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The Fourth Amendment makes strange bedfellows.

Today’s 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Maryland v. King—that police can take DNA samples from individuals arrested for serious crimes—found the unlikely combination of Justice Antonin Scalia with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joining on the dissent.

States allow the collection of DNA for those convicted of a crime, but lower courts are split on whether states can collect DNA without a warrant from people who have only been arrested. The federal government and 28 states allow the collection of DNA from arrestees.

In 2009, after Alonzo Jay King Jr. was arrested on assault charges in Wicomico County, Md., police obtained his D.N.A. profile by swabbing his cheek. That profile matched evidence in a 2003 rape case, and King was later convicted of that crime. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that a state law authorizing D.N.A. collection from people arrested but not yet convicted violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches.

Writing for the majority and reversing that court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said:

When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s D.N.A. is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

But Justice Scalia and his colleagues typically on the other side of court rulings disagreed, with Scalia summarizing his opinion from the bench—a rare move signaling sharp disagreement among the members of the Court.

Scalia wrote:

“The court’s assertion that DNA is being taken, not to solve crimes, but to identify those in the state’s custody, taxes the credulity of the credulous.

Today’s judgment will, to be sure, have the beneficial effect of solving more crimes. Then again, so would the taking of DNA samples from anyone who flies on an airplane (surely the Transportation Security Administration needs to know the ‘identity’ of the flying public), applies for a driver’s license, or attends a public school. Perhaps the construction of such a genetic panopticon is wise. But I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection.”

The Court has yet to issue its decisions on another 25 pending cases, among them the controversial and potentially historical cases involving affirmative action, marriage equality and voting rights.

The next round of rulings are expected on Monday, June 10.

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Here’s a quick look at what many consider to be the major cases still awaiting decision as the U.S. Supreme Court heads towards the close of its term in late June, with affirmative action, marriage equality and voting rights topping the list.

Though the Court typically releases opinions on Mondays, it could add additional days as the month winds down, as it did last year when it released the opinion in the Affordable Care Act case.

Other cases to be on the watch for:

Collection of DNA from criminal arrestees

In Maryland v. King, the court must weigh the needs of law enforcement against the privacy rights of those who have been arrested for a crime. States allow the collection of DNA for those convicted of a crime, but lower courts are split on whether states can collect DNA without a warrant from people who have only been arrested. The federal government and 28 states allow the collection of DNA from arrestees. Justice Samuel Alito called this “perhaps the most important criminal procedure case that the court has heard in decades.”

Arizona proof of citizenship 

At issue in Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. is a section of state law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote in federal elections. Critics of the law argue that it puts an additional burden on voters and conflicts with a federal law, the National Voter Registration Act.

Patents on human genes

In Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., researchers, doctors and others are challenging patents held by a company on isolated DNA from the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes. Women with mutations in those genes are said to have a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The challengers say that the patents prevent other companies from developing better genetic testing. But the company, Myriad Genetics, argues that their innovation has led to that testing and that they need the patents to protect billions of dollars for research.

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In addition to reading Sharon McCloskey’s excellent summary, you can read all 42 pages of the Motion for Recusal of Justice Paul Newby in the legislative redistricting case by clicking here.  

It’s a pretty remarkable and damning story when all the dots get connected.

There are also 42 exhibits in a huge file that we’ll try to make available as soon as possible.

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A decision in one of the first cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this term may help thousands of North Carolina property owners whose land has been tied up by proposed but delayed Department of Transportation road projects — some for more than a decade — recover the damages they say the DOT owes them.

In Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. U.S., the Court considered whether the commission can recover for damage to its property caused by intentional upstream flooding by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The threshold question before the court was whether that flooding was a “taking” under the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which provides that no private property can be taken for a public purpose without just compensation.

That’s also the issue property owners along the Northern Beltway in Winston-Salem have put before the court there in dozens of complaints filed against the DOT over the past year. Their parcels and some 2000 others lay in the path of the proposed beltway, spanning from U.S.158 north to U.S. 52 in western Forsyth County through to U.S. 311 in eastern Forsyth County. Read More

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The good government advocates at the Alliance for Justice have released a new film entitled “Unequal Justice: The Relentless Rise of the 1% Court.”  

The film “explores the growing pro-corporate bias in key Court decisions and their real-world impact on ordinary Americans. Steadily and relentlessly, the Court has been transformed into an institution that frequently serves the interests of the wealthiest one percent. Taking judicial activism to new levels, these justices have rendered a series of pivotal cases to fundamentally change the balance of power in American society, favoring business interests and limiting access to legal remedies for everyone else. These decisions threaten to undermine the core concept of fairness that is embodied in the motto carved into the Supreme Court building, turning Equal Justice Under Law into Unequal Justice Under Law.”

Learn more about how you can get a free copy and host a screening by clicking here.