U.S. Supreme Court | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Supreme Court

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 29, 2011 - Free-speech law is nearing the century mark with a golden age of robust rulings under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., one that compares with an earlier golden age under the Warren court in the 1960s.

The Roberts court has protected the free speech rights of corporations, protesters at soldiers' funerals, filmmakers depicting animal cruelty, companies that mine information from databases, producers of violent video games and the teens who want to watch them as well as political candidates who shun public financing.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 27, 2011 - The U.S. Supreme Court ended this year's term Monday with two important free speech decisions, throwing out a California law that banned the sale or rental of violent video games to minors and voiding an Arizona campaign finance law that leveled the playing field for publicly funded candidates facing big private spenders.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 23, 2011 - Venturing into a new frontier of First Amendment law, the Supreme Court on Thursday gave constitutional protection to those seeking to use the vast stores of data collected by modern information technology.

The court ruled 6-3 that Vermont could not stop pharmaceutical companies from obtaining data on doctors' prescription-writing practices -- data the companies used to market their more expensive, brand-named drugs to the doctors. Vermont had tried to block this data mining of prescription information to protect the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship and to keep down health-care costs.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 20, 2011 - A 5-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday to shut the door on a class-action sex discrimination suit on behalf of 1.5 million women workers at Walmart. The women claimed that sex discrimination pervaded the company's culture from unfair pay to sexist comments by male supervisors about the "Janie Q's" working for them.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 17, 2011 - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. told a ballroom full of St. Louis lawyers that much of what they hear and read about the Supreme Court is misleading or just plain wrong.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 7, 2011 - Journalists do their job best when they worry less about getting all sides of a story and more about providing the context their readers need to understand its importance, former New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse said Wednesday night.

"To rely on one person saying this is great, and another saying this is terrible, then leaving it to the reader to figure it out, I don't think that adds much," Greenhouse said in response to a question after giving the annual James C. Millstone memorial lecture at Saint Louis University.

Greenhouse: 'He said, she said' too simplistic

Apr 4, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 4, 2011 - Linda Greenhouse was a student at Radcliffe College when James C. Millstone was writing about the U.S. Supreme Court for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. But the two shared the same tough-minded approach to journalism and love for the often misunderstood institution they covered.

Commentary: Glenn Beck's buffet-style civil rights

Aug 30, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 30, 2010 -We've all heard about the controversy of Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally, which took place on the 47th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech." The analysis has largely been stuck on the question of whether Beck should or should not have held his rally on the landmark date.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 29, 2010 - Justice John Paul Stevens delivered a valedictory dissent Monday extolling the "dynamic" character of liberty and the evolving meaning of the Constitution -- a dissent that provoked an acid, sarcastic response from Justice Antonin Scalia who accused the retiring justice of "putting democracy in peril."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 24, 2010 - The U.S. Supreme Court has blunted a popular anti-corruption law used by federal prosecutors against public officials and corporate executives, but left the law potent enough to prosecute former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"The allegations in the Blagojevich indictment are well within what the court upheld," said Kathleen F. Brickey, a Washington University law professor who is an expert on white-collar crime. "I think there is no problem under the court's holding."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 19, 2010 -  The soundbites from this week's two big U.S. Supreme Court decisions were:

  • Government can continue to hold dangerous sex offenders after they serve their sentences, and;
  • Juveniles can't be sentenced to life in prison without parole if they did not commit murders.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 17, 2010 - As the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Salazar v. Buono, I was at my grandmother’s funeral. She had passed away on Monday, at the age of 94. We held a small graveside ceremony. My father had not planned to speak; that’s not “his way,” as he put it. Yet at the end of the ceremony something led him forward and brought words from him, completely extemporaneous and very touching. I was moved by him, and deeply proud of him.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 4, 2010 - If Solicitor General Elena Kagan is able to surmount the tough confirmation fight ahead -- and most experts think she will -- then the U.S. Supreme Court will have a critical mass of women for the first time in its history.

Chunks out of the wall separating church and state

Apr 30, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 30, 2010 - The small Latin cross on Sunrise Rock in the Mojave Desert provided the U.S. Supreme Court with a chance to say what it doesn’t like about its previous decisions on the separation of church and state.

Protecting free speech - with a conservative bent

Apr 21, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 21, 2010 - One of the main accomplishments of the Roberts Supreme Court is a robust interpretation of the First Amendment. But it is a robustness with a decidedly more conservative flavor than most of the famous free speech battles of the 20th century.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 9, 2010 - Justice John Paul Stevens could go down in history as one of the most outstanding justices of the last half century, but his retirement is unlikely to make an immediate change in the direction of the court.

That was the view of St. Louis area legal experts after Stevens announced his retirement Friday, less than two weeks before his 90th birthday.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 9, 2010 - Missouri conservatives were swift to weigh in on today's announcement by U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens that he is retiring later this year, and to make the expected call for President Barack Obama to nominate a less-liberal replacement.

U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Springfield, and a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, said that the president faces " a unique opportunity at a time when government is growing too quickly and we're seeing the erosion of the core values that made America great.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 23, 2010 - If the U.S. Supreme Court were to strike down the new health-care law, it would have to reverse the modern interpretation of federal power that has existed since the Great Depression. Such a judicial counter-revolution could result in the kind of confrontation between the court and the president that occurred during the New Deal.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 8, 2009 - The two First Amendment cases that the U.S. Supreme Court heard during the first week of its regular term are unlikely to make major changes in the contours of free speech and religious freedom.

On Tuesday, the justices seemed disinclined to create the first new exception to free speech in the past 25 years. The government and animal rights advocates want the court to approve laws outlawing video depictions of cruelty to animals. But the justices buried the argument in hypotheticals suggesting the law was so broad that it would outlaw movies of bullfighting, hunting and of using geese to make foie gras.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 17, 2009 - By all accounts, Judge Sonia Sotomayor did so well during her confirmation hearing that her quick confirmation is a foregone conclusion.

But was the confirmation process a success as a civic exercise? Was Sotomayor able to say what she really believes about the role of experience in decision-making or the role of judges in policy-making? Was Sotomayor able to talk about empathy in the same way that a male nominee talked about empathy? Did the senators ask clear, succinct questions designed to elicit information? Do the American people have a better idea today than before the hearing about who Sotomayor is and how the U.S. Supreme Court works?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 14, 2009 - After a rocky start Tuesday morning, Judge Sonia Sotomayor appeared to relax and gain her footing as she promised not to decide cases based on her life experiences or the emotions of the heart. Nothing emerged during the first day of questions before the Senate Judiciary Committee that would challenge her likely confirmation.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 13, 2009 - Republicans focused their criticism on President Barack Obama more than Judge Sonia Sotomayor during the opening day of confirmation hearings for the first Hispanic named to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That focus reflects the reality that Sotomayor is almost certain to be confirmed. As Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., quipped to Sotomayor, "unless you have a complete meltdown, you're going to get confirmed."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 7, 2009 -The skirmishes of half a century of the civil rights movement were visible in last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision in a New Haven firefighters' case - a case that resonated in St. Louis and other large cities where fire and police departments were historically segregated.

The New Haven decision makes it harder for black firefighters to achieve the kind of decisions they won in the 1970s when fire departments like St. Louis and New Haven had only one black supervisory officer and when eating clubs in St. Louis fire houses refused to include black firefighters.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 30, 2009 - Dividing along ideological lines, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Monday that New Haven had discriminated against white and Hispanic firefighters in throwing out a promotional exam on which African-American firefighters had done poorly. The decision reverses a lower court decision that had been joined by Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 26, 2009 - Every so often, the usual liberal-conservative alignment on the U.S. Supreme Court breaks down. One of those times was Thursday when the court ruled 5-4 that criminal defendants can insist on confronting the analysts who prepare crime lab reports for trial.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 25, 2009 - Public school administrators cannot order the strip-search of young, adolescent girls when they are not searching for dangerous drugs and have no reason to believe the drugs are hidden in the child's underwear.

That is what the U.S. Supreme Court decided on Thursday in ruling in Redding vs. Safford that an assistant principal from Arizona violated the privacy of a 13-year-old girl in 8th grade when he ordered her to be strip-searched to find prescription Ibuprofen tablets.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 22, 2009 - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday stopped short of overturning a key part of the Voting Rights Act, but it warned Congress that "things have changed in the South" and may no longer justify the popular law's toughest enforcement tools.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 18, 2009 - The five-justice conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court refused on Thursday to recognize a constitutional right for an inmate to test DNA evidence to prove his innocence or guilt. In a separate case, the same majority made it more difficult for some victims of age discrimination to win in court.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 9, 2009 - This week's U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring judges to disqualify themselves from cases involving big campaign donors has a special resonance in Illinois, where big contributions to state supreme court candidates recently raised questions of bias.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 26, 2009 - Judge Sonia Sotomayor's life -- like that of the president who nominated her to the U.S. Supreme Court -- is a new chapter in the unfinished story of the American dream of equal opportunity. Born in Puerto Rico and rising from a childhood of poverty in a Bronx housing project, Sotomayor is a good bet to become the first Hispanic and third woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

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