Wednesday, March 05, 2014
NPR yesterday morning related “the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that a federal whistleblower law, enacted after the collapse of Enron Corporation, protects not just the employees of a public company, but also company contractors like lawyers, accountants, and investment funds.”
The case was Lawson. Etal v. FMR LLC, Etal , Case 12–3.
Justice Ginsburg in delivering the opinion of the Court, concluded that §1514A’s whistleblower protection includes employees of a public company’s private contractors and subcontractors, writing in the syllabus that “to safeguard investors in public companies and restore trust in the financial markets following the collapse of Enron Corporation, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. One of the Act’s provisions protects whistleblowers; at the time relevant here, that provision instructed: “No [public] company . . ., or any . . . contractor [or] subcontractor . . . of such company, may discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or . . . discriminate against an employee in the terms and conditions of employment because of [whistleblowing activity].” 18 U. S. C. §1514A(a).
The Court looked first to the ordinary meaning of the provision’s language, Ginsburg further explained, referring to Moskal v. United States, 498 U. S. 103, 108 (1990) “As relevant here, §1514A(a) provides that “no . . . contractor . . . may discharge . . . an employee.” The ordinary meaning of “an employee” in this proscription is the contractor’s own employee. FMR’s “narrower construction” requires inserting “of a public company” after “an employee,” but where Congress meant “an employee of a public company,” it said so.”
ScotusBlog’s Geoffrey Rapp posted an argument recapitulation and analysis of the case, and The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the ABA Journal and Reuters were among them having articles.
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
In 1974 the Supreme Court in United States v. Matlock held Fourth Amendment prohibitions on unreasonable searches and seizures were not violated when the police obtained voluntary consent from a third party who possessed common authority over the premises sought to be searched. Wikipedia’s article on that case says that ruling “established the ‘co-occupant consent rule,’ which was later explained by Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177 (1990) and distinguished by Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103 (2006), in which the court held that a third party could not consent over the objections of a present co-occupant.”
Its article on that case notes “Randolph held that without a search warrant, police had no constitutional right to search a house where one resident consents to the search while another resident objects. The Court distinguished this case from the "co-occupant consent rule" established in United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164 (1974), which permitted one resident to consent in absence of the co-occupant. Georgia v. Randolph was a battle in the continuing contest between proponents of the "Originalist" and the "Living Constitution" philosophies on the Supreme Court, and in U.S. jurisprudence – the latter maintaining “the Constitution has a dynamic meaning and associated with views that contemporaneous society should be taken into account when interpreting key constitutional phrases” according to Adam Winkler’s A Revolution Too Soon: Woman Suffragists and The "Living Constitution". 76 NYULR 1456, 1463 ("Based on the idea that society changes and evolves, living constitutionalism requires that constitutional controversies, in the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., "must be considered in the light of our whole experience and not merely in that of what was said a hundred years ago.")
And now that’s been extended a bit, too, with the Court’s examination of the circumstance of the police’s right to enter and search a premise when an objecting occupant was no longer present….. finding that they could in the 6-3 decision last week highlighting Americans’ Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures stemming from the 2009 Los Angeles case, Fernandez v. California.
The Los Angeles Times’ coverage of the case details that “the case began with LAPD officers responding to reports of a street robbery and pursuing a suspect to an apartment building where they heard shouting inside one of the units. Upon their knocking on the door, Roxanne Rojas opened the door, but her boyfriend, Walter Fernandez, told officers they could not enter without a warrant. Fernandez was arrested in connection with the street robbery and taken away. An hour later, police returned and searched his apartment with Rojas' consent., finding a shotgun and gang-related material… He was later convicted for his role in the street robbery and sentenced to 14 years in prison. The California Supreme Court upheld his conviction, which he appealed to the Supreme Court challenging the search of his apartment.
“The Court’s majority,” the Times reported, “led by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said police need not take the time to get a magistrate's approval before entering a home in such cases. But dissenters, led by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, warned that the decision would erode protections against warrantless home searches. The court had previously held that such protections were at the "very core" of the 4th Amendment and its ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.”
ScotusBlog’s Rory Little posted an argument recap & analysis, with Orin Kerr offering “Five thoughts on Fernandez v. California.” [ScotusBlog's docket on the case is here]
The New York Times also discussed the case along with that of Kaley v. United States, decided the same day.
Monday, March 03, 2014
The U.S. Supreme Court this morning heard an appeal from Florida death row inmate Freddie Lee Hall, who’s scored above 70 on most of the IQ tests he’s taken since 1968, but says ample evidence shows he is mentally disabled and therefore cannot be executed because of that, according to an Associated Press article last Friday.
We previewed this case last month.
AP says Hall’s case centers on how authorities determine who is eligible to be put to death, 12 years after justices prohibited the execution of the mentally disabled. [ Hall v. Florida, 12-10882 ScotusBlog docket ]
As long ago as the 1950s, Hall was considered "mentally retarded" — then the commonly accepted term for mental disability — according to school records submitted to the Supreme Court, and a judge in an earlier phase of the case concluded Hall "had been mentally retarded his entire life." Psychiatrists and other medical professionals who examined him also said he is mentally disabled.
The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the state law regarding executions and mental disability has no wiggle room if an inmate tests above 70. In Florida and some other states, an intelligence test score higher than 70 means an inmate is not mentally disabled, even if other evidence indicates he is, and the Court in Penry v. Lynaugh held that executing a mentally retarded person did not automatically violate the U. S. Constitution… adding that juries must be allowed to consider and give effect to mitigating evidence of mental retardation when considering whether to impose the death penalty.
Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky have similar statutes.
ScotusBlog’s Lyle Denniston in his blog post last Friday chronicled the case & background, writing, “In the beginning twenty-eight years ago, in the Court’s decision in Ford v. Wainwright, capital punishment was ruled out for individuals who were found to be insane at the time the sentence was to be carried out, with states allowed to define that condition.
“In 2002, the Court reached the claim of mental incapacity that is less severe than insanity, and it ruled that this condition (“mental retardation”), too, makes a convicted individual ineligible for execution. But, in its decision in Atkins v. Virginia, the Court said explicitly that not every person who claims such an impairment would “fall within the range of mentally retarded offenders about whom there is a national consensus” against subjecting them to a death sentence. “We leave to the states the task of developing ways” to define the protected category, the Court said. (emphasis ours)
“A year after the Atkins decision, the Florida Supreme Court interpreted an existing state law defining mental retardation to mean that the individual’s IQ score had to be seventy or below. Although Freddie Lee Hall at one time had an IQ test score of sixty, the state court would rule later in his case that a more recent test showed a score of seventy-one, thus making him eligible for the death penalty. Hall, who is now sixty-nine years old, has long been on death row for a 1978 murder, and has repeatedly attempted to avoid execution by claiming mental incapacity.”
ScotusBlog this morning adds additional coverage coming from NPR’s Nina Totenberg and Jess Bravin of The Wall Street Journal, while in his column for The Atlantic Andrew Cohen argues that, “[i]f the Supreme Court meant what it said in Atkins [v. Virginia], the justices must loudly declare that the execution of the mentally retarded in America will not be tolerated, either as a nod to states’ rights or for any other hoary justification.”