The Monday after the Supreme Court ruled on the issues of gay marriage or Obamacare, the Supreme Court ruled on a series of important public policy issues that are neither gay marriage nor Obamacare.
First, in Glossip v. Gross, the Court ruled 5-4 that Oklahoma’s three-drug protocol for lethal injections was constitutional. Justice Samuel Alito, joined by the conservative wing of the Court, wrote that the petitioners had failed to prove their argument that the use of the drug midazolam provided a risk of severe pain for those being executed.
Notably, in a dissenting and concurring opinion, Justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia battled over the constitutionality of the death penalty. Breyer argued that the death penalty itself was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, while Scalia called this a radical interpretation explicitly at odds with other amendments condoning the death penalty.
Meanwhile in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Court ruled that Proposition 106, an Arizona ballot initiative that removed redistricting powers from the state legislature and gave it to an independent commission, was constitutional. The Arizona state legislature argued that the Constitution required that legislatures set the “times, places and manner” of elections, but in a 5-4 decision the Court rejected that argument. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg authored the opinion, which was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy and the Court’s liberal wing.
Lastly, in Michigan v. EPA, the Court ruled that the Obama administration overstepped the law when it set new pollution standards without considering the costs to power plants. The new regulations against mercury and acid gases would have provided around $5 million a year in quantifiable benefits, but the Court ruled that the EPA interpreted the law “unreasonably” to ignore the almost $10 billion it would cost power plants and refineries. The 5-4 decision was written by Justice Scalia and joined by the Court’s conservatives.
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