Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court

I am withholding comment on the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case until I get a chance to actually read the opinion for myself. All too often, commentary about emotionally charged decisions is colored by political affiliation (“Hobby Lobby Decision a Victory for Women, Supporters Say,” is the headline for CNS News; “Alito’s ‘Hobby Lobby’ Opinion is Dangerous and Discriminatory,” is the headline for the Nation) and I find it’s better to read it myself than rely on news summaries.

Honest Services Fraud and the SCOTUS

The Supreme Court of the United States has granted Jeff Skillings petition for a writ of certiorari. (Source: Mark Sherman; AP)  Jeff Skillings, as you must be aware is the former CEO of Enron, and one of the charges for which he was convicted way back in the day was for “honest services fraud,” a term which is being addressed by the SCOTUS in another couple of cases: that of Lord (is he still a Lord, actually?) Conrad Black, and that of Bruce Weyhrauch, an Alaskan lawmaker.  (Source: Nathan Koppel; WSJ)

As the NY Times’ Adam Liptak notes, the statute itself is quite vague, and has been ripe for the SCOTUS to review it ever since Congress enacted it in the 1980s in direct response to an unfavorable SCOTUS decision.  It bears mentioning, despite the hopeful tone to some of the articles discussing the granting of the writs, that the Court has had the opportunity in the past to evaluate the honest services fraud statute, and hasn’t.  This suggests to me, that the Court will try to find some way to keep it alive while limiting some of its scope.


Well, it’s been a while since I last posted.  Not like there hasn’t been wonderful things that have happened since December. A movie about a mall cop, for example, is numero uno at the box office.  And the weather has been very nice lately, which is always nice.  Oh, and something about an inauguration, that happened too.

In any event, a very controversial law is no more. COPA (or the Child Online Protection Act) was passed in 1998, and it imposed criminal penalties against those who posted “any material” that was “harmful” to minors.  (This was not one of the great things to come out of the Clinton era.)  The case bumped along for a decade, as detailed in this CNET article, until the Third Court of Appeals in Philly ruled that there were less-restrictive ways to keep minors from seeing “harmful” material.  The government petitioned for a writ of certiorari, but the SCOTUS has declined to hear the case.

So COPA is dead.

Censorship Before the SCOTUS

Well, today the Supreme Court of the United States is going to tackle one of those juicy cases.  You know, the type of case that will probably end up in an undergraduate pre-law class.  While I think cases like Pasquantino (the feds so too can use the wire fraud statute to prosecute failure to pay Canada’s excise taxes, so there!) and Alvarez-Machain (sure, it’s fine for the DEA to kidnap someone in Mexico and bring him to the United States for trial) are extraordinarily interesting, those cases never seem to end up in Intro to Law 101. However, today the SCOTUS will hear arguments in United States v. Eurodif, which tackles the thorny issue of whether federal anti-dumping laws apply to contracts for uranium enrichment….

Just kidding.  Eurodif isn’t going to challenge the canon.  But FCC v Fox Television Stations probably will, because it deals with the First Amendment and it deals with the FCC.  Everyone hates the FCC, it seems, whether it’s because it’s too lax or too restrictive (at the same time!), and I wouldn’t mind seeing the FCC lose on this one.  More on the case at the SCOTUSblog.