Getting in the back for your visa, toxic waste wins, and sometimes even big business losses. It truly was an eventful morning at the Supreme Court.
It was one of those mornings at the nation’s highest court. While not necessarily an info dump of epic proportions, the decisions made on these cases are still important (if not a little confounding). Here are some of the ones we thought we would discuss.
Happy birthday! Now go to the end of the line. (Scalabba v. Cuellar de Osorio)
Unless you are going to a bar on your 21st birthday, you ain’t cutting no lines. According to the Supreme Court anyway. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that children of immigrants who are awaiting visas for the US would have to go back of the visa line when they turn 21 years of age.
This particular case is interesting because it puts the Obama Administration and immigration advocates on opposite sides of the issue. Immigration advocates claim that approving families for green cards can sometimes take years, creating a situation where tens of thousands of families are separated due to the children aging out of the system each year. The Obama Administration however, feels that asking immigrant adults to go back into the system is the only fair way when it regards to handing out visas.
Even though five justices did agree to the outcome of the case, they were split over their reasoning. Justice Kagan wrote an opinion for three of the justices – herself, Justices Kennedy, and Ginsburg – explaining the law, in how it is written, preserves a place for the child, but not for an adult. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia wrote a separate opinion agreeing with the verdict but not the reasoning behind it. Justice Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion claiming that the verdict didn’t match the spirit of the law, in how it’s currently written.
Justices that Supported the Decision: Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsberg, and Kagan
Justices that Dissented: Thomas, Breyer, Alito, and Sotomayor
Hey, look on the bright side, one of you just might be the next Toxic Avenger! (CTS Corp. v. Waldburger)
With a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled that homeowners in North Carolina couldn’t sue a company that contaminated their drinking water decades ago. Ok that makes it sound like we’re all monsters. Let me explain.
The electronics manufacturer CTS Corp. used to have a manufacturing plant in North Carolina. It had been there for many years, but in 1987 the company sold the property and moved the plant’s location. It wasn’t until 2009 that the residents in that area discovered that the plant had contaminated the well water with various chemicals that have caused cancers, reproductive disorders, and birth defects among its residents. So as you may have guessed, people were pissed and wanted to sue. Well… there’s a slight problem.
Under North Carolina state law, a plaintiff’s right to seek damages against a company ends 10 years after the last contamination occurred. Yet under federal law, a victim can sue up to two years after they discovered the cause of their illness.
Writing the opinion, Justice Kennedy explained that “for federal pre-emption is particularly weak where Congress has indicated its awareness of the operation of state law in a field of federal interest, and has nonetheless decided to stand by both concepts and to tolerate whatever tension there is between them.” In layman’s terms, legally the state law and federal law are talking about two different things. The state law is talking about “statute of repose” (the time you can sue somebody) and the federal law is talking about “statute of limitations” (what you can and can’t sue). The opinion also urged Congress to fix the language in the law so problems like this won’t happen in the future. Which we know will definitely happen.
Justice Ginsberg wrote the dissent, along with Justice Breyer, in showing concern over giving the contaminators the green light to conceal hazardous waste until the repose period is over.
Hold on, that didn’t make anything better! Oh God! WE ARE HISTORY’S GREATEST MONSTERS!!!!
Justices that Supported the Decision: Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Kagan, Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor
Justices that Dissented: Ginsberg and Breyer
After that legal shit show, I thought we could all get some faith put back into the system. It’s a safe bet to say tobacco companies (ie R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, and Lorillard Tobacco) and big oil (ie BP) aren’t necessarily looked kindly on by the general public. Regardless these companies asked the courts to repeal class action cases that they are currently part of.
BP was protesting the more than $600 million in economic damages claimed to have happened because of their Gulf of Mexico oil spill back in April 2010. In the case of tobacco companies, R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, and Lorillard Tobacco were contesting a $70 million court judgment that would make them have to pay Florida smokers. Both appeals were thrown out by the Supreme Court earlier today. So in other words…
THE SYSTEM WORKS!!!