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Friday, December 03, 2010
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In The Courts
  ACLJ SUPREME COURT CASES
 

The American Center for Law and Justice litigates at all levels in state and federal courts across the nation.  Many of the issues that we are involved with at the ACLJ end up at the Supreme Court of the United States.  ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow has appeared before the high court on numerous occasions -- conducting oral arguments on some of the most important issues of the day.  Below is a summary of our work at the Supreme Court of the United States.



Pleasant Grove City v. Summum (2007)
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a landmark First Amendment ruling on February 25, 2009 clearing the way for governments to accept permanent monuments of their choosing in public parks.  The decision comes in the case of Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, a critical First Amendment case in which the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) represented the Utah city in a challenge to a display of the Ten Commandments in a city park.  ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow presented oral arguments to the high court on November 12, 2008.  The ACLJ asked the high court to overturn a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit that ordered Pleasant Grove City, UT to accept and display a monument from a self-described church called Summum because the city displays a Ten Commandments monument donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles.  The ACLJ successfully argued that the lower court ruling was flawed - a ruling that said private parties have a First Amendment right to put up the monuments of their choosing in a city park, unless the city takes away all other donated monuments - a ruling that runs counter to well-established precedent that the government has to be neutral toward private speech, but it does not have to be neutral in its own speech.  The case is Pleasant Grove City v. Summum (No. 07-665).

Duchesne City v. Summum (2007)
This case mirrors the First Amendment issues raised in Pleasant Grove City v. Summum.  And when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Pleasant Grove case, it decided to hold this companion case from Utah involving Duchesne City.  After the Supreme Court issued its unanimous ruling on our behalf in the Pleasant Grove City case, the high court on March 2, 2009 issued an order granting the ACLJ’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the case of Duchesne City v. Summum, vacating the judgment in the case, and remanding it to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit for further consideration in light of the Pleasant Grove City decision.  The case is Duchesne City v. Summum (No. 07-690).

FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. (2007)
The Supreme Court is considering a case to determine whether the Federal Communications Commission acted appropriately after the regulatory agency declared as indecent the broadcast of expletives from a nationally-televised awards show.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled against the FCC saying its decision was wrong and it overstepped its authority.  The FCC has asked the high court to overturn the lower court decision.  The ACLJ represents itself and 18 members of Congress with its amicus brief filed at the high court.  The brief supports the FCC position and contends that the indecency policy affords children greater protection from the harm associated by exposure to indecent material without infringing on the constitutional rights of adults.  The case is FCC v. Fox (No. 07-582) and the high court will consider the case when its next term begins in the fall of 2008.

U.S. v. Williams (2007)
By a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the PROTECT Act of 2003 - federal legislation that provides prosecutors with another tool to combat the pandering or promotion of child pornography.  On May 19, 2008, in the case of United States v. Williams (06-694), Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the statute “raises no constitutional problems whatever” and rejected arguments that the PROTECT Act violates the First Amendment.   Justice Scalia wrote:  “In sum, we hold that offers to provide or requests to obtain child pornography are categorically excluded from the First Amendment.”  The high court decision overturns a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which declared a provision of the Act unconstitutional.  ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow called the Supreme Court decision "a very sound and reasoned decision that is long overdue."  The ACLJ filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court representing itself and 18 members of Congress - including several co-sponsors of the Act.  The ACLJ amicus brief supported the government's position and urged the high court to uphold the constitutionality of the measure.

District of Columbia v. Heller (2007)
With a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court on June 26, 2008 upheld the rights of gun owners in a Second Amendment case.  The case involved a ban on handguns by the District of Columbia.  In overturning that ban, the majority opinion was written by Justice Antonin Scalia.  Examining the words of the Second Amendment, the Court concluded that "we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation."  The ACLJ filed an amicus brief in the case asking the high court to uphold the lower court ruling that declared the DC gun ban unconstitutional.  The ACLJ urged the high court to overturn the ban saying "the Second Amendment expressly secures the right of individual citizens of the United States to keep and bear arms for private purposes."  The case is District of Columbia v. Heller (No. 07-290).

FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life (No. 06-969) (2007)
McCain v. Wisconsin Right to Life (No. 06-970) (2007)

In a 5-4 decision issued June 25, 2007, the Supreme Court loosened limits on election advertising saying a pro-life group should have been permitted to air ads in the final months leading up to a 2004 election.  In the consolidated cases of FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life (No. 06-969) and McCain v. Wisconsin Right to Life (No. 06-970), the high court concluded that a key provision of a campaign finance law violated the group's First Amendment rights and unreasonably limits speech.  In an amicus brief filed with the high court on behalf of itself and Focus on the Family, a non-profit religious corporation committed to strengthening the family, the ACLJ urged the high court remove the prohibition of grassroots lobbying organization from taking part in issue advertising leading up to an election.  In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts cited the Brief of the American Center for Law & Justice in support of the issue advocacy ads being allowed to air with in the 30 and 60 day periods.  While the Justices stopped short of overturning the troubling provision, it did acknowledge that the pro-life speech in this case was wrongfully censored.

Morse v. Frederick (2007)
The Supreme Court said an Alaska school acted properly when it disciplined a student for displaying what school officials contend was a pro-drug banner at a public event.  In a decision issued June 25, 2007, the high court concluded that school officials did not violate the student's First Amendment rights.  While the ACLJ strongly disagrees with the student's message, it filed an amicus brief in the case urging the high court to uphold the free speech rights of the student arguing that a decision in favor of the school district would empower school districts across the country to ban future student speech they considered offensive - including speech advocating Christian beliefs.

Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation (2006)
The Supreme Court turned away a federal lawsuit by church-state separationists challenging the use of taxpayer dollars to fund a program of President Bush's faith-based initiative.  The Court ruled that the separationists had no legal standing to bring the suit.  In a 5-4 decision, the high court issued its decision on June 25, 2007 in the case of Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation (U.S. No. 06-157).  The ACLJ filed an amicus brief with the high court in support of the federal government’s position which prevailed.  The ACLJ said the decision represents a significant victory that sends a powerful message that atheists and others antagonistic to religion do not get an automatic free pass to bring Establishment Clause lawsuits.

Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood (2006)
On April 18, 2007, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the national ban on partial-birth abortions with a 5-4 decision.  This was the second case involving the ban on partial-birth abortion that the high court has agreed to hear.  As you may recall, Congress approved a national ban on the procedure.  The law was challenged in three separate cases in the federal court system in Nebraska, New York, and California.  In all cases, the ban was declared unconstitutional.  The high court first agreed to hear the case out of Nebraska.  The ACLJ, which has been involved in defending the national ban since its passage by Congress, supported the government's position defending the ban and represented members of Congress in an amicus brief filed with the high court.  This case was decided on April 18, 2007, with the Supreme Court upholding the federal ban on partial-birth abortion.  The case is Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, 05-1382.

Bush v. Schiavo, (2004)
The American Center for Law and Justice represents the parents of Terri Schiavo in a legal battle to keep their daughter alive.  The ACLJ on behalf of Mary and Robert Schindler asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the Florida case in which the Florida Supreme Court declared unconstitutional "Terri's Law" – a state law enabling Florida Governor Jeb Bush to save Terri from starvation and dehydration.  The ACLJ filed an amicus brief in support of a petition filed by Governor Bush asking the high court to take the case.  In January 2005, the Supreme Court refused to take the Schiavo case.

Gonzales v. Carhart (2005)
On April 18, 2007 the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the national ban on partial-birth abortions with a 5-4 decision.  As you may recall, Congress approved a national ban on the procedure.  The law was challenged in three separate cases in the federal court system in Nebraska, New York, and California.  In all cases, the ban was declared unconstitutional.  The high court will hear the case out of Nebraska.  The ACLJ, which has been involved in defending the national ban since its passage by Congress, supported the government's position defending the ban and is represented nearly 80 members of Congress and more than 320,000 Americans in an amicus brief filed with the high court.  This case was decided on April 18, 2007, with the Supreme Court upholding the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. The case is Gonzales v. Carhart, 05-380.

Van Orden vs. Perry, (2004)
By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court on June 27, 2005 overturned a federal appeals court clearing the way for the constitutional display of thousands of monuments that have been in place across America.  The decision came in a case in Texas where the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated a Commandments monument which has been in place outside the state capitol in Austin since 1961.  The ACLJ filed an amicus brief at the high court asking the Justices to overturn a lower court decision declaring the monument unconstitutional.  In its decision, the high court said the Eagles monument was constitutionally permissible.

McCreary County vs. ACLU, (2004)
By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court on June 27, 2005 upheld a lower court decision declaring the posting of copies of the Ten Commandments in the courthouses of two Kentucky counties to be unconstitutional.  The ACLJ filed amicus briefs in support of the constitutionality of the displays which were declared unconstitutional by a federal district and federal appeals courts.

Gonzales v. Oregon (2005)
In a decision issued January 17, 2006, the Supreme Court upheld Oregon's assisted suicide law. The 6-3 majority decision said the Department of Justice did not have authority to issue a directive prohibiting physicians from prescribing federally controlled drugs to assist patients commit suicide in Oregon. The ACLJ filed a brief in support of the government's position.

Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, (2005)
The Supreme Court decided that a federal appeals court went too far in striking down New Hampshire's parental notification law in its entirety and sent the case back down for further consideration.  The ACLJ filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court in this case in support of the New Hampshire law.  The high court issued its unanimous decision on January 18, 2006.

DeWeese v. ACLU of Ohio, (2004)
The Supreme Court on June 28, 2005 declined to take the ACLJ case out of Ohio where a poster of the Ten Commandments inside the courtroom of state Judge James DeWeese was declared unconstitutional.  The lower court decision declaring the poster unconstitutional stands.

Operation Rescue v. National Organization for Women, et al. (2005)
On February 28, 2006, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of pro-life demonstrators and organizations bringing an end to a nearly 20-year-old legal marathon involving a federal racketeering statute used against pro-life demonstrators.  The high court ruled that the actions of the pro-life demonstrators fell outside the scope of the federal Hobbs Act, and therefore the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute - a law designed to combat drug dealers and organized crime.  In its decision, the high court ordered the federal appeals court to enter a ruling in favor of the pro-life demonstrators and organizations bringing an end to a case that lasted nearly two decades.  The ACLJ represented Operation Rescue and served as Counsel of Record in the case.

ACLU of Ohio v. Adams County, (2004)
The Supreme Court on June 28, 2005 declined to take the case out of Ohio where the ACLJ represents the Adams County school board which was sued for permitting a local ministerial association to erect monuments on school property which contain the Ten Commandments.  After suit was filed, the Board changed the display into a Foundations of American Law and Government display which includes several other influential texts.  A federal district court ruled in favor of the ACLU, and that decision was upheld by a federal appeals court.  The high court declined to take the case and the lower court decision stands.

Frye v. Tarwater, (2004)
The American Center for Law and Justice asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take a case involving pro-life demonstrators whose constitutional rights were violated when they were arrested for expressing their pro-life views on public property in Kansas City, Missouri.  The ACLJ, which represents five demonstrators, asked the high court to take the case and overturn an appeals court decision that determined the city acted properly in stifling the free speech of the demonstrators.  The ACLJ filed a petition asking the high court to take the case.  In March 2005, the Justices declined to take the case, letting the lower court ruling stand.

McConnell v. FEC, (2003)
Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments on behalf of a group of minors who were prohibited from contributing to political campaigns. The Supreme Court unanimously held that minors cannot be prohibited from participating in political campaigns. The Court held that "minors enjoy the protection of the First Amendment."

Locke v. Davey, (2003)
Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in a case involving the free exercise rights of a college student who was denied a state scholarship because he declared his major to be pastoral studies. The majority decision determined that Washington's policy prohibiting state scholarship funds from being used to assist students who pursue a degree in religious studies from a religious perspective is constitutional. However, the decision does not prohibit states from re-structuring scholarship programs to permit the pursuit of a degree in devotional theology.

U.S. v. Newdow, (2003)
Representing more than 260,000 Americans and nearly 70 members of Congress, the ACLJ filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the constitutionality of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Supreme Court rejected the legal challenge to the Pledge, saying Michael Newdow did not have legal standing to bring the case and removed the federal appeals court ruling that declared the Pledge unconstitutional.

Rasul v. Bush and Al Odah v. Bush, (2004)
The American Center for Law and Justice filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court supporting the position of the Department of Justice that the detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are unlawful enemy combatants that are being held in accordance with U.S. and applicable international law. The high court ruled that the President has authority to hold the detainees while at the same time ruling the detainees must have access to the U.S. court system.

Rumsfeld v. Padilla, (2003)
The ACLJ filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court asking the high court to determine that President Bush acted appropriately when he made a decision to hold Jose Padilla, an American citizen seized on U.S. soil as a terrorism suspect, as an enemy combatant in a military brig in South Carolina. The ACLJ represented its two affiliate organizations in this case: The European Centre for Law and Justice, an organization that deals with human rights issues in Europe and based in Strasbourg, France, and the Slavic Centre for Law and Justice, a human rights organization based in Moscow, Russia.

Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (War on Terrorism) 2003
The ACLJ filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court asking the high court to uphold a federal appeals court decision that found the government acted properly in detaining Yaser Hamdi, an American citizen seized on the battlefield in Afghanistan – classified as an enemy combatant.

Ashcroft vs ACLU, (2003)
This case involved the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act ("COPA"), passed by Congress to protect minors from pornography on the Internet. The ACLJ filed an amicus brief on behalf of 13 members of Congress, including one of the co-sponsors of COPA in the House, Rep. Earnest Istook, Jr. In its 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court sent the COPA case back to a lower court for trial. At the same time, the high court declined to declare it constitutional and left intact an injunction preventing COPA from taking affect.

Gentala v. City of Tucson
After six years of litigation, the ACLJ was successful in protecting the constitutional rights of a group of citizens who applied to use a public park in Arizona for a National Day of Prayer Event. After the Supreme Court issued a decision in a separate, unrelated case, the high court vacated an appeals court ruling against our client – ordering the trial court to reconsider the case based on the Supreme Court’s decision in the Good News Club case. The trial court finally held that the city of Tucson’s discriminatory treatment of our client must end – ruling that the city’s action infringed upon our client’s right to equal access to a public park.

Prince v. Jacoby, (2003)
At the urging of the ACLJ, the Supreme Court refused to take this case – leaving intact a federal appeals court ruling that a school district in Washington state violated the constitutional rights of our client – Tausha Prince, a high school sophomore, who was denied equal access to school facilities in setting up a student Bible club.

Operation Rescue v. National Organization for Women, 537 U.S. 808, 123 S. Ct. 58 (2002).
The Supreme Court determined that the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute (RICO) – a federal statute targeting drug dealers and organized crime – could not be used against pro-life demonstrators. Jay Sekulow served as counsel of record for Operation Rescue in this case. The Supreme Court concluded that pro-life demonstrators were not racketeers engaged in extortion and that the RICO statute could not be used against them.

Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 120 S. Ct. 2266 (2000)
Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in a case involving the constitutionality of student-led prayer at high school sporting events.

Hill v. Colorado, 530 U.S. 703, 120 S. Ct. 2480 (2000)
Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in a case that centered on a Colorado law that restricted free speech activity outside abortion clinics.

Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York, 519 U.S. 357, 117 S. Ct. 855 (1997)
Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in a case that focused on the constitutionality of "floating" speech-free "bubble zones" around abortion clinics.

Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches School District, 508 U.S. 384, 113 S. Ct. 2141 (1993)
Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in a case involving the equal treatment of religious organizations and their use of public school facilities after-hours.

Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, 506 U.S. 263, 113 S. Ct. 753 (1993)
Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in a case determining whether pro-life demonstrations could be regulated by the application of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

ISKCON and Brian Rumbaugh v. Walter Lee and The New York Port Authority, 505 U.S. 672, 112 S. Ct. 2711 (1992)
Sekulow served as co-counsel in a case involving the constitutionality of distributing literature at airport terminals.

United States v. Kokinda, 497 U.S. 720, 110 S. Ct. 3115 (1990)
Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented the oral arguments in a case involving the regulation of literature distribution and fund solicitation in public venues.

Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergens (1990)
Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented the oral arguments in a case focusing on the constitutionality of the Equal Access Act involving the formation of Bible and prayer clubs on public school campuses.

Board of Airport Commissioners v. Jews for Jesus (1987)
Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in a case involving the constitutionality of free speech activity including the distribution of religious literature at airport terminals.

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