The popular arts and crafts store Hobby Lobby is seeking a religious exemption from covering certain forms of contraception it would be required to provide under the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act. The case is headed to the Supreme Court, with oral arguments set to begin this spring. “Granting the exemption would shift the cost of accommodating Hobby Lobby’s religious exercise to employees who do not share its beliefs,” argues Elizabeth Sepper, JD, associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “Such cost-shifting violates the Establishment Clause.” Sepper is one of several experts who have authored an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court arguing the unconstitutionality of Hobby Lobby’s request.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule this spring on whether prayers before town hall meetings violate the First Amendment clause that prohibits the establishment of religion. John Inazu, a First Amendment expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, highlights one dimension of the litigation often unaddressed by commentators: what he calls the “mistakes of the past, present and future” adopted by proponents of legislative prayer.
Anti-abortion groups are well known for demonstrating and sidewalk counseling at women’s reproductive health facilities, but a Massachusetts statute criminalizes even peaceful expression on public sidewalks near these clinics. An upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case will determine the constitutionality of Massachusetts’ selective exclusion law, which applies only to streets and sidewalks near reproductive health-care facilities. “If Massachusetts can close off the sidewalks surrounding reproductive health centers to peaceful expressive activity, then the government can prohibit expression in a wide range of circumstances,” says John Inazu, JD, First Amendment expert and associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.
The Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion in Bowman v. Monsanto holds that farmers who lawfully obtain Monsanto’s patented, genetically modified soybeans do not have a right to plant those soybeans and grow a new crop of soybeans without Monsanto’s permission. “The Court closed a potential loophole in Monsanto’s long-standing business model, prevents Monsanto’s customers from setting up ‘farm-factories’ for producing soybeans that could be sold in competition with Monsanto’s soybeans, and it enables Monsanto to continue to earn a reasonable profit on its patented technology,” says Kevin Collins, JD, patent law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis
The Supreme Court appears very likely to strike down the most important provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, says Gregory P. Magarian, JD, constitution law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “This was an unusually revealing oral argument, because two justices asked questions that reflected both fundamental misunderstanding of the law and disturbing indifference to the constitutional grounding of the Voting Rights Act,” he says.
“I expected the Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA), however, two elements of this decision are very surprising: the fact that the mandate survives under the taxing power while failing under the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause, and the fact that Chief Justice Roberts was in the majority without Justice Kennedy,” says Gregory Magarian, JD, constitutional law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “Roberts’ vote looks to me, as a first impression, like a brilliant piece of judicial strategizing.” Magarian is a former U.S. Supreme Court clerk for Justice John Paul Stevens.
Gregory P. Magarian, JD, professor of law, and Timothy D. McBride, PhD, professor of public health, both at Washington University in St. Louis, are available for expert commentary on the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act decision.
The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care act has prompted some interesting and provocative issues about – and between – the president and the judicial branch, says Gregory P. Magarian, JD, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and former clerk for retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. “These alarmed reactions reflect historical ignorance,” he says.