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Posts tagged ‘Supreme Court of the United States’

Thankful Nuns Celebrate Sotomayor’s Contraceptive Mandate Stay.


Image: Thankful Nuns Celebrate Sotomayor's Contraceptive Mandate Stay

By Andrea Billups

A group of Catholic nuns celebrated Wednesday the decision by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to issue a stay in a crucial portion of the Obama healthcare law that would have forced religious groups to provide health insurance coverage for birth control and other medications designed to induce abortions.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Baltimore-based order that operates nursing homes for low-income elderly around the country, issued a statement praising the justice’s actions.

“We are grateful for the decision of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granting us a temporary injunction protecting us from the HHS contraceptive mandate,” the nuns said. “We hope and pray that we will receive a favorable outcome in order to continue to serve the elderly of all faiths with the same community support and religious freedom that we have always appreciated.

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The sisters were represented in the case by attorneys from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which issued its own statement in the case.

“We are delighted that the Supreme Court has issued this order protecting the Little Sisters,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund. “The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people  it doesn’t need to force nuns to participate.”

In defending its healthcare law, the Justice Department had argued that such a mandate for contraceptives offered “no substantial burden on their (nuns) exercise of religion.” The administration said the nuns could complete a self-certification form to opt out of the coverage requirements, turning it over to their health care provider.

“To opt out of providing contraceptive coverage, Little Sisters need only certify that they are nonprofit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and that, because of religious objections, they are opposed to providing coverage for some or all contraceptive services,” attorneys for the Justice Department defended in the appeal.

The nuns would have faced “draconian” fines if they did not comply to the original law,the Los Angeles Times noted.

The Obama administration has until Friday to file a response in the justice’s stay order, which applies only to the nun’s case. Other religious groups and corporations that object to the contraceptive mandate have filed similar motions, which are expected to be heard in March by the high court.

Sotomayor’s Tuesday ruling gave Roman Catholic Church-affiliated organizations temporary exemptions from a part of the Obamacare healthcare law that requires employers to provide insurance policies covering contraception.

She granted the temporary injunction to the Little Sisters of the Poor and Illinois-based Christian Brothers Services, plus related entities.

Sotomayor is giving the government until Friday morning to respond to her decision.

Two different appellate courts had granted stays in three other cases that were pending at the high court, filed by various organizations, including Catholic University of America and non-profits in Michigan and Tennessee, said a lawyer representing the groups. The lower-court actions meant the Supreme Court did not need to act in those cases.

The groups were all asking the courts to exempt them temporarily from the so-called contraception mandate while litigation continues. The mandate, which was to take effect for the organizations on Wednesday, is already in place for many women who have private health insurance.

The organizations accuse the federal government of forcing them to support contraception and sterilization in violation of their religious beliefs or face steep fines.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, requires employers to provide health insurance policies that cover preventive services for women, including contraception and sterilization.

The law makes an exception for religious institutions such as houses of worship that mainly serve and employ members of their own faith, but not for schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations that employ people of all faiths.

As a compromise, the administration agreed to an accommodation for nonprofits affiliated with religious entities, which was finalized in July.

Under the accommodation, eligible nonprofits have to provide a “self certification” — described by one lower-court judge as a “permission slip” — that authorizes the insurance companies to provide the coverage. The challengers say that step alone is enough to violate their religious rights.

In separate cases, the Supreme Court already has agreed to hear oral arguments on whether for-profit corporations have a basis to object to the contraception mandate on religious grounds. The court is due to hear those arguments in March and decide the two consolidated cases by the end of June.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Sotomayor Delays Obamacare’s Birth Control Mandate.


Roman Catholic Church-affiliated organizations on Tuesday obtained last-minute court injunctions that give them temporary exemptions from a part of the Obamacare healthcare law that requires employers to provide insurance policies covering contraception.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a temporary injunction to Baltimore-based Little Sisters of the Poor and Illinois-based Christian Brothers Services, plus related entities.

Sotomayor is giving the government until Friday morning to respond to her decision.

Two different appellate courts had granted stays in three other cases that were pending at the high court, filed by various organizations, including Catholic University of America and non-profits in Michigan and Tennessee, said a lawyer representing the groups. The lower-court actions meant the Supreme Court did not need to act in those cases.

The groups were all asking the courts to exempt them temporarily from the so-called contraception mandate while litigation continues. The mandate, which was to take effect for the organizations on Wednesday, is already in place for many women who have private health insurance.

The organizations accuse the federal government of forcing them to support contraception and sterilization in violation of their religious beliefs or face steep fines.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, requires employers to provide health insurance policies that cover preventive services for women, including contraception and sterilization.

The law makes an exception for religious institutions such as houses of worship that mainly serve and employ members of their own faith, but not for schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations that employ people of all faiths.

As a compromise, the administration agreed to an accommodation for nonprofits affiliated with religious entities, which was finalized in July.

Under the accommodation, eligible nonprofits have to provide a “self certification” — described by one lower-court judge as a “permission slip” — that authorizes the insurance companies to provide the coverage. The challengers say that step alone is enough to violate their religious rights.

In separate cases, the Supreme Court already has agreed to hear oral arguments on whether for-profit corporations have a basis to object to the contraception mandate on religious grounds. The court is due to hear those arguments in March and decide the two consolidated cases by the end of June.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Utah Asks Supreme Court to Block Gay Marriage.


Utah took its fight against gay marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, asking the high court to suspend same-sex unions that became legal when a judge struck down the state’s voter-approved ban.

The heavily Mormon state wants the marriages to stop while it appeals a judge’s decision, which said banning gay couples from marrying violates their right to equal treatment under the law.

In papers filed Tuesday with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the state asked her to overturn court decisions that let the marriages go forward. Sotomayor handles emergency requests from Utah and other Rocky Mountain states. She can act by herself or get the rest of the court involved.

Nearly two-thirds of Utah’s 2.8 million residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the official name of the Mormon church, and Mormons dominate the state’s legal and political circles.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby’s decision on Dec. 20 came as a shock to many in the state, which approved the ban on same-sex marriage in 2004.

Since the judge’s decision, more than 900 gay couples in Utah have obtained marriage licenses. Shelby and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have already refused to halt weddings while the state appeals.

Peggy Tomsic, the attorney for the same-sex couples who brought the case, calls gay marriage the civil-rights movement of this generation.

Shelby’s decision came late on a Friday afternoon and sent people rushing to a county clerk’s office in Salt Lake City — about 3 miles from the headquarters of the Mormon church — for marriage licenses.

The following Monday, 353 more gay and lesbian couples grabbed licenses, some camping out overnight to get in line early the next morning.

After the 10th Circuit refused to halt the ruling, the few county clerks who had refused to issue licenses changed course. Officials say things have slowed down after a run on marriage licenses that started hours after Shelby’s decision.

Since then, Gov. Gary Herbert has directed state agencies to comply with Shelby’s order, meaning gay couples are eligible for food stamps and welfare, among other benefits. The state Tax Commission said it was looking at changing tax returns to allow same-sex couples to file jointly, although it didn’t immediately give assurances that will happen.

“Until the final word has been spoken by this Court or the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Utah’s marriage laws, Utah should not be required to enforce Judge Shelby’s view of a new and fundamentally different definition of marriage,” the state said in motion papers already filed at the appellate court.

The Mormon church was one of the leading forces behind California’s short-lived ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8.

The church says it stands by its support for “traditional marriage” and hopes a higher court validates its belief that marriage is only between a man and woman.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Catholic Groups Ask Supreme Court to Block Healthcare Law.


Catholic organizations made a last-minute effort Tuesday to get the Supreme Court to block portions of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law that will force them to provide health insurance for students and employees that includes birth control.

Several organizations, including the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, Catholic University and the Michigan Catholic Conference, asked justices to block the law until their arguments are heard. Parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, go into effect on Wednesday.

On that day, “a regulatory mandate will expose numerous Catholic organizations to draconian fines unless they abandon their religious convictions and take actions that facilitate access to abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization for their employees and students,” lawyer Noel J. Francisco said in appeals to Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan.

The law requires employers to provide insurance that covers a range of preventive care, free of charge, including contraception. The Catholic Church prohibits the use of contraceptives.

The Supreme Court in 2012 upheld the constitutionality of the core of the Affordable Care Act, saying its insurance mandate and the tax penalty enforcing it fell within the power of Congress to impose taxes.

The Obama administration crafted a compromise, or accommodations, that attempted to create a buffer for religiously-affiliated hospitals, universities and social service groups that oppose birth control. The law requires insurers or the health plan’s outside administrator to pay for birth control coverage and creates a way to reimburse them.

That isn’t enough, Francisco said.

“In short, under the accommodation, applicants must authorize their third party administrators or insurance companies to provide the very products and services they find morally objectionable,” he said. “Suffice it to say, the `accommodation’ does not resolve applicants’ religious objection to participation in this regulatory scheme.”

Roberts and Kagan handle emergency requests for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Sixth Circuit. They can act by themselves or involve the rest of the court.

Federal judges have refused to issue stays in these cases, and the appeals courts have not ruled on the request for an injunction.

Francisco said 11 federal judges have entered permanent or preliminary injunctions against the birth control mandate as it applies to nonprofit religious organizations, while six have refused to do so.

Francisco said that if Catholic organizations don’t comply with the law, they face “fines of $100 a day per affected beneficiary” and if they drop their health care coverage, “they will be subject to an annual fine of $2,000 per full-time employee after the first 30 employees, and/or face ruinous practical consequences due to their inability to offer a crucial health care benefit to employees.”

He added: “In short, applicants are faced with a stark choice: violate their religious beliefs or pay potentially crippling fines.”

It was not immediately known when the justices would act.

More than 90 million individuals participate in health plans excluded from the scope of the mandate, Francisco said. “The government, however, has steadfastly refused to create a broader religious exemption, either for individuals seeking to run their businesses in accordance with their faith or for nonprofit religious organizations beyond houses of worship,” he said.

The justices already have agreed to rule on whether businesses may use religious objections to escape a requirement to cover birth control for employees. The court will consider two cases involving Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Pennsylvania company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets.

Hobby Lobby won in the lower courts while Conestoga Wood Specialties lost. The combined cases probably will be argued in late March with a decision coming by summer.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Bode George’s Acquittal: Supreme Court Erred In Judgment, Says Falana.


…Describes Judgment As “Expression of Class Solidarity”

Ayo Balogun, Lagos

Activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana has faulted the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Chief Bode George and others, quashing their ex-convict status, saying that the apex court wrongfully carried out the action.

Lagos Lawyer Femi Falana (SAN)

Lagos Lawyer Femi Falana (SAN)

Falana, in a statement said the verdict of the Supreme Court had serious implications for the nation’s criminal law jurisprudence, more so, that the finding of the apex court that the appellants were tried and convicted for contract splitting was not borne out of the records of both the trial court and the Court of Appeal.

“In other words, the Lagos High Court had convicted them of the offences of abuse of powers and disobedience to lawful order contrary to sections 104 and 203 of the Lagos State Criminal Code. However, while congratulating the appellants for removing the stigma of infamy from their names, it cannot be denied that the outcome of the case is a major setback for the anti-corruption crusade.

“In the case of Bode George & co. the appellants were tried, convicted and sentenced to various prison terms by the Lagos High Court on October 26, 2009 for abuse of powers and disobedience of lawful orders. Completely displeased with the verdict, the appellants challenged it on appeal. In its considered judgment delivered on January 21, 2011 the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the learned trial judge, Olubunmi Oyewole. Still dissatisfied the appellants further appealed to the Supreme Court. In its judgment handed down a fortnight ago, the Supreme Court set aside the concurrent findings of both the Lagos High Court and the Court of Appeal with respect to the conviction of the appellants,” he said.

He stated that in discharging and acquitting them, the apex court held that the offence of contract splitting was unknown to law at the time the appellants were tried and convicted by the Lagos High Court, saying that in his leading judgment, the judge, John Fabiyi, held inter alia, “It occurred to me that section 203 of the Criminal Code is not in tune with the dictate of section 36(12) of the 1999 Constitution.

“That being the position, the charges filed under section 203 of the said Code ostensibly for splitting contract in disobedience of lawful order by constituted authority cannot stand. I say it with utmost confidence that the same position applies to the provision of section 104 of the said Criminal Code. Acts said to have constituted arbitrary acts resulting in abuse of office are splitting of contracts which were not offences known to law at the material time.”

“It is submitted, without any fear of contradiction, that the appellants were not charged for contract splitting by the EFCC but for “abuse of powers” and “disobedience of lawful order” contrary to sections 104 and 203 of the Criminal Code of Lagos State respectively. In summarising the unassailable judgment of the learned trial judge, Clara Ogunbiyi JCA (as she then was) had, in her lead judgment, said that the appellants were arraigned “on 68 counts of offences bordering on inflation of contracts, conspiracy to disobey lawful orders and abuse of office.”

“Since both sections 104 and 203 have been part of the Criminal Code as far back as 1914, it is unbelievable that the Supreme Court held that the appellants were charged under an unknown law. The crime of disobedience to lawful order by splitting contracts was not unknown before the enactment of the Public Procurement Act, 2007. In the instant case, contract splitting was a particular of the offence and not the offence alleged against the appellants.

“But for some inexplicable reasons, the apex court substituted the particular for the offence and arrived at a wrong conclusion. Curiously, the Supreme Court conveniently ignored the finding of the Court of Appeal that the appellants violated sections 104 and 203 of the Criminal Code when they awarded contracts beyond their approval limits which were “borne out by evidence from all the witnesses on both sides,” he explained.

According to Falana, it has been established in a plethora of cases decided by the Supreme Court that an appellate court has no power to disturb the finding of a lower court which is not challenged on appeal, “however for reasons best known to the apex court, it decided to depart from the settled principle of law in discharging and acquitting the appellants. From the record of appeal, it is indisputable that the Court of Appeal had unanimously agreed with the prosecution that the intention to defraud the nation was proved beyond reasonable doubt by the conduct of the appellants who consistently approved contracts of several billions of naira beyond their approval limit.”

“There was not a single ground of appeal that attacked that particular crucial finding of the lower court. Yet the Supreme Court decided, albeit illegally, to tamper with the finding of the court below and proceeded to hold that the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the appellants.

The most embarrassing aspect of the judgment was that the Supreme Court annulled two provisions of the Criminal Code of Lagos without hearing from the Attorney-General of Lagos State in line with established practice.

“With profound respect to their Lordships, there is no legal justification whatsoever for declaring sections 104 and 203 of the Criminal Code illegal and unconstitutional. No doubt, the attention of the apex court was not drawn to the undeniable fact that section 104 of the Criminal Code is in pari materia with section 9 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers set out in Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution which has created the offence of abuse of power. Therefore, section 104 of the Criminal Code cannot be said to be unconstitutional since the same Constitution has created the offence of “abuse of powers.”

He added that as the verdict of the apex court was based on wrong legal foundation, its validity remained questionable, stressing that, although, the appellants had been exculpated, it is hoped that the Supreme Court would soon have another opportunity to reverse the highly erroneous judgment so as to restore sections 104 and 203 of the Lagos State Criminal Code which were struck down for no justifiable legal reasons.

“However, the case of Bode George & co. should not be treated in isolation as it is now the trend to strike out or dismiss charges filed against members of the bourgeoisie. To that extent, the decision of the Supreme Court should be seen as an audacious expression of class solidarity.

“Perhaps, majority of Nigerians are not aware of the fact that out of the over 400 convictions which the EFCC has secured in the 10 years of its existence, only four members of the political class have been successfully prosecuted through dubious plea bargain deals. In the circumstance, instead of wasting the meager resources allocated to the anti-graft agencies on securing convictions which are going to be set aside in favour of members of the ruling class, it is high time the Federal Government stopped charging politically exposed persons and other influential criminal suspects to court. In the atmosphere of impunity in the land, judges should equally stop the immoral practice of railroading petty criminals to jail,” he stated.

Source: African Examiner.

Supreme Court Faces Challenge Over Contraception Mandate.


The Supreme Court faces a tough challenge ahead as it decides on the Obamacare contraception mandate, using legal precedent to weigh religious freedom against government ordinances.

Analysts say it is difficult to predict how the nine justices will rule after federal appeals courts across the country have not been able to agree on whether the Obama administration can force for-profit companies to insure birth control, reports the Washington Times. 

New Medicare Warning: Obamacare Rule Changes Coming 

The Supreme Court agreed last month to hear challenges brought by two businesses that object to the mandate on religious grounds.

One of the cases involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees, which won in the lower courts. The other is an appeal from Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets, whose claims have been rejected by lower courts.

At issue is the requirement that employers who provide health insurance to their employees offer a full range of preventive benefits.

“I think this will really be an issue of religious freedom, divorced as much as possible from the specific content of the objectionable requirement,” Holly Lynch, a healthcare policy and bioethics specialist at Harvard Law School, told the Times.

Trevor Burrus, a research fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies, pointed to the 1990 Supreme Court decision in Employment Division v. Smith, when it ruled that Oregon could deny unemployment benefits to American Indians fired for using peyote, even though it was part of a religious ritual.

Referring to Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the opinion, Burrus told the Times, “The criticism he got from the religious community on that was huge.”

On the other hand, after Congress passed the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act of 1993, noted Randy Barnett, a professor at the Georgetown Law Center, the court used the law to uphold the rights of a New Mexico church to use sacramental tea seized by federal agents because it had an illegal hallucinogen.

Barnett said Chief Justice John Roberts applied the act in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente to rule that the government failed to prove that banning use of the tea met a compelling government interest.

The high court upheld virtually all of the healthcare reform law in 2012, but the administration has unilaterally delayed parts of the bill leading up to its implementation.

In July, the administration delayed the employer mandate until 2015, and last month the president announced changes to the law that allow insurance companies to continue offering policies that don’t meet all of its requirements.

The Supreme Court, though, will have the final say on the contraception mandate, which was upheld Monday in a ruling against Catholic schools in Washington, D.C.  but not in an earlier ruling in favor of Catholic educational institutions in New York City.

Courts in Chicago and Denver had previously ruled the mandate may violate religious freedom, while courts in Philadelphia and Cincinnati sided with the government.

Oral arguments in the Supreme Court are likely to be heard in March, with a ruling due by June.

New Medicare Warning: Obamacare Rule Changes Coming 

Related stories:

 

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Lisa Barron

Federal Court: No Halt to Gay Marriages in Utah.


A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that gay marriages can continue in Utah, denying a request from the state to halt same-sex weddings until the appellate process plays out.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the state’s request for an emergency stay of a federal judge’s ruling that found Utah’s same-sex-marriage ban violates gay and lesbian couples’ rights.

The judge who made that ruling, U.S. District Judge Richard Shelby, refused the state’s first request to put a halt to the marriages Monday.

Utah’s last chance to temporarily stop the marriages would be the U.S. Supreme Court.

The appellate ruling means county clerks can continue to issue marriage licenses to gays and lesbians. Nearly 700 gay couples have obtained marriage licenses since Friday, with most coming in the state’s most populous county.

Utah is the 18th state where gay couples can wed, and the sight of same-sex marriages occurring just a few miles from the headquarters of the Mormon church has provoked anger among the state’s top leaders.

“Until the final word has been spoken by this Court or the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Utah’s marriage laws, Utah should not be required to enforce Judge Shelby’s view of a new and fundamentally different definition of marriage,” the state wrote in a motion to the appeals court.

Shelby’s decision to strike down a law passed by voters in 2004 drew attention, given Utah’s long-standing opposition to gay marriage and its position as headquarters for the Mormon church.

It’s estimated that nearly two-thirds of Utah’s 2.8 million residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon church’s official name, and Mormons dominate the state’s legal and political circles.

The Mormon church was one of the leading forces behind California’s short-lived ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, which voters approved in 2008.

The church said Friday it stands by its support for “traditional marriage” and hopes a higher court validates its belief that marriage is only between a man and woman.

In court Monday, Utah attorney Philip Lott repeated the words “chaotic situation” to describe what has happened in Utah since clerks started allowing gay weddings. He urged the judge to “take a more orderly approach than the current frenzy.”

“Utah should be allowed to follow its democratically chosen definition of marriage,” he said of the 2004 gay marriage ban.

That confusion stretched to county clerks in Utah, some of whom were refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples even though they could face legal consequences for not doing so.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office warned counties they could be held in contempt of federal court if they refuse to issue the licenses.

A spokesman for the office, Ryan Bruckman, said it was not giving legal guidance to clerks’ offices.

In the meantime, state agencies have begun trying to sort out how gay marriages may affect state services.

Gov. Gary Herbert’s office sent a letter to state agencies Tuesday advising them to comply with the judge’s ruling or consult the Utah Attorney General’s Office if the ruling conflicts with other laws or rules.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services, which administers programs such as food stamps and welfare, is recognizing the marriages of gay couples when they apply for benefits, spokesman Nic Dunn told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

It’s unclear whether Utah will allow married same-sex couples to jointly file their state income tax returns next year, as they will be able to do for federal returns.

Charlie Roberts, a spokesman for the Utah State Tax Commission, said the agency still needs to consult the Utah Attorney General’s Office about the issue.

In October, the commission stipulated that because Utah did not recognize same-sex marriages, same-sex couples who had married out of state could not file jointly in Utah.

The state income tax forms do not currently require filers to specify gender, so it’s possible same-sex couples could have already filed jointly in previous years, but Roberts said the commission had never been aware of such a case.

The legal wrangling over the topic will likely continue for months. The 10th Circuit likely will hear the full appeal of the case several months from now.

Even if the 10th Circuit grants a stay or overturns the ruling, legal analyst say the marriage licenses that already have been issued probably will remain valid.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

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