Ken AshfordCampaign Finance Reform, Courts/Law, Crime, Environment & Global Warming & Energy, Supreme Court, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Lot of things coming from the Supreme Court today.  I’ll combine it all here:

(1)  In Hudson v. Michigan, a recent controversial decision involving the "knock & announce" tactics of police raids, Scalia apparently "twisted the words" of an eminent criminolgist to reach his conclusion.  The criminiologist complains here.

(2)  SCOTUS announced today that it will hear a case about combat global warming, setting up what could be one of the court ‘s most important decisions on the environment.  More here:

[Environmental groups] argue that the Environmental Protection Agency is obligated to limit carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles under the federal Clean Air Act because as the primary "greenhouse" gas causing a warming of the earth, carbon dioxide is a pollutant.

The administration maintains that carbon dioxide — unlike other chemicals that must be controlled to assure healthy air — is not a pollutant under the federal clean air law, and that even if it were the EPA has discretion over whether to regulate it.

A federal appeals court sided with the administration in a sharply divided ruling.

One judge said the EPA’s refusal to regulate carbon dioxide was contrary to the clean air law; another said that even if the Clean Air Act gave the EPA authority over the heat-trapping chemical, the agency could choose not to use that authority; a third judge ruled against the suit because, he said, the plaintiffs had no standing because they hadn’t proven harm.

It seems that SCOTUS will not be called on to determine whether or not CO2 or other greenhouses gases cause global warming, but instead, to determine with the Clean Air Act (or other laws) mandate that the EPA get involved in regulating it.

The Clean Air Act (at Section 302(g)) gives the EPA power to regulate "air pollutants", defined as "any air pollution agent or combinations of such agents, including any physical, chemical, biological, radioactive …substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambiant air".

That’s a pretty broad definition, and I fail to see how it could not include CO2.

(3)  The Supreme Court had an opportunity to revisit Buckley v. Valeo, the atrocious 1976 case about political campaign contributions which stated (in so many words) that "money is speech" and therefore protected by the First Amendment.  Unfortunately, Buckley is still good law after the case announced today.  SCOTUS (in a 6-3 decision) addressed a law in the State of Vermont which attempted to address campaign financing, striking down the law as unconstitutional (PDF).

(4) SCOTUS ruled today that the death penalty statute in Kansas doesn’t violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.  It was a close 5-4 decision, with Alito casting the swing vote.

(5) No decisions today on Hamden (dealing with Gitmo "enemy combatents") or the Texas redistricting case (where precinct lines were redrawn to give Republicans a leg-up).