It was a very busy day at the U.S. Supreme Court this morning, despite the fact that the health care rulings were not announced.
First, the high court announced that Montana’s limits on corporate campaign spending are unconstitutional and violate the Citizens United ruling. The state’s Corrupt Practices Act was approved in 1912, after a billionaire bought a U.S. Senate seat, and offered the justices a chance to revisit its odious campaign finance decision. Without even hearing oral arguments, the justices struck down Montana’s law in a 5-4 ruling.
Second, in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, the court majority ruled that a minor can’t be sentenced to life without parole. The cases involved robbery and murder cases involving 14 year olds. This, too, was a 5-4 ruling. (Justice Alito felt so strongly about his dissent that he read it aloud, which isn’t common.)
And finally, there was a more nuanced ruling on Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB1070, in which the justices (sans Justice Kagan, who did not participate) upheld one part of the law but struck down other sections.
The part of the law the justices upheld requires police officers stopping someone to make efforts to verify the person’s immigration status with the Federal Government.
The justices struck down three other parts of the law: (1) One making it a crime for an illegal immigrant to work or to seek work in Arizona; (2) One which authorized state and local officers to arrest people without a warrant if the officers have probable cause to believe a person is an illegal immigrant; (3) And one that made it a state requirement for immigrants to register with the federal government.
It’s going to take a little while to sort all of the implications, but at first blush, this looks like a win for the Obama administration, which has fought against the Arizona law.
Justice Scalia announced that he supports every provision of SB1070, and complained about President Obama implementing the goals of the DREAM Act – a policy that has nothing to do with the case – reinforcing the worst suspicions about Scalia being a Republican activist in a justice’s robe.
Also note, Mitt Romney will be campaigning in Arizona today – he’s described the state’s anti-immigrant law as a “model” for the nation – and will probably be pressed for a reaction to today’s announcement. It’ll be interesting to see how well he dodges the questions.
The health care ruling(s) will be handed down on Thursday.