Essential Pittsburgh
4:47 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Supreme Court's Monumental Rulings: From Contraception To Cellphones

Credit David / Flickr

This week, the Supreme Court completed its term with a flurry of decisions ranging from birth-control exemptions for employers to the need for a warrant to search cell phones.

Our legal contributor, University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris, explained the recent court rulings, and how they will impact our lives.

He started by discussing the Supreme Court’s ruling to allow companies an exemption from providing birth control on religious grounds. It was a decision that split the Court 5-4 and has proved to be just as decisive and controversial with the public.

“This decision is very important because its the first time that we see the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applied to for-profit corporations in this way. The Affordable Care Act said that anybody providing insurance to their employees must provide access to all methods of birth control and the folks who ran Hobby Lobby, which is a family held corporation, had religious objections not to all of those types of birth control, but to four of them. The Supreme Court said they get a religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act… so people who work for employers in what Justice Alito called ‘closely held corporations’, those people are out of luck if they want to get all of those birth-control methods.”

The Supreme Court also ruled that police now need a warrant to search cell phones, a decision that has been met with approval from the public.

“This is really significant. This is the Supreme Court establishing the idea of digital privacy… the real question, can they not only seize it, but can they open it up? and the Supreme Court said, in surprisingly ringing fashion, and unanimously...'no.'”