What’s up with the Supreme Court, anyway?

Apparently since I had a brief window of cottage-y goodness, our local Justice Systems have been working hard to make sure I had an overwhelming amount to cover. My assumption is that they did it on purpose.

Anyway, my thought was to simplify this whole process by just giving you a bit of a summary of what’s happened in the past week or so and give you a link to a good and thorough article on the subject. I’d encourage you to read the comments in some of these pieces, they are (save for the common filler nonsense) sometimes rather insightful.


R v. Fearon

The basics of this case is that there was a robbery, a guy was arrested, and the police searched his phone as part of the general search upon arrest. His lawyer claimed that this was not legal, and the court did not accept that argument. HOWEVER, what the court established was that the reason the police were permitted to search the defendant’s phone was because he didn’t lock it, and therefore gave up an expectation of privacy. This was considered a significant win for privacy advocates.

Here’s an excellent summary of the case and an analysis of the ruling.

Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia

This landmark decision is a few hundred years too late, but hey, better late than never? The First Nations were suing for land rights in light of the BC government failing to accommodate them while performing significant forestry projects on their land. The reason this is such a significant ruling is because this is the first time the Canadian government has actually granted the title of the land to the aboriginal group. This is even more special because they are a mostly nomadic tribe, and as such as had difficulty proving a right to their land.

Environmental rights groups who helped the Tsilhqot’in are calling bullshit on the tribe, who is now in talks to allow a hydroelectric project through their newly earned land. It’s hard to judge them though, if everyone else is allowed to profit off their land, why shouldn’t they?


Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

Let’s get this one out of the way. There’s been plenty of talk about this case and its implications, so I’ll keep it brief. Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to pay for women to get contraceptives due to their religious beliefs (vasectomies and condoms are cool though). The Supreme Court, in a decision that stunned most of the population and nearly half of the Supreme Court, accepted their reasoning that a For-Profit Corporation can have a religious affiliation just as a Not-For-Profit and thus should be entitled to the same protections. While still getting most of their products from China, home to the One Child Policy, and investing in companies that develop contraceptives.

There are far too many opinion pieces on this, so I was going to include just a single article detailing the actual ruling but given the new changes I will also include an excellent article on Mother Jones that should give you better context on how this may fall out.

 Harris v. Quinn

This one is actually a bit more complicated than Religious-Doofs-Trying-To-Turn-The-Clock-Back-To-1820 so let me take a quick step back and explain how unions work. Union representatives are employees who either part time or full time take on the role of a union steward. There is usually also a committee or a bargaining unit, and employees volunteering their time to facilitate a (theoretically) better work environment and fair pay. The way those efforts are funded is through union dues paid by those who benefit. This has been long criticized by those who don’t feel they benefit from this, or don’t feel that the benefit is worth the loss of income.

Anyway, this case brings this debate before the court. Essentially, a group of employees were not considered eligible to join the union, and then they were. Ten years later, some aren’t happy about having to pay union dues, so funded by a significant Right to Work group, they took their issue to court. The court’s decision was that these employees can actually continue to benefit from union membership, they just don’t need to pay for it. There has also been talk of additional challenges that would see further reductions in how unions can collect fees.

This article provides an excellent background on the ruling and it’s possible impacts on unions nationwide.


S.A.S. v. France

On the other side of the pond, the European Court upheld France’s controversial new law banning the Muslim face veil. It is notable that an increasing number of European nations are seeing these types of laws in place, including Belgium and parts of Italy and Spain.

What I find interesting about this ruling is the surprisingly small number of exceptions to what should be a simple matter of racist/sexist policy building by President Sarkozy. In fact, they stipulate in no uncertain terms that it “was not expressly based on the religious connotation of the clothing in question but solely on the fact that it concealed the face”. The exceptions spelled out are all situational, which suggests to me that there is a potential there of prosecuting a citizen who, say, wore a bandana over their face as they protest an unpopular law. France has known its share of public revolts and it would not entirely surprise me if they took on this type of legislation designed to make protestors more vulnerable to identification by hiding it in more acceptable Islamophobia.

In local news, my mayor continues to be a twat. I can’t even be bothered to talk about it today.


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