The Austin Chronicle

Further Rulings

By Richard Whittaker, July 1, 2016, News

The U.S. Supreme Court gets the most headlines for big cases like Texas' abortion rights debate and immigration amnesties, while most of their rulings go relatively unnoticed. Yet among the examinations of the minutiae of patent law, and interactions between federal and First Nation law, this term included several decisions that didn't grab the front page, but still may have significant long-term effects.

Voisine v. U.S.: Deciding whether a violence conviction can be considered a misdemeanor crime that restricts the right to gun ownership. While Congress won't block suspected terrorists from buying semiautomatic weapons, on June 27 the justices voted 6-2 to ban abusive partners and spouses from easy access to lethal firepower.

Birchfield v. North Dakota: Three DWI cases rolled into one. In a 7-1 decision issued on June 23, the Supreme Court found that police can require a breath test without a warrant, but a blood test is too invasive and requires court approval.

Utah v. Strieff: A minor drug bust with major ramifications: A 5-3 ruling on June 20 upheld the conviction of a Utah man for possession of methamphetamine, found when he was stopped by police with insufficient cause. Critics have already called this an attack on the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine, whereby evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search is inadmissible.

Zubik v. Burwell: Seven cases rolled into one, challenging the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act that requires non-church employers – specifically, nonprofits and hospitals run by churches – to cover certain forms of birth control for female employees. On May 16, the court vacated lower court rulings upholding the mandate and sent all seven cases back down for reconsideration.

Jennings v. Rodriguez: Not a ruling, but an announcement from SCOTUS that next term it will take up whether people detained on immigration violations are entitled to a bond hearing after six months in custody.

Copyright © 2022 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.