Supreme Court Makes Major Rulings

Supreme CourtThe nation will have to wait until Monday for the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the religious freedom challenge of two faith-based businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, against the Obama Administration’s mandate that all new health plans cover contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.  However, the Court did issue several other important decisions this week. 

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court delivered a blow to Aereo with a 6-3 ruling essentially stating that the television streaming start-up company’s business model of capturing over-the-air TV broadcast signals and delivering them online for a fee was in violation of copyright law.  Writing for the majority of the Court, Justice Stephen Breyer stated that Aereo's activities were "substantially similar" to that of a cable company and it was "not simply an equipment provider."  However, in his dissent, joined by Justices Thomas and Alito, Justice Scalia criticized this "crude ‘looks-like-cable-TV’" reasoning.  He agreed with the concern about Aereo’s business model, but believed “the proper course is not to bend and twist the Act’s terms in an effort to produce a just outcome, but to apply the law as it stands and leave to Congress the task of deciding whether the Copyright Act needs an upgrade.”

On Thursday, the Justices delivered two more rulings, both unanimous.  One declared a Massachusetts law requiring buffer zones around abortion clinics to be in violation of the First Amendment.  The other determined that President Obama did not have the authority to avoid the Senate confirmation process by “recess appointing” commissioners to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate considered itself to be in session.  Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who led 44 Senate colleagues in an amicus brief in this separation of powers case, stated, “[T]he Court’s decision is a clear rebuke of the administration’s behavior. The President made an unprecedented power grab by placing political allies at a powerful federal agency while the Senate was meeting regularly and without even bothering to wait for its advice and consent. A unanimous Supreme Court has rejected this brazen power-grab.”

The last day of the Supreme Court’s session will be Monday.  A decision on the cases of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties is expected that morning.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: June 27, 2014