If You May, Your Honor

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are entitled, under the First Amendment, to the freedom of speech. If you heard of this from any media outlet, it is likely that what you heard was blown out of proportion. To convince myself, I read the opinion of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

It is true that the court-lifted restrictions on how much money corporations can spend on election campaigns, but they are also obligated by the same ruling to disclose while filing their taxes how much money they spent and on whom.

Let me assure you that whatever you will hear in the future about the Supreme Court will certainly be controversial and worth your attention.

On Oct. 3, 2011, the Supreme Court started its new term. On the docket are President Obama’s health care law, Arizona’s immigration reform bill and an affirmative action case concerning college admission. The implications of these three cases are of historic significance to anyone who reads the New York Times or watches Fox News, both of which I do religiously. I must admit that the latter never disappoints.

The Supreme Court justices can strike down part or all of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, empower the local police with “reasonable suspicion” to question and arrest illegal immigrants, and omit the queries regarding race in college admission applications.

All of this can happen if, of course, the Supreme Court justices choose to hear these cases. Yes, the Supreme Court justices are entitled to choose the case they wish to hear. It is one of the differences between the Supreme Court and the federal appellate courts.

The other differences, if there are any, should be left to UC Irvine law students.

The Affordable Care Act is the essence of President Obama’s legacy. The Republicans have anointed themselves to tarnish that legacy with reasonable cause, of course. The Court, if it hears the case, will likely deliver its decision next year around the time when presidential campaigns are in full swing. The Court’s ruling will predict President Obama’s reelection prospects.

“Obamacare,” as it is called with a spiteful undertone, states that Americans ought to have health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty. Republicans think that regulating a consumer’s will is simply unconstitutional. It is a political issue unlike any other than the Court has ruled on recently.

The Court has five Republican appointees and four Democratic not that that has anything to do with the rulings or so one should believe. Chief Justice Roberts is strictly apolitical as he said justices shouldn’t be a part of the “pep rally” that is the State of the Union address.

Historically speaking, the Court has leaned toward the conservative side so the ruling on Arizona’s immigration bill is a test of the court’s ideological preferences as well.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. mentioned legal precedence (“stare decisis”) more than once in his confirmation hearing. But the Court cannot adhere to the stare decisis principle because there is no precedence concerning immigration. It is true that the local police are liable to abuse their authority, but lower courts have blocked the bill because of a different reason: immigration is under the federal government’s authority.

It is likely that the Court will side with the federal government because the bill provides police officers with unprecedented authority to question and detain suspected illegal immigrants.

Two white students who were denied admission to University of Texas believe that the University favored minority applicants. Their appeal urges the court to omit question concerning race in college admission applications. There is legal precedence, which the Roberts Court is likely to follow: Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1. In a 5-4 decision, the court outlawed Seattle schools from assigning students to specific schools in order to gain racial diversity.

Last week, the court heard arguments concerning copyright renewal. The justices discussed whether it was a violation of copyright laws when Jimi Hendrix performed his rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Sumeet Singh is a fourth-year political science major. He can be reached at sumeets@uci.edu.