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Free Speech Is Starting to Dominate the US Supreme Court's Agenda
Headline Legal News | 2017/11/14 13:22
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.



Court gives go-ahead for minimum alcohol price in Scotland
Legal Interview | 2017/11/13 13:23
Britain's Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland — a watershed moment for public health advocates alarmed at the level of abuse.

The court on Wednesday rejected the Scottish Whisky Association's challenge to the policy of setting a floor price per unit of alcohol. Health advocates argue that the increasing affordability of alcohol is leading to an increase in consumption.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted on Wednesday that she was "absolutely delighted" by the decision that she says will prove to be a "bold and necessary move to improve public health."

During the 1980s alcohol deaths in Scotland had been relatively stable, at roughly 600 per year, but in 2006 drink-related deaths peaked at 1,546.


Kenya court set to hear petitions challenging repeat vote
Opinions | 2017/11/11 13:23
Kenya's Supreme Court is poised to hear petitions challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election in a repeat presidential poll.

The court made history when it nullified Kenyatta's re-election in August. It cited irregularities and illegalities in the vote count and the electoral commission's failure to allow scrutiny of its servers to dispel opposition leader Raila Odinga's claim of fraud. It then ordered a new vote.

There are concerns about intimidation after the court failed to find a quorum to consider a petition seeking to postpone the repeat presidential election on Oct. 26, a day after a bodyguard of one of the judges was shot.

Politician Harun Mwau and activists Njonjo Mue and Khelef Khalifa seek to nullify the Oct. 26 election, which Odinga boycotted citing lack of electoral reforms.


Feds head to court to seek dismissal of Twin Metals lawsuit
Videos for Legal Insight | 2017/11/10 13:23
copper-nickel mine who are seeking to regain their mineral rights leases.

The Obama administration last year declined to renew the longstanding leases that Twin Metals needs for the underground mine near Ely in northeastern Minnesota. The government cited the potential harm to the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Twin Metals sued last fall to get those leases back, saying it has already invested $400 million, while its congressional supporters are trying to persuade the Trump administration to reverse that decision.

The government argues that the U.S. District Court for Minnesota should dismiss the lawsuit because it's a contract dispute that must be brought in the Court of Federal Claims.



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