Supreme Court rules in discrimination, deportation cases


MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 24th of March, 2020. Thanks for joining us today for The World and Everything in It. Good morning to you!  I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Well, the Supreme Court justices handed down four opinions yesterday.  

First (Kahler v Kansas), the insanity defense. The justices decided by 6 to 3  that the Constitution does not require states to use a particular insanity test. Kansas charged James Kahler with capital murder after he shot and killed four family members. He argued the state violated his due process rights because it permits conviction of a mentally ill person who can’t tell right from wrong. 

You can hear the eventual ruling in this comment from Justice Samuel Alito during argument in October:

ALITO: If that were the general rule that you cannot be convicted if you believe that what you’ve done is moral, that would revolutionize criminal law.

The court emphasized the insanity defense sits “at the juncture of medical views of mental illness and moral and legal theories of criminal culpability.” Hence, the proper place to try out new approaches is a project for the states, not Constitutional law.

BASHAM: Next (Comcast Corp v Nat’l Assoc. Of African-American Owned Media), the court held that if you sue alleging race discrimination in contractual matters, you must show race was the cause of a decision not to enter into a contract.  The lower court held a plaintiff need only show race as one factor among many. But in a unanimous vote, the court holds plaintiffs to a more demanding standard.

REICHARD: Third (Allen v Cooper): a unanimous decision is a blow to a videographer who copyrighted images of a pirate ship submerged off the shore of North Carolina. The state posted online some of his images of Blackbeard’s ship that wrecked in 1718.  He sued the state for copyright infringement, but the justices held the Constitution grants states sovereign immunity from federal lawsuits.

BASHAM: And finally (Guerrero-Lasprilla v Barr) in a 7-2 ruling, the court broadens the scope of when federal courts can review deportation orders. This case involved two men who were deported after drug convictions. They wanted to reopen their cases, but did after the deadline to file.  Courts of Appeal only consider questions of law in immigration cases. But is a time limit about fact, or law, or both? The Supreme Court favored the two men in this case, who now have a chance to learn from lower court whether they did wait too long.


(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) In this March 16, 2020 photo, a tree blooms outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, March 16, 2020. 

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