What is the extent of government authority to “protect” the common good during a public health crisis? Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court denied a California church’s request to stop the enforcement of certain public health rules that negatively affected the way the church conducted religious services. In doing so, the Court relied upon the 115 year old Jacobson case that upheld a mandatory smallpox vaccination. The language used by the Court in Jacobson is frightening: “The possession and enjoyment of all rights are subject to such reasonable conditions as may be deemed by the governing authority of the country essential to the safety, health, peace, good order, and morals of the community.” We discuss where that standard leads.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of the United States — in a 6-3 decision in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County — held that homosexual and transgender people are protected from employment discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act prohibits discrimination against anyone “because of sex.” Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority, concluded that firing someone from a job due to their homosexuality or transgender status is prohibited by that language.
In the conclusion to the rogue elector saga we have been following, the Supreme Court applied what I refer to as the “Erosion Doctrine” to unanimously hold that states can turn their presidential electors into mere rubber stamps, thus depriving them of any discretion when selecting the president. Over two centuries, the power of electors to use their discretion slowly eroded until this case, decided earlier this year, officially killing off that discretion and an original part of the Constitution with it.
Earlier this year, SCOTUS overturned precedent by a 6-3 margin and held that states cannot convict someone of a criminal offense unless the jury verdict is unanimous. Evangelisto Ramos had been convicted by a 10-2 verdict and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in Louisiana. Ramos was granted a new trial by this decision.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a controversial 5-4 decision, overruled a lower court order expanding Wisconsin statutory deadlines for submitting mail-in ballots due to the state government’s response to the Coronavirus. The five justice majority were all appointed by Republican presidents. The four justice minority were all appointed by Democratic presidents. Was this a strictly partisan outcome?
I could drink, legally, during my freshman year of college, but not my sophomore year. Then I was legal again my junior year. Why? Because of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. What authority does Congress have to set the drinking age for the states? That’s what South Dakota wanted to know. South Dakota said Congress had no such authority. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, disagreed. They upheld the act. We discuss it.