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SCOTUS Overturns Most of Arizona Immigration Law

Court also outlaws life-without-parole for juveniles

By Jordan Smith, 11:01AM, Mon. Jun. 25, 2012

The Supremes
The Supremes

The US Supreme Court today overruled significant portions of Arizona's controversial immigration law. In a separate case, the Supremes ruled that life-without-parole for juvenile murder defendants violates the 8th Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments.

Although the Supremes overruled most of Arizona's immigration law, the court has left in place – for now – a portion of the law that allows police, during the course of a lawful detention, to verify immigration status – the so-called "show your papers" provision of the law. The Supremes ruled that it would be improper to rule on that provision until challenges to it made in state courts have been resolved. Those challenges could be resolved in a way that is not offensive to the Constitution, the court ruled. "Without the benefit of a definitive interpretation from the state courts, it would be inappropriate to assume [that portion of the law] will be construed in a way that conflicts with federal law," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the five-justice majority. "This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect."

Chief Justice John Roberts joined in the opinion with Justices Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito filed opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part; Justice Elena Kagan took no part in the case.

Also today, the Court has determined that a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishments. The decision, in a case out of Alabama, builds on two previous rulings from the court, which affirm that juveniles are developmentally different than their adult counterparts, for whom such sentences may not violate the 8th Amendment ban.

You can find that ruling here.

Justice Kagan wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Chief Justice Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito dissented.

Meanwhile, the court has not yet ruled on the Affordable Care Act. That ruling is expected Thursday.

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