Petitions of the Week
By Andrew Hamm
on May 21, 2021
at 1:20 p.m.
This week we’re highlighting petitions asking the Supreme Court to examine, among other things, the level of suspicion required before the government can search electronic devices at the border whether New York requires the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany may have her abortion covers her employee’s health plan and whether New Jersey’s ban on certain gun magazines is in violation of the Second or Fifth Amendment.
On Monday, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled in the Caniglia v. Strom case that a “public health exemption” from the arrest warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment did not justify the removal of firearms by police officers from the home of a man they believed had committed suicide have. Merchant v. Mayorkas is testing the limits of another exception to the fourth amendment, which allows for a no guarantee search at the limit. The challengers are a group of US citizens whose smartphones and laptops were searched at the border when they returned to the US from overseas travel. Although the District Court ruled that the government must have reasonable suspicions that a device contained digital contraband based on privacy concerns with electronic searches, the US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was reversed. The 1st circuit confirmed suspicious “basic” searches and approved warranty-free “extended” searches with justified suspicion. In their petition, the challengers argue that the lower courts are divided over the application of the fourth amendment to the search for electronic devices at the border.
In bigger news on Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to take Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, challenging the constitutionality of a Mississippi bill that bans almost all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. In the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany versus Lacewell, judges face a religious freedom issue, with abortion at the heart of the dispute. A New York City ordinance requires employers’ health insurance to cover abortion. An exception can be made for religious entities whose “purpose” is to promote religion and “employ” and “serve” members of the religion, but not for those with broader roles such as the poor or the people serve regardless of religion. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, which was joined by parties from other religious groups, criticized the ordinance as violating their right to religious freedom under the first amendment. The New York State Courts upheld the ordinance. As the diocese seeks review from the judges, they are looking into similar issues in the pending Fulton v City of Philadelphia case involving freedom of religion, adoption, and same-sex parents.
In another of the top Supreme Court cases slated for the next term, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v Corlett, judges will be looking to see if any New York law violates the second amendment because everyone requires it who wants to carry a gun the state to show a good reason for it. A new petition, Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs Inc. against Grewal, brings a constitutional challenge to a law in New Jersey to judges. The law prohibits the possession of firearm magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition and requires that anyone who has previously acquired such a magazine expropriate themselves, including by handing them over to law enforcement agencies. The petition argues that the ownership ban is against the second amendment and that citizens’ obligation to part with magazines violates the revenue clause of the fifth amendment.
These and other petitions of the week are listed below:
Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany v. Lacewell
Problems: (1) Whether the New York Ordinance, which requires employers’ health insurance plans to cover abortions that charge a subset of religious organizations by forcing them to cover abortions, is under “neutral” and “generally applicable” Employment Division v Smith and Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye Inc. v. City of Hialeah;; (2) whether the New York Mandate affects the autonomy of religious entities in violation of the religion clauses of the First Amendment; and (3) if, under the rule announced in Smith, the free exercise clause of the first amendment allows states to require that religious entities that oppose abortion subsidize it, Smith should be overridden.
Merchant v. Mayorkas
problem: Whether the fourth amendment requires that searches for electronic devices at the U.S. border be conducted on the basis of an arrest warrant based on a probable cause, or at least on the basis of an official finding that there is reasonable suspicion that the device is digitally contraband contains.
Association of the New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs Inc. versus Grewal
Problems: (1) Does a blanket, retrospective, and confiscating law prohibiting common law-abiding citizens from having common use of magazines violate the second amendment? and (2) whether a law expropriating citizens without compensation for property lawfully acquired and long-termed without incident violates the revenue clause.
West Virginia v Environmental Protection Agency
problem: Whether in 42 USC § 7411 (d)As a complementary provision to the Clean Air Act, Congress constitutionally empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to enact important rules – including those capable of reshaping the country’s power grids and unilaterally decarbonising virtually any industry – without restricting the agency’s requirements as long as it takes costs, air impact and energy requirements into account.
North American Coal Corp. against Environmental Protection Agency
problem: If 42 USC § 7411 (d), which empowers the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards “for any existing source” based on limits that are “achievable by using the best emissions reduction system” that has been “reasonably proven” not only grants the EPA agency the imposition of standards about technologies and methodologies that can be applied to and accessed by this existing source, but also enable the agency to develop industry-wide systems such as cap-and-trade regimes.