U.S. Supreme Court

  • November 26, 2012

    by Amanda Simon

    The Supreme Court today revived challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate and contraceptive coverage provision. The challenge, brought by Liberty University, has now been given new life. With its 5-4 ruling in June, the Court held that the ACA and its coverage provisions were constitutional. Now, the future of the mandate is a bit hazier.

    Though the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case, Liberty University v. Geithner, in September, the Supreme Court today ordered the appeals court to rehear the challenge, opening the door to what could be a significant legal battle. Liberty University, a Christian college founded by the controversial TV preacher Jerry Falwell, brought the suit saying the ACA violated its First Amendment rights as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by requiring the school to provide insurance that could be used for abortions.

    The Fourth Circuit based its dismissal of the university’s case on standing, saying it could not challenge a tax that had yet to be implemented. However, in its ruling on the ACA, Talking Points Memo reports, “the Supreme Court dismissed the standing argument, implicitly conceding that taxpayers may challenge the ACA’s mandates, even ones that have yet to take effect — providing Liberty an opening to move forward with its case.”

  • July 28, 2011
    Guest Post

    By Lyle Denniston. Mr. Denniston is the National Constitution Center’s Adviser on Constitutional Literacy. He has reported on the Supreme Court for 53 years, currently covering it for SCOTUSblog, an online clearing house of information about the Supreme Court’s work. Denniston’s analysis was first posted at the National Constitution Center’s Constitution Daily.


    The constitutional claim:

     “The TSA’s body scanner program violates the Fourth Amendment…The TSA subjects all air travelers to the most extensive, invasive search available…The TSA rules require individuals to submit to a digital strip search that is maximally intrusive.”

    - Arguments made in a legal brief filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in its lawsuit against the Dept. of Homeland Security, decided by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, July 15, 2011.

    The constitutional response:

    The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled directly on the constitutionality of screening passengers at the nation’s airports, but has suggested in cases involving other kinds of searches that airport searches are vital to public safety.  In the first federal court test of full-body scanners, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit earlier this month rejected the constitutional challenge.

    Full-body scanners are now in use at more than 80 U.S. airports and are destined for all domestic air terminals as the primary screening method, replacing magnetometers.  A passenger who objects to this imaging can choose a physical pat-down.

    From the time the government began using full-body imaging four years ago, there have been strong protests that the technology invades personal privacy and is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.