Revisiting the United States Supreme Court: Some Civics, Some Decisions, Some Arguments, and Some Lasting Legacies
[The First Segment in a Three-Part Arc Reporting on News of the High Court]
In a modest departure from the usual broadcast format, the initial presentation and analysis of the works and impacts of our Supreme Court—beginning with an exposition of its foundations in Article III of the Constitution and a review of its early history, including the seminal decisions establishing its authority to tell us all “what the law is.” Then, notice of three meaningful rulings announced this past week—in the areas of bankruptcy discharges, labor standards, and (with special emphasis) capital punishment and the obligations imposed on trial judges to tell juries about their options in making sentencing recommendations about life imprisonment without parole and state execution. (A decision in favor of the defendant in which, atypically, two conservative and three liberal justices agree.)
At the core of the discussion, a procedural ruling by the Justices to review and decide on the legitimacy of a criminal conviction of a Colorado man who posted on Face Book threats and other objectively offensive comments about a musician he was unmistakably stalking: The Supreme Court to decide whether the State is obliged to demonstrate by proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the actor actually intended to threaten—or whether the words themselves are sufficient to overcome the presumption of free speech otherwise guaranteed by the First Amendment. Tangentially related, particularized reporting from the two, major oral arguments conducted by the Justices this week—both cases focusing on whether internet and social media providers like Google, Twitter, You Tube, and Face Book are legally responsible for the admittedly catastrophic, lethal consequences of incendiary, indoctrinating posts of terrorist groups like the Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS). (Identifying the merits and demerits of holding public platforms liable under long-established anti-terrorism and communications laws passed by the Congress.)
Finally, the introduction to an in-depth analysis of two recent, geography-changing rulings by the Supreme Court, interpreting the Second Amendment to permit, first, the ownership and use of firearms for self-defense in personal residences, and, second, public (concealed and/or open) carry and discharge of weapons beyond the home. Premised upon the unmistakably horrific and unrelenting record of mass shootings in our nation, an examination of what the companion opinions in 2008 and 2022 do and do not say about what can be done to remedy this human crisis.