The Supreme Court is considering whether or not it is unconstitutional for police to gather DNA from from individuals who are arrested—even if the DNA evidence results in crime-solving:
"Once the government has someone’s DNA, Shanmugam argues in his briefs, Big Brother has possession of that person’s genetic blueprint. Allowing the government to collect and keep DNA raises privacy concerns, he writes, because it contains 'information that can be used to make predictions about a host of physical and behavioral characteristics, ranging from the subject’s age, ethnicity, and intelligence to the subject’s propensity for violence and addiction.'
"Shanmugam acknowledges that laws prohibit unauthorized disclosures of DNA, but he points out that Maryland’s law allows sharing DNA for 'research' purposes. And he notes that state attorney general Gansler 'embraced' the notion that the government would eventually have everyone’s DNA, because Gansler testified before the legislature that someday 'everybody’s DNA' would be in some sort of a database, 'like with our Social Security numbers.'
"Shanmugam wrote in his brief: 'Some Fourth Amendment incursions may come dressed in sheep’s clothing. This wolf comes as a wolf.'"
PUBLISHED: April 30, 2013
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4822 words)
Greg Ousley murdered his parents when he was 14, and is now serving a 60-year sentence. A look at the debate over how we should punish minors for committing violent crimes:
"Today there are well more than 2,500 juveniles serving time in adult prisons in the United States — enough, in Indiana’s case, to fill a dedicated Y.I.A. (Youth Incarcerated as Adults) wing at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. The United States is the only Western nation to routinely convict minors as adults, and the practice has set off a growing disquiet even in conservative legal circles. In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty for juveniles was unconstitutional, and just last month it similarly banned mandatory sentencing of life without parole in juvenile homicide cases.
"But in this controversy, Greg Ousley is an unlikely representative for sentencing reform. He is not a 16-year-old doing 20 years for his third drug felony or a 13-year-old who found his father’s loaded handgun and shot a playmate. What he is, or was, is a teenage boy who planned and carried out a crime so unthinkable that to most people it is not just a moral transgression but almost a biological one."
PUBLISHED: July 19, 2012
LENGTH: 32 minutes (8035 words)
A writer goes through "the most invasive process in politics"—being vetted as a running mate by the same person who vetted Sarah Palin in 2008:
"It starts unobtrusively enough. 'So you're the vice president, and the president is visiting Seoul,' Frank begins, unspooling an elaborate scenario in which the president's hotel gets decimated by a car bomb, 200,000 North Korean troops cross the DMZ, and the Joint Chiefs urge me to take out Pyongyang with a tactical nuclear weapon. 'Do you authorize the strike?' he asks, trying to get a sense of my political judgment (as much a part of the vet now as excavating secrets). I wonder if the question is also a reaction to Frank's Palin experience, recalling the scene in Game Change in which Palin reveals that she doesn't even know that there are two Koreas. But I push those thoughts aside and dodge the question by asking for more military options, trying to cover my fecklessness by name-dropping Seal Team Six. Next, Frank hits me with an easier hypothetical, about a deadlocked Senate and a Supreme Court nominee who appears to be against gay marriage. 'Do you support the president and cast the tiebreaker in favor of the president's nominee?' he asks. Of course I do, I respond. I'm a team player. The president can always count on me."
PUBLISHED: July 17, 2012
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4870 words)
A minute-by-minute account of the Supreme Court's ruling on the American Care Act, and how some news organizations got it initially wrong:
"Into his conference call, the CNN producer says (correctly) that the Court has held that the individual mandate cannot be sustained under the Commerce Clause, and (incorrectly) that it therefore 'looks like' the mandate has been struck down. The control room asks whether they can 'go with' it, and after a pause, he says yes.
"The Fox producer reads the syllabus exactly the same way, and reports that the mandate has been invalidated. Asked to confirm that the mandate has been struck down, he responds: '100%.'
"The Bloomberg team finishes its review, having read the Commerce Clause holding and then turned the page to see that the Court accepted the government’s alternative argument that the individual mandate is constitutional under Congress’s tax power. At 10:07:32 – 52 seconds after the Chief Justice began speaking – Bloomberg issues an alert: 'OBAMA’S HEALTH-CARE OVERHAUL UPHELD BY U.S.SUPREME COURT.' Bloomberg is first, and it is right."
PUBLISHED: July 7, 2012
LENGTH: 28 minutes (7137 words)
How the Supreme Court dismantled campaign-finance reform—and how government missteps in the Citizens United case inadvertently aided in its undoing:
"Alito wanted to push Stewart down a slippery slope. Since McCain-Feingold forbade the broadcast of 'electronic communications' shortly before elections, this was a case about movies and television commercials. What else might the law regulate? 'Do you think the Constitution required Congress to draw the line where it did, limiting this to broadcast and cable and so forth?' Alito said. Could the law limit a corporation from 'providing the same thing in a book? Would the Constitution permit the restriction of all those as well?'
"Yes, Stewart said: 'Those could have been applied to additional media as well.'
"The Justices leaned forward."
PUBLISHED: May 14, 2012
LENGTH: 39 minutes (9780 words)
Most attention has been on the Supreme Court fight over The Affordable Care Act's mandate to expand health insurance to 30 million more Americans. But what's overshadowed is what the rest of the law is doing to change the business model for health care:
"The program launched in June 2009 with a checklist of quality metrics. To earn a bonus, surgeons would, among other things, need to ensure that antibiotics were administered an hour before surgery and halted 24 hours after, reducing the chances of costly complications.
"Only three doctors hit the metrics that first month, but their bonuses caught the attention of others. 'There was a lot of, "Why are those doctors getting more, and I’m not?"' Zucker says. Eight doctors got bonus payments in July; two dozen got them in August. Compliance with certain quality metrics steadily climbed from 89 percent to 98 percent in three months."
PUBLISHED: March 23, 2012
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2295 words)
Paul Clement, a former solicitor general under George W. Bush, is representing state attorneys general in the Supreme Court fight against Obama's health care law—and it's just one of seven cases he'll be arguing before the court:
"There are two ways to assess a Supreme Court argument. One is to view it as an act of persuasion. You can read Clement’s brief primarily as a letter to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who’ll likely be the deciding vote if the Court overturns Obamacare. Clement quotes Kennedy’s previous opinions throughout his brief, and he leans on broad themes rather than legalistic detail, which is a style that has worked to good effect on the justice in past cases. The other, more cynical way to view a Supreme Court argument is as an act of manipulation—to provide the justices with a plausible rationale for reaching a decision they’re already predisposed to make. If you believe that the Court’s conservative majority is itching to strike down Obamacare, then the task is to launder this decision of partisan motivation. And so Clement argues that there are, in fact, other ways to fix America’s health-care system without an individual mandate; it’s just that Congress chose not to avail itself of those means because they were politically unpopular."
PUBLISHED: March 19, 2012
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4362 words)
Retired Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens on David Garland's "Peculiar Institution: America's Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition." "Two years ago, quoting from an earlier opinion written by Justice White, I wrote that the death penalty represents 'the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes.' Professor David Garland identifies arguably relevant purposes without expressly drawing the conclusion that I think they dictate."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 29, 2010
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4038 words)
Is it too soon to petition the Supreme Court on gay marriage?
PUBLISHED: Jan. 18, 2010
LENGTH: 44 minutes (11162 words)