Put Away Your Party Hats: Here Is How the Supreme Court Ruled On a Few Other Cases Besides Same-Sex Marriage

*Originally published on RYOT.org on June 29th, 2015 by Sean Sawyer*

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling granting the right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states was a historic moment for the United States, but while you’ve been celebrating history, SCOTUS has been hard at work. Today, the Justices of the Supreme Court gave the opinion of the court for three cases involving the EPA regulating emissions, the use of midazolam in lethal injections, and gerrymandering.

Michigan v. EPA

In 2011, Obama’s administration implemented the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards rule. The EPA began regulating emissions from smokestacks that contain mercury and other toxins proven to be harmful to those in the area, especially children.

The court ruled in a 5-4 majority that the EPA did not properly control the cost of implement the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards rule so they, therefore, need to cease the further implementation of it immediately. But the rule is not thrown out by this ruling, only halted until more decisive cost-benefit analysis comes out.

The challengers claimed that by abiding by the rule annually cost $9.6 billion dollars with only a benefit of $4-6 million of reduced emissions. The EPA claimed that the benefit is closer to $37 billion accounting for the health risks to pregnant mothers and children, 11,000 deaths, and the 500,000 days of missed work that are a result of these emissions.

Justices in the Majority: Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas

Justices Dissenting: Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor

Glossip v. Gross

After several botched executions using the drug midazolam, three Oklahoman death row inmates filed a case against its use in lethal injections claiming it violates their 8th amendment right of prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The drug is supposed to sedate the inmate so that the lethal injection can be administered more humanely. But several times the drug has failed to keep the inmate sedated creating a painful and inhumane execution.

In a 5-4 majority, the court ruled against the inmate’s case claiming that no alternative execution method has proven more humane to the already constitutionally just death penalty. Alito stated in the majority opinion, “Based on the evidence that the parties presented to the District Court, we must affirm. Testimony from both sides supports the District Court’s conclusion that midazolam can render a person insensate to pain.”

Some of the dissenting Justices went a step further on the case. Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg took this opportunity to look at the broader issue at hand. They believe that the death penalty should be reviewed as they see the death penalty in general violating the 8thamendment and not just the way the administer the execution.

Justices in the Majority: Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas

Justices Dissenting: Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor

Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

Several states – Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Jersey and Washington – have already set up independent commissions to redistrict their states, and SCOTUS reaffirmed Arizona’s right to do so. SCOTUS came to a 5-4 decision that declared that legislators are not allowed to gerrymander but rather an independent commission should draw district borders. The SCOTUS had to decide if gerrymandering fell under the role of legislators giving by Article 1 Section 4 of the US Constitution which states, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof…”

The idea of reforming the practice of gerrymandering is to take the partisan nature out of it. Legislators could easily draw district borders making it far easier for their party to win elections. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave the majority opinion of the court, siding with the more liberal Justices, by stating, “Arizona voters sought to restore the core principle that voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”

Justices in the Majority: Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, Kennedy, Sotomayor

Justices Dissenting: Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas


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