SCOTUS Issues Two Unanimous Rulings; Obama, the Left Hardest Hit

 

shutterstock_104498510The Supreme Court issued two big decisions this morning. Like many Ricochet contributors, I too have a vibrant legal background: I worked as a temp at a law office for two weeks and got an A- in a communications law class.

Admittedly, others here have far more impressive credentials, but let me provide a layman’s play-by-play on today’s unanimous rulings.

Noel Canning v. NLRB

The National Labor Relations Board is a federal agency that conducts elections for union representation and looks into unfair labor practices. Understandably, Obama wanted to pack this powerful little panel with rubber stamps for organized labor and the Republicans wanted to stop him. Obama made three “recess appointments” even though the Congress wasn’t in recess.

Noel Canning disagreed with NLRB rulings which hurt his business. He sued, saying that since the appointments were illegal, the board’s recent rulings should be tossed.

Today, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed with Canning, although for slightly different reasons. In the majority opinion, Justice Breyer said Obama exceeded his authority by making recess appointments while the Senate was holding pro forma sessions. Justice Scalia agreed but went farther, saying that recess appointments can only fill vacancies that occur during Senate intersession recesses. Either way, a damning response to the president’s lawless behavior and a setback to his union buddies. (PDF of ruling)

McCullen v. Coakley

Eleanor McCullen, a member of Operation Rescue, filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts because she thought that its law setting up buffer zones around abortion clinics violated the First Amendment. Martha Coakley, Massachusetts’ AG at the time, argued that protestors must be banned to prevent violence and disruption outside the clinics.

The court unanimously agreed that setting up a no-speech zone within 35 feet of an abortion clinic is unconstitutional. Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion along with four liberal justices. He said that the law is not “narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest” and that the buffer zones “burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s asserted interests.”

Justice Scalia, joined by Kennedy and Thomas, again went farther, saying that the law discriminated against pro-life speech. Justice Alito wrote his own opinion attacking this “blatant viewpoint discrimination.” (PDF of ruling)

Apparently, the majority decision doesn’t address an eight-foot “bubble zone” immediately surrounding clinic entrances, so we might see further litigation on that issue.

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I’d love to see our members’ and contributors’ thoughts in the comments. How big are these rulings and do you agree with how the court arrived at their positions?

There are 18 comments.

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  1. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Here’s some member discussion on the first on. I haven’t looked into the second one yet.

    • #1
  2. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    So does that mean everything the NRLB has done since those appointments is now essentially undone?

    • #2
  3. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    To answer the specific questions, both ruling are enormous. The way the first was decided, however may be the bigger issue over the long run. The liberal justices set out (apparently) to preserve a clearly unconstitutional practice and did not care how they needed to twist and torture logic and language to arrive at their desired ends. Scalia rightly criticizes their reasoning because without other impediments (imposed by the courts in some manner) a president could theoretically make appointments every time the Senate takes a lunch. As was briefly discussed in the facebook group, it’s hard to determine the lesser of two evils between a continuously sitting Senate and power grabbing “recess” appointments.

    We eeked out a win on this one, but just barely. All it takes to reinstate the practice is collusion between the president and the Senate to not go pro forma over one of the many breaks they take and we’re right back where we started pre Obama.

    • #3
  4. Julia PA Member
    Julia PA
    @JulesPA

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Justice Scalia agreed but went farther, saying that recess appointments can only fill vacancies that occur during Senate intersession recesses.

    Wow. Does Scalia’s opinion suggest that recess appointments can only be made when a post becomes vacant DURING a recess? Such an approach would prohibit our governmental servants from waiting to fill vacant posts UNTIL a recess.
    What sane and professional view point. I think our Founding Fathers might agree.
    That kind of sanity and professionalism sure puts a dent in the political “game” though. I’ll drink to that.

    • #4
  5. Eeyore Member
    Eeyore
    @Eeyore

    I gotcha beat, Gabriel. I took Constitutional Law in college – so I know the most important legal implication of Canning v. NLRB:
    The Supreme Court is racist!!!!!

    • #5
  6. user_1561 Member
    user_1561
    @

    Noel Canning is an “it,” not a “he” – it’s a bottling company ( http://www.noelcorp.com/ ).

    And now I leave to write in my diary, “Today, I corrected The Great and Powerful Jon Gabriel!”

    • #6
  7. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Eeyore: I gotcha beat, Gabriel. I took Constitutional Law in college – so I know the most important legal implication of Canning v. NLRB: The Supreme Court is racist!!!!!

     I’ve watched 762 hours of Law & Order which has to count for something.

    • #7
  8. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Jason Hart:

    Noel Canning is an “it,” not a “he” – it’s a bottling company ( http://www.noelcorp.com/ ).

    And now I leave to write in my diary, “Today, I corrected The Great and Powerful Jon Gabriel!”

     I say Ricochet bans Jason Hart. Who’s with me?!

    • #8
  9. Eeyore Member
    Eeyore
    @Eeyore

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    I’ve watched 762 hours of Law & Order which has to count for something.

    It gives you a Juris Doctorate Summa Cum Loud

    • #9
  10. user_1561 Member
    user_1561
    @

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    Jason Hart:

    Noel Canning is an “it,” not a “he” – it’s a bottling company ( http://www.noelcorp.com/ ).

    And now I leave to write in my diary, “Today, I corrected The Great and Powerful Jon Gabriel!”

    I say Ricochet bans Jason Hart. Who’s with me?!

    You can’t ban me! I got an A in a Business Law class at Miami University, which according to my Miami University tour guide training is basically the Harvard of the Midwest!

    • #10
  11. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    I was shocked by the unanimity — of even one SCOTUS decision, much less two — until it was noted that the judges disagreed in the justifications of their agreement.

    The recess appointments authority can only preserve the separation of powers if a recess appointment is legal only until Congress resumes activity. That is, the President may unilaterally appoint someone when Congress is unavailable to fulfill its duty of oversight, but that appointment must be later approved by the usual method in order to be maintained. 

    I presume this authority loophole exists for the same basic reason as the War Powers Act. It exists so that the President can make an emergency appointment, to address an urgent need which cannot wait. If so, then just like with the War Powers Act (in theory, if not in practice), the President’s hastened measure must be ratified… or else Presidents have all the power.

    • #11
  12. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    The prints too small for me. I wish the Court would accommodate us old dudes with ADA compliant print.  I’ll sue I tell ya.! I’ll sue!

    But seriously, I’ll read these decisions (an enormous sacrifice that) and then offer a gnarled, opaque, twisted, but erudite and brilliant best guess. I really should be on the Court. O Yez!

    • #12
  13. Proud Skeptic Inactive
    Proud Skeptic
    @ProudSkeptic

    An important question asked in an early comment has gone (I believe) unanswered.  Does this vacate the NLRB rulings made by these two recess appointees?

    • #13
  14. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Proud Skeptic:

    An important question asked in an early comment has gone (I believe) unanswered. Does this vacate the NLRB rulings made by these two recess appointees?

     According to SCOTUS blog:

    So what exactly does all of this mean, going forward? First and foremost, it means that the three recess appointments directly involved in this case – to the NLRB – are invalid. That in turn means that any decisions in which those three NLRB commissioners participated while they were recess appointees are invalid…

    However, the New York Times says:

    About 100 cases have been in limbo while the Supreme Court weighed the case, and many of the labor board’s decisions may be vacated by Thursday’s ruling. At the request of the litigants, the current labor board will have to review those cases again. Since the new board was confirmed by the full Senate and has a 3-to-2 Democratic majority, legal experts expect that the negated rulings will ultimately be affirmed.

    • #14
  15. user_1184 Member
    user_1184
    @MarkWilson

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    Jason Hart:

    Noel Canning is an “it,” not a “he” – it’s a bottling company ( http://www.noelcorp.com/ ).

    And now I leave to write in my diary, “Today, I corrected The Great and Powerful Jon Gabriel!”

    I say Ricochet bans Jason Hart. Who’s with me?!

     If you were truly great and powerful and Jason says, you wouldn’t need anyone “with you”. 

    The emperor has no clothes!

    • #15
  16. user_199279 Coolidge
    user_199279
    @ChrisCampion

    And all of this without Boehner having to sue the President.

    Golly!

    • #16
  17. flownover Member
    flownover
    @flownover

    As another article posed the question: “what is he goes all Andrew Jackson on us ?” 
    In other words, what if he ignores  SCOTUS , as he treats the other branch of the government ?

    Can he obfuscate his way around this for a suitably long period to let the issue fade away past the elections and his blessed departure ?

    And what will the cost be to repair the damage he has done ? 

    • #17
  18. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: the Left Hardest Hit

     It should be “Women, children, and minorities hit the hardest.”

    Just following what the N.Y. Times would say . . .

    • #18

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