U.S. Supreme Court

States Suing Over Climate Change Plan Get Their Day In Court

Sep 29, 2016
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Climate change barely got a mention in Monday’s presidential debate, but it was a big week in the history of the nation’s climate policy.

On Tuesday, a panel of ten judges on a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. heard arguments on the Clean Power Plan — the cornerstone of President Obama’s effort to curb climate change.

In light of John Hinckley Jr.'s release from a psychiatric hospital 35 years after attempting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, Shots is exploring the use of the not guilty by reason of insanity plea. We're talking with legal and medical professionals about how the plea works, and how it doesn't work. In this fourth of a four-part series, we look at what happens to defendants when a state has no insanity defense.

A federal appeals court has overturned North Carolina's sweeping voter ID law, ruling that the law was passed with "discriminatory intent" and was designed to impose barriers to block African-Americans from voting.

The ruling came from a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The state is "almost certain" to appeal to the full court or to the U.S. Supreme Court, NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

Delegates at the Republican convention in Cleveland have approved the strongest anti-abortion platform in the party's history. But groups that oppose abortion — groups that lobbied for the strong language — are far from unified.

In fact, following last month's Supreme Court decision reaffirming a woman's right to abortion, leaders of a movement known for speaking largely with one voice are showing some surprising disagreement.

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Elements of a Texas abortion law were struck down Monday by the Supreme Court. Among the provisions in the case was a requirement that abortion clinics must meet the same health and safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers as well as a mandate that doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges to a hospital no more than 30 miles away. Now that the Court has struck down the provisions, what could this mean for Pennsylvania, who is also debating parts of its abortion laws? We’ll ask Susan Frietsche, she’s a senior staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project here in Western Pennsylvania.

Alex Brandon / AP Images

The United States Supreme Court ended its current term on Monday with some important decisions, but University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris said the most important event of the term was not an opinion at all.

The Supreme Court has overturned a Texas law requiring clinics that provide abortions to have surgical facilities and doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The law was predicted to close many clinics and further reduce availability of abortion in Texas; the court has ruled the law violated the Constitution.

Court Upholds Total Population Count In Electoral Districts

Apr 4, 2016
supremecourt.gov

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can count everyone, not just eligible voters, in deciding how to draw electoral districts.

The justices turned back a challenge from Texas voters that could have dramatically altered political district boundaries and disproportionately affected the nation's growing Latino population.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Alex Brandon / AP

Security tasked with guarding U.S. Senator Pat Toomey’s Pittsburgh office challenged a handful of activists hoping to deliver a petition to the Pennsylvania Republican on Thursday.

Organizers said the petition bearing 27,000 signatures urged the state’s junior senator to act on President Obama’s eventual nominee to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, but most activists weren’t allowed inside. Security guards said they called the Pittsburgh Police, but no officers came to the scene.

Supreme Court Debates Pennsylvania Death Penalty Case

Mar 3, 2016
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Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille hearing an appeal of the same case that, as Philadelphia District Attorney, he had approved to proceed on the death penalty. University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris weighs in.

Washington was actually talking about someone other than Donald Trump on Monday, and that someone was not another presidential candidate. It was Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.

People were talking about Thomas because Thomas was talking. In the Supreme Court chamber, during oral arguments, the 67-year-old Thomas asked multiple questions. There might seem to be nothing out of the ordinary in that, except that Thomas had gone since February 2006 hearing hundreds of oral arguments without asking a single question.

A long line of mourners queued up to pay their respects to late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose body is now lying in repose at the Great Hall of the Supreme Court.

Parts of the observances will be open to the public. A private ceremony was slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. ET. Members of the public will be allowed into the hall until 8 p.m.

Pablo Martinez Monsivias / AP Images

The passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is leading to a political maelstrom over who should select the next Supreme Court appointee.  Scalia, 79, was one of four members of the high court over the age of 75. The age of the justices has garnered attention after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was seen sleeping during part of the State of the Union address. This has lead some to wonder about the mental cognition of the justices as they age.

University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Garrow believes the advanced age of many Supreme Court Justices could be a detriment to the welfare of the nation. He recently wrote an op-ed for the LA Times titled, “Four Supreme Court Justices are Older Than 75. Is That a Problem?” Essential Pittsburgh’s Katie Blackley spoke with Garrow to about his perspective and research on the topic.

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President Barack Obama said Sunday he plans to pick a Supreme Court nominee following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia died while on a hunting trip at a friend's luxury West Texas ranch late Saturday. 

Antonin Scalia's body wasn't cold before his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court became tangled up in partisan politics. Here are five ways Scalia's death is complicating the 2016 election.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia will lie in repose at the Supreme Court on Friday. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., according to sources close to the Scalia family.

In a tradition that dates back to 1873, Scalia's Supreme Court chair and bench were draped with black wool crepe today. The court has also placed a black drapery over the courtroom doors.

The last high court justice to lie in repose at the Supreme Court was Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2005.

What Scalia's Death Means For Obama's Clean Power Plan

Feb 16, 2016
Ron Edmonds / AP

The sudden and unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gives environmentalists hope that Obama’s landmark effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has a fighting chance in the courts.

“It changes my opinion dramatically,” said Ann Carlson, Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law at UCLA.

Charles Tasnadi / AP Images

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia raises many question for the country and the high court going forward. What cases will this affect? Who will President Obama nominate to replace him? Could an Obama Supreme Court nominee be stopped? We'll talk with David A. Harris, Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh.

The Big Bend region of West Texas is known for its enormous ranches and large, sparsely populated counties. This can be a problem when people need county services, especially emergency services — and it doesn't matter if you're an ordinary citizen or a Supreme Court justice.

The Appointment Clause of the Constitution (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2) states that the president "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the Supreme Court."

President Obama says he plans to pick a Supreme Court nominee following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, setting up a confrontation with Republicans who control the Senate.

Haraz N. Ghanbari / Associated Press

Antonin Scalia, the influential conservative and most provocative member of the Supreme Court, has died. He was 79.

The U.S. Marshal's Service in Washington confirmed Scalia's death at a private residence in the Big Bend area of South Texas.

The service's spokeswoman, Donna Sellers, said Scalia had retired for the evening and was found dead Saturday morning when he did not appear for breakfast.  

supremecourt.gov

Pennsylvania has more people sentenced to life in prison as juveniles than any other state.

A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court Monday could reduce those sentences for 497 inmates in Pennsylvania. Those people were convicted as juveniles for homicides; which used to mean automatic life in prison without parole.

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that was cruel and unusual punishment. Monday, the court said that ban is retroactive to cases decided before 2012.

Reducing Implicit Bias In The Judicial Process

Nov 17, 2015
Ronnie Macdonald / flickr

The Supreme Court considers what it takes to show prosecutors are discriminating against minorities when selecting juries.  This practice is known as implicit bias, and continues to become more prevalent. 

David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh Law professor, will soon head to the White House to address this practice.  He explains that implicit bias causes us to make quick judgments about people or groups of people, resulting in unintended discrimination.

What's Coming From The Supreme Court?

Oct 4, 2015
supremecourt.gov

A new session of the US Supreme Court opens today with a great deal of expectation but not as big as we saw last year.

“We’re not going to top the gay marriage decision, that’s for sure,” said University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris with a laugh. Last year’s session also a landmark decisions on the affordable care act.

Essential Pittsburgh: Evaluating the Supreme Court's Rulings

Jul 1, 2015
Mark Fischer / flickr

The 2014-2015 Supreme Court session has come to a close. Among the issues the justices have weighed in on are historic decisions on health care and same-sex marriage. However, there were also other cases regarding housing discrimination and lethal injections. Our legal contributor Pitt Law Professor David Harris looks at the rulings the justices have made and how they will impact our lives.  Harris explains the ruling of the recent lethal injections case decided by the Supreme Court: 

"This was the argument made by opponents of the use of that drug that it is cruel and unusual because the people being executed are experiencing pain. The Supreme Court says no there is nothing cruel or unusual about using this particular drug cocktail and they legitimized execution this way by all the states that want to do it." -David Harris

Also in the program, Heinz History Center President Andy Masich describes the background of the iconic Rosie the Riveter and to mark the beginning of July, FreeBurgh highlights fun and inexpensive events this month in the Pittsburgh area.

Supreme Court Rules Against EPA Power Plant Mercury Limits

Jun 29, 2015
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The Supreme Court ruled Monday against the Obama administration's attempt to limit power plant emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants, but it may only be a temporary setback for regulators.

The justices split 5-4 along ideological lines to rule that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to take cost into account when it first decided to regulate the toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired plants.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is applauding the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, but says state lawmakers should follow up by passing a law to protect people against discrimination based on their sexual or gender preference.

Wolf said in a statement Friday that the high court's 5-4 decision makes clear that "gay marriage" is now simply marriage and same-sex couples cannot be denied the pursuit of happiness.

Gov. Wolf Seeks State Authority Over Health Insurance Marketplace

Jun 2, 2015
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration said Tuesday it has formally applied to take over the operation of Pennsylvania's health insurance marketplace as the Democrat seeks a bulwark against the potential loss of health insurance subsidies for hundreds of thousands of state residents.

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