SCOTUS decisions


MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday, the 28th of June, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

The Supreme Court handed down more decisions yesterday. This finishes up the term before summer recess.

First (Commerce v New York), the contentious dispute over whether the 2020 Census may include the question, “Are you a citizen of the United States?” 

The opinion is 5-4. It’s a fractious decision with many different rationales and partial dissents. The majority holds Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross needs to give a better explanation of why he wants to add the question. Ross’ stated reason was that accurate citizenship data is needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

You can hear Justice Sonia Sotomayor doubt Ross’s motivation during argument in April:  

SOTOMAYOR: This seems like he thought of something: I want to add a citizenship question. I don’t know why, but this is a solution in search of a problem. I’ve got to find a problem that fits what I want to do.

The justices decided the question does not violate the Enumeration Clause or the provisions challenger New York cited. 

It now becomes a timing issue, because the justices sent the case back to lower court to work out that “better reason” from the Commerce Department. The government has said it needs enough time to print the census forms and carry out its constitutionally mandated job of counting the people. 

A second decision (Carpenter v Murphy) reschedules a case argued in December for re-argument this fall. This asks whether federal courts or tribal courts ought to handle certain matters that occur on tribal lands. 

And finally (Mitchell v Wisconsin), the question of whether police can draw blood from an unconscious person without a warrant. Five justices say yes, because enforcement of drunk driving laws depends on it. You can hear the eventual ruling in this comment from Chief Justice John Roberts during argument: 

ROBERTS: I guess I would say in terms of the unconstitutional conditions thing, it’s been pretty well established, I think uniformly, that driving on the roads is considered a privilege and not a right, to which certain conditions can — can attach. 

Gerald Mitchell’s blood alcohol content was 11 times the legal limit. He argued the draw violated his constitutional rights because he did not consent to it.  But the majority of justices disagreed.


(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) In this June 20, 2019 file photo, the Supreme Court is seen under stormy skies in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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