector workers pay for the cost of union representation. Both of those cases offer the prospect of ideological divides that could put the court's five Republican appointees in the majority, backing free speech rights.

Free speech also plays a central role in what could be a watershed case involving partisan voting districts. The court's liberals could join with Justice Anthony Kennedy to allow legal challenges to partisan gerrymanders for the first time. During arguments in October, Kennedy suggested those challenges would be based on the First Amendment's protections for speech and free association.

The free speech clause has had a special resonance with the court's conservative wing under Chief Justice John Roberts. The court invoked the First Amendment in the landmark 2010 Citizens United decision, which said corporations could spend unlimited sums on political causes. Writing for the five-justice majority, Kennedy equated federal spending restrictions with using "censorship to control thought."

The court has also backed speech rights with more lopsided majorities in cases involving violent video games, depictions of animal cruelty, abortion-clinic buffer zones and anti-homosexual protesters.


The Oregon Supreme Court has denied a request by The Oregonian Publishing Co. for Oregon Health and Science University to release the names of patients who intend to sue.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the court ruled on Thursday that the information is protected from public disclosure under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The company that publishes the Portland newspaper in 2011 sought a list of names of those who planned to sue the university, which is a public institution that receives taxpayer money. The list would have included patients, students, employees, contractors and visitors.

Lower courts ordered the university to release the information, but it appealed to the state Supreme Court. State attorneys filed a brief in support of the newspaper’s position.



Foxconn Technology Group could appeal lawsuits directly to the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court, skipping the state appeals court, under changes to a $3 billion incentive package the Legislature's budget-writing committee approved Tuesday.

The unprecedented change to the usual judicial process drew criticism from Democrats, who also blasted the $3 billion incentives as a corporate welfare giveaway. But they didn't have the votes needed to stop the proposal.

The Republican-controlled committee approved the bill on a party line 12-4 vote. The state Senate planned to vote on it Sept. 12, with the Assembly expected to quickly follow. Both are under GOP control.

The Assembly approved it last month, but will have to vote again since the committee changed the measure which amounts to the largest state tax break to a foreign corporation in U.S. history. It must pass both houses of the Legislature in the same form before going to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.

Taiwan-based Foxconn signed a deal with Wisconsin to invest up to $10 billion in the state on a massive flat-screen manufacturing campus that could employ up to 13,000 people. The plant is to be built in southeastern Wisconsin and be open as soon as 2020, although Foxconn has not identified its exact location yet.

"This is probably the biggest thing to happen to Wisconsin since the cow," Republican budget committee co-chair Rep. John Nygren said Tuesday.

Proponents say the plant offers a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for the state, while critics say the state is giving away too much with the $3 billion incentive package. The bill also waives environmental regulations that will allow Foxconn to build in wetland and waterways and construct its 20-million-square-foot campus without first doing an environmental impact statement.



state's public colleges and universities would be at risk if they don't take his side against the Republican governor.

But an attorney for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin called Andy Beshear's argument "poppycock." He told the justices they should dismiss Beshear's lawsuit and vacate a lower court's judgment that the governor broke the law when he abolished the University of Louisville's board and replaced its trustees with an executive order last year.

What was supposed to have been a 30-minute hearing stretched more than an hour in a courtroom packed with political aides from both parties as two of Kentucky's top politicians faced off before the Supreme Court for the second time in a year.

Ultimately, Bevin got his wish for a new board at the university after the legislature convened and the Republican majority approved his choices under a new law. That's why a ruling from the Kentucky Supreme Court in this case likely won't affect the new board.

But Beshear is asking the court to declare Bevin's original order illegal and to prevent him from doing it again. If he's successful, it would be his second legal victory against Bevin and would be likely fodder for a potential campaign for governor in 2019.

If Bevin wins, it would bolster the governor's argument that Beshear has wasted time filing frivolous lawsuits against him.

Bevin replaced the board because he said the university needed a "fresh start" after a series of scandals and because the board violated state law by not having proportionate representation of racial minorities and political parties.

In issuing his executive order, Bevin relied on a state law, KRS 12.028 , that lets the governor make temporary changes when the legislature is not in session. The legislature then reviews those changes when they reconvene. If they don't act on them, the changes expire.

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