Two welcome decisions by the US Supreme Court

The foes of the right to abortions have used the heavily and misleadingly edited videos produced by a group called the Center for Medical Progress to fuel anger at Planned Parenthood and other women’s health groups that conduct abortions as part of their services. Carly Fiorina was one of those who further embellished what she had purportedly seen on the videos, claiming to have seen things that were not there. These actions have led to a spike in threats of violent actions against abortion providers.

The National Abortion Federation sued the CMP, alleging that “the center’s members got into federation meetings by lying about themselves and falsely promising not to reveal what transpired.” As part of preparing for that lawsuit that will be heard on December 18, the NAF asked CMP to disclose the identities of those who had engaged in a conspiracy to infiltrate the NAF under false pretenses and received confidential information. The CMP refused to do so and asked the courts to support it.

On November 20, 2015, a US District Judge sided with the NAF and ordered the CMP to comply, saying that the information disclosed to the NAF be protected from public disclosure under an ‘Attorneys Eyes Only’ designation. The opinion can be read here. The order allowed for a 14-day stay in order for CMP to appeal to the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On December 3, 2015, that Appeals Court rejected the appeal of the CMP and ordered them to comply with the District Judge’s order by midnight on Friday December 4. The CMP then appealed to the US Supreme Court for a stay of that order but last Friday justice Anthony Kennedy denied that request.

So now the CMP will have to hand over the names and related documents to the NAF.

In addition, the Supreme Court today turned down a request to hear an appeal of a decision by an Illinois city to ban the ownership of assault weapons. This leaves intact the decision by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the ban.

Since the Supreme Court in 2008 first established a constitutional right to have a gun, at least for self-defense, it has not accepted a case that would spell out how far the right extends. It said initially that a government may ban a sawed-off shotgun and a machine gun, but has not gone further.

At issue in the new case, Friedman v. City of Highland Park, was the constitutionality of a 2013 ordinance. It prohibited the sale, purchase, or possession of semi-automatic guns, including those used with magazines with more than ten rounds of ammunition. It was agreed, during a challenge to the ordinance, that the ban includes the widely popular AR-15 rifle — the civilian equivalent of the military’s standard M-16. The challengers contended that these are not machine guns, because a pull of the trigger only fires one shot, not repeated firings.

In a written six page dissent by justices Thomas and Scalia (scroll down to page 12), they complained that the Appeals Court ruling wrongly limited the right to bear arms only to those weapons that were common in 1791 (at the time the Second Amendment was ratified). But surely these two ‘originalists’ should be pleased with sticking to what the constitution meant at the time it was written?

While these decisions are good news and a setback for abortion foes and the NRA, the denials by themselves do not tell us how the justices would actually vote on these issues if they heard a case.


  1. kyoseki says

    FWIW, refusing to hear the assault weapons case is not the same as declaring that the assault weapons ban is itself Constitutional, my guess is that the supreme court are tired of having shit slung their way for this year.

    … it’s also largely pointless since
    1: It doesn’t actually ban the AR-15, just a few cosmetic features they usually (but don’t have to) come equipped with.
    2: High capacity magazines are freely available in Illinois outside the city limits.

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