SCOTUS weighs legality of U.S. healthcare law

The Supreme Court this morning is hearing arguments this morning on President Obama’s landmark health care law. Richard Wolf of USA Today summed up the importance of this case: “Not since the court confirmed George W. Bush’s election in December 2000 — before 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq, Wall Street’s dive and Obama’s rise — has one case carried such sweeping implications for nearly every American.”

The first question is, considering that fines for not buying health insurance don’t kick in until 2015, should the justices wait until then to hear the case?

What do you think? Should the justices wait? Should they be hearing the case at all? Should they overturn the mandatory purchase provision? Should they leave the law as is? Feel free to post your comments here.


(Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

Westchester DA to have scholarship in her name

Janet DiFiore, the Westchester District Attorney, is one of three top lawyers who will have scholarships created in their names by the Sisters of Mercy Mid-Atlantic Community, which operates two all-girls high schools.

DiFiore will be honored tonight at the Sisters of Mercy’s headquarters in Hartsdale with the late William F. Harrington, an attorney for Bleakley Platt & Schmidt, and Jane Sullivan Roberts, the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and a 1972 graduate of St. Catherine Academy in the Bronx. St. Catherine’s and Our Lady of Victory in Dobbs Ferry are run by the Sisters of Mercy.

Sister Patricia Wolf explained that the Sisters of Mercy wanted to do something to offering financial aid to struggling families who, as a result of the economic downturn, cannot afford to send their daughters to St. Catherine or Our Lady of Victory. She said the Sisters of Mercy had help from state Supreme Court Justice La Tia Martin of the Bronx to find candidates for the scholarship recognition.

DiFiore was selected for her years of public service and committment to women’s issues, particularly domestic violence, Sister Wood said. Roberts, a managing partner in a D.C. law firm, is being honored as an alumna and for her long, respected career. Harrington, who died in January, made “tremendous contributions” to the Catholic community, she said.

The $5,000 scholarships will cover 80 percent of tuition at the all-girls schools. The Sister of Mercy have started raising money to start handing out the scholarships either this September or in September 2011.

Photo: Janet DiFiore

SCOTUS decision: Don’t lock up teens for life

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that teenagers may not be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole if they haven’t killed anyone, according to the Associated Press and other news outlets.

In a 5-4 vote Monday, the court said the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution barring cruel and unusual punishment requires that young people serving life sentences must at least be considered for release. Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor voted in the affirmative. Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr. opposed the majority. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. voted with the majority in the specific case but not with the overall opinion as it applies to all young offenders who are serving life sentences for crimes other than murder.

To read the AP’s story on the decision, click here. To read The New York Times’ version, click here.

First federal trial underway on gay marriage

Does the U.S. Constitution ban states from outlawing same-sex marriage? That’s what’s a federal trial in San Francisco is trying to find out.

Here’s an excerpt from the Associated Press story:

“The proceedings, which are expected to last two to three weeks, involve a challenge to Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban approved by California voters in November 2008.”

“Regardless of the outcome, the case is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it ultimately could become a landmark that determines if gay Americans have the right to marry.”

Click here to read  the full Associated Press story on the issue.

Deskovic speaks out against Sotomayor

Great SCOTUS-related story from my colleague Jonathan Bandler in today’s Journal News.

Sonia Sotomayor, the federal appeals judge now nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court, is getting criticized for upholding the conviction now-exonerated prisoner Jeffrey Deskovic.

Deskovic spent nearly 16 years in prison for a Peekskill murder he did not commit.

In April 2000, Sotomayor and a colleague on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Deskovic’s appeal because his lawyer submitted the paperwork four days late in 1997. Deskovic was finally exonerated in 2006 of the 1989 murder of  15-year-old Angela Correa, after DNA tests matched inmate Stephen Cunningham, who confessed to the crime.

“She put procedure over justice,” Deskovic said. “We’re talking about a man’s life.”

Click here to read the full story on

SCOTUS: Constitution doesn’t guarantee DNA tests

Big ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court today: The Justices, in a 5-4 decision, declared that the U.S. Constitution does not give convicts the right to test DNA evidence to prove their innocence years after they’re found guilty.

This is a defeat for groups such as the Innocence Project, but it may not have a huge impact on the status quo because all but 4 states have laws on the books allowing convicts to have some access to DNA tests.

Click here to read the full story from the Associated Press.

Click here to read the majority opinion from SCOTUS

SCOTUS, Souter and the Senate

Federal court followers are all abuzz over who will replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice David Souter after he ends his 19-year SCOTUS career and returns to the simple life in the woods of New England.

A lot of news organizations are speculating on whom President Obama will choose. Click here to read some of those stories.

Since I don’t cover federal courts, I’m not going to wage a guess on exactly who will fill Souter’s seat. But I do think she will be wearing a skirt and heels under her black robe.

Photo courtesy of

SCOTUS rejects Mumia appeal

Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted in 1982 of killing a Philadelphia cop, won’t get a new trial. Click here to read the story from the Associated Press.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, I know how heated the arguments can get over Mumia Abu-Jamal. He is a martyr to some; a demon to others. I remember the “Free Mumia” rally in Harrisburg during then-Gov. Tom Ridge’s inaugural in January 1995 (I was a news intern at the time). I’m not sure if he’ll ever be executed, but I am sure his case will generate controversy for years to come.

Photo courtesy of Reuters

Poor Ruth

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in the hospital with pancreatic cancer. Click here to read the AP story about this.

If she is no longer able to serve on the Court, that mean President Obama must name a replacement. For those of us who are rabid fans of The West Wing (and even those who aren’t), we know that choosing a Supreme Court Justice is one of the most important, meaningful and lasting acts a president can make.

Not that Obama doesn’t have enough on his plate already.