SCOTUS Hands Down Two Massive Unanimous Decisions
June 26, 2014 - 7:54 am
9-0 — Massachusetts’ abortion clinic “buffer zones” literally go too far.
The court ruled unanimously that Massachusetts went too far — literally — when it created 35-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics to keep demonstrators away from patients.
The decision united Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberals. The other conservatives would have issued a more sweeping ban on laws that restrict abortion protests.
Although the court had upheld an eight-foot buffer zone in Colorado in 2000, the Massachusetts law passed in 2007 went 27 feet farther. During oral arguments in January, that had even the court’s liberal, female justices wondering if the Bay State had gone too far. “That’s a lot of space,” Justice Elena Kagan said.
But perhaps more importantly, SCOTUS went 9-0 in knocking out President Obama’s recess appointments, made when the Senate was not actually in recess.
In a rebuke to President Barack Obama, the Supreme Court struck down three of his recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board as unconstitutional.
The decision gives the Senate broad power to thwart future recess appointments, but did not go as far as some conservatives hoped to undercut the president’s ability to fill vacant executive branch posts and judicial slots.
The Senate already had that power. Obama was attempting to get around it.
The court ruled 9-0 that Obama’s appointments were unconstitutional because the Senate was not truly in recess when he made them during a three-day break in pro forma meetings of the Senate.
Four of the justices would have gone further, ruling that the president exceeded his authority because the vacancies did not arise during that break and because the president’s recess appointment power only occurs during breaks between usually year-long sessions of the Senate, but five justices would not accept those arguments.