Justices: Can’t make employers cover contraception

HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC., ET AL., v. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, ET AL. Opinion of the court.

Justices: Can’t make employers cover contraception

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that some companies with religious objections can avoid the contraceptives requirement in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, the first time the high court has declared that businesses can hold religious views under federal law.

The justices’ 5-4 decision, splitting conservatives and liberals, means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under the health insurance plans of objecting companies.

Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion, over a dissent from the four liberal justices, that forcing companies to pay for methods of women’s contraception to which they object violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He said the ruling is limited and there are ways for the administration to ensure women get the birth control they want.
Related: Justice Ginsburg’s dissent

But White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the decision creates health risks for women, and he said Congress should take action to make sure they get coverage.

“President Obama believes that women should make personal health care decisions for themselves rather than their bosses deciding for them,” Earnest said. “Today’s decision jeopardizes the health of the women who are employed by these companies.”

Contraception is among a range of preventive services that must be provided at no extra charge under the health care law that Obama signed in 2010.

Two years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts cast the pivotal Supreme Court vote that saved the law in the midst of Obama’s campaign for re-election. On Monday, Roberts sided with the four justices who would have struck down the law in its entirety, holding in favor of the religious rights of closely held corporations, like the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby chain of arts-and-craft stores that challenged the contraceptives provision.

Hobby Lobby is among roughly 50 businesses that have sued over covering contraceptives. Some, like the two involved in the Supreme Court case, are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized.

But Monday’s ruling would apply more broadly to other companies that do not want to pay for any of the 20 birth control methods and devices that have been approved by federal regulators.

Alito said the decision is limited to contraceptives. “Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs,” he said.
He suggested two ways the administration could deal with the birth control issue. The government could simply pay for pregnancy prevention, he said. Or it could provide the same kind of accommodation it has made available to religious-oriented, not-for-profit corporations.

Those groups can tell the government that providing the coverage violates their religious beliefs. At that point, creating a buffer, their insurer or a third-party administrator takes on the responsibility of paying for the birth control. The employer does not have to arrange the coverage or pay for it. Insurers get reimbursed by the government through credits against fees owed under other provisions of the health care law.

That accommodation is the subject of separate legal challenges, and the court said Monday that profit-seeking companies could not assert religious claims in such a situation.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was part of the majority, also wrote separately to say the administration can solve its problem easily. “The accommodation works by requiring insurance companies to cover, without cost sharing, contraception coverage for female employees who wish it,” Kennedy said. He said that arrangement “does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs.”

Houses of worship and other religious institutions whose primary purpose is to spread the faith are exempt from the requirement to offer birth control.
In a dissent she read aloud from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the decision “potentially sweeping” because it minimizes the government’s interest in uniform compliance with laws affecting the workplace. “And it discounts the disadvantages religion-based opt-outs impose on others, in particular, employees who do not share their employer’s religious beliefs,” Ginsburg said.

Leaders of women’s rights groups blasted the decision by “five male justices,” in the words of Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

The administration said a victory for the companies would prevent women who work for them from making decisions about birth control based on what’s best for their health, not whether they can afford it. The government’s supporters pointed to research showing that nearly one-third of women would change their contraceptive if cost were not an issue; a very effective means of birth control, the intrauterine device, can cost up to $1,000.

The contraceptives at issue before the court were the emergency contraceptives Plan B and ella, and two IUDs.
A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 85 percent of large American employers already had offered such coverage before the health care law required it.

Most working women will probably see no impact from the ruling, corporate health benefits consultants expect. Publicly traded companies are unlikely to inject religion into their employee benefit plans, said Mark Holloway, director of compliance services at the Lockton Companies, an insurance broker that serves medium-sized and growing employers.
“Most employers view health insurance as a tool to attract and retain employees,” said Holloway. “Women employees want access to contraceptive coverage, and most employers don’t have a problem providing that coverage. It is typically not a high-cost item.”
It is unclear how many women potentially are affected by the high court ruling. Hobby Lobby is by far the largest employer of any company that has gone to court to fight the birth control provision.

The company has more than 15,000 full-time employees in more than 600 crafts stores in 41 states. Hobby Lobby is owned by the family of David Green, evangelical Christians who also own Mardel, a Christian bookstore chain.

The other company is Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. of East Earl, Pennsylvania, owned by a Mennonite family and employing 950 people in making wood cabinets.

The court’s decision was apparently quite narrowly written to only apply to privately & family run businesses. However, I believe these decisions shall be more the norm at 5-4 and narrowly written; thereby excluding a wide array of court cases.

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Supreme Court bans warrantless cell phone searches

Supreme Court bans warrantless cell phone searches, updates privacy laws
Major ruling updates privacy laws for 21st century

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The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police cannot go snooping through people’s cell phones without a warrant, in a unanimous decision that amounts to a major statement in favor of privacy rights.
Police agencies had argued that searching through the data on cell phones was no different than asking someone to turn out his pockets, but the justices rejected that, saying a cell phone is more fundamental.

The ruling amounts to a 21st century update to legal understanding of privacy rights.

“The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the unanimous court.

“Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple— get a warrant.”
Justices even said police cannot check a cellphone’s call log, saying even those contain more information that just phone numbers, and so perusing them is a violation of privacy that can only be justified with a warrant.
The chief justice said cellphones are different not only because people can carry around so much more data — the equivalent of millions of pages of documents — that police would have access to, but that the data itself is qualitatively different than what someone might otherwise carry.
He said it could lay bare someone’s entire personal history, from their medical records to their “specific movements down to the minute.”
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The chief justice cited court precedent that found a difference between asking someone to turn out his pockets versus “ransacking his house for everything which may incriminate him” — and the court found that a cellphone falls into that second category.
Complicating matters further is the question of where the data is actually stored. The Obama administration and the state of California, both of which sought to justify cell phone searches, acknowledged that remotely stored data couldn’t be searched — but Chief Justice Roberts said with cloud computing, it’s now sometimes impossible to know the difference.
The court did carve out exceptions for “exigencies” that arise, such as major security threats.

Riley v. California

Read more: http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jun/25/supreme-court-bans-warrantless-cell-phone-searches/#ixzz35gzGLf9f
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A Win For The Fourth Amendment

Cops Denied Immunity After Tearing Apart a Woman’s Car When K-9 Alerted to Beef Jerky

“I’ve got probable cause to search the vehicle without her permission or not”

June 23, 2014

A federal appeals court has ruled that a pair of southern Utah police officers did not have probable cause to search a California woman’s car, keeping her on the side of the road for hours.

Police claimed they had probable cause to the vehicle of 54-year-old Sherida Felders because she was nervous, had an air freshener and her license plate holder said “Jesus.”

Utah State Trooper Brian Bairett was running a speed trap on I-15 when Felders drove through. Bairett accused Felders and her two teen sons in the vehicle of transporting cocaine.

A K-9 unit from a different department was called to the scene. Bairett explained the situation to the dog’s handler, Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Malcom.

“This lady — you know, I walk up to the car and I see air fresheners in the center console and… I start talking to her, you know, just ‘So where, you heading to?’ ‘Oh going to Colorado,’ blah, blah, blah,” Trooper Bairett said. “To me, I’ve got probable cause to search the vehicle without her permission or not, so I figured the dog would be the best route to go right now.”

Trooper Bairett ordered two teenage passengers out of the Jeep, along with the Chihuahua that was riding in the back. Deputy Malcom explained he intended to leave the door open when the teenagers got out. Dashcam footage recorded what happened.

“Nice of them to leave the door open for you,” Deputy Malcom said.

“Yeah it was, wasn’t it?” Trooper Bairett responded.

According tot he lawsuit, then the drug dog, named Duke, walked around the car and jumped right through the open door without alerting. Once inside, the dog alerted to the center console. It had two packages of beef jerky. The dog next alerted on the driver’s door, which contained nothing. The lower court found the search improper and refused to grant immunity, so Deputy Malcom appealed.

“We agree with the district court that Malcom did not have probable cause to search the car prior to Duke’s alert and that the law was then clearly established that, absent probable cause, facilitating a dog’s entry into a vehicle during a dog sniff constitutes an unconstitutional search,” Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich wrote for the appellate panel. “Taking the facts in the light most favorable to Felders, we conclude that fact questions exist regarding the timing of Duke’s alert and Malcom’s possible facilitation prior to an alert. As a result, we affirm the district court’s decision to deny Malcom summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds.”

The court rejected Deputy Malcom’s attempt to argue that he was just working on his fellow officer’s claim that there was probable cause. The appellate judges said the deputy should have known better.

Citizen Pulls Over Drunken Cop, Locks Him in his Own Cruiser

Citizen Pulls Over Drunken Cop, Locks Him in his Own Cruiser

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Meet Russell George. Russell was driving Stott Street one Sunday night last year, when he noticed a police van driving fast and recklessly.

The van was swerving and turned into oncoming traffic.

“At this point I was concerned about the safety of other road users,” self-employed George told The Witness.

“He suddenly jammed on his brakes and came to a complete stop.”

“I got out of my car and went towards him and I asked him if he knew what he was doing. He started his car and carried on driving,” he said.

Continuing to drive recklessly, the policeman turned into Logan Road and came to a stop at the Howard Road intersection.

George decided it would be best to call the police. He was told the police would be there shortly.

“After five minutes, no one had arrived. So I jumped out of my car and I approached the driver’s side and asked him to come out. He looked at me and I could smell that he had been drinking.

“I asked him again, and he refused.

“I then grabbed his keys, pulled him out and locked him in the back of his own van,” George said.

He added that the police van was badly damaged, as if it had been involved in an accident.

Witnesses said that the officer who’d been locked in the back of the van began crying.

Russell George, we salute you sir! This took some serious guts and you are very lucky that the responding officers did not beat you down.

Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/citizen-pulls-drunken-cop-locks-cruiser/#ucOP6JXopu4AHAiK.99