Round-up: Supreme Court decisions

Recent buzz has centered on the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and what the impact will be on the November elections, but health care wasn’t the only thing ruled on. Here’s a snapshot of other issues the Supreme Court ruled on in June.

Arizona immigration

In a mixed decision, the Supreme Court upheld part of Arizona’s strict border-control law, which forces the state’s law enforcement officers to check the residency status of people they suspect are in the country illegally. The court also struck down some parts of the law, voiding a provision making it a state crime for an immigrant to fail to carry federal registration papers.  

They invalidated sections that authorized jail time for illegal immigrants who seek work in Arizona and that gave state and local police more power to arrest immigrants suspected of offenses. 

The law was passed two years ago and has been controversial. The Obama administration opposed Arizona’s legislation and said it usurped the federal government’s power to enforce the nation’s immigration laws. 

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law,” the president said. “At the same time, I remain concerned about the practical impact of the remaining provision of the Arizona law that requires local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they even suspect to be here illegally.” 

Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case. She had served in the Administration during earlier stages of the litigation. 

Stolen Valor Act

The Supreme Court struck down a law that would punish those who lied about receiving a military honor with fines or jail time.  

The case involved Xavier Alvarez, an elected member of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District Board in Pomona, Calif. In 2007, Alvarez said at a public water district board meeting that he was a retired Marine, had been “wounded many times,” and had been “awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor” in 1987, none of which was true. 

Alvarez pleaded guilty to violating the act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006. However, he argued that his falsities were constitutionally protected. 

The Supreme Court agreed. The First Amendment protects lies like Alvarez’s, Justice Anthony Kennedy said. 

“The Stolen Valor Act infringes upon speech protected by the First Amendment,” Kennedy said. 

Cross on federal land

The Supreme Court declined to review an appeals court ruling that deemed the Mount Soledad cross an unconstitutional mixing of government and religion. 

The 29-foot cross sits on public land on a hilltop overlooking La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean in San Diego.  

Last year’s ruling by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that deemed the cross unconstitutional ended two decades of legal challenges over the 1950s cross that became a memorial to Korean War veterans. 

Allyson Ho, lead counsel for the co-defendant, the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, said she has not given up hope on the case. 

“While we are disappointed the Court did not accept this case for review at this time, we are hopeful we can find a solution that will allow this veterans memorial to remain,” she said.