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In what SCOTUSblog founder Tom Goldstein called “a sweeping endorsement of digital privacy,” the U.S. Supreme Court today unanimously ruled that police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on a cellphone seized from an individual who has been arrested.

The direct issue in two cases before the court was whether police could search the contents of cellphones without a warrant under the established doctrine of “search incident to arrest.” That doctrine has been justified by courts over the years as necessary to remove weapons that might otherwise be used to harm officers and to seize documents or other types of evidence of a crime that might otherwise be quickly destroyed by the person under arrest.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the court in Riley v. California.

Read the full case here.

As was noted in yesterday’s Weekly Briefing, “A Tax Day sermon,” it can be a fascinating exercise to briefly contemplate just how far to the right American politics have been pushed in the last few decades as a result of the influx of big corporate money.

“In 2014, the United States is a place: in which a deranged Nevada cattle herder named Cliven Bundy can defy federal law and be transformed overnight into a far right celebrity, in which the party of Lincoln in one of the stronghold union states of the Civil War can vote to explore secession, in which conservative religious groups who claim to follow the teachings of a humble and un-propertied carpenter can champion tax cuts for the rich and in which North Carolina — one of the old confederate states that has made such great headway in escaping its dreadful and reactionary past – can roll back several decades of painstaking progress toward modernity in as many months.”

Here’s another rather amazing indicator: the nation’s disastrous abandonment of the settled meaning of the Second Amendment. In his new book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution” (an excerpt of which appeared recently in the Washington Post) retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (a 1975 Ford appointee) proposes returning the Second Amendment to its long-settled meaning by adding five words (italicized below) so that it would read:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

Stevens’ proposal makes obvious sense and the fact that we would have to go to such trouble shows just how far out of hand things have gotten. Here’s another amazing indicator from Stevens’ book of our mass, national departure from common sense: a quote Stevens attributes to former Chief Justice Warren Burger — another conservative Republican. This is from Stevens’ book:

“When I joined the court in 1975, that holding was generally understood as limiting the scope of the Second Amendment to uses of arms that were related to military activities. During the years when Warren Burger was chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge or justice expressed any doubt about the limited coverage of the amendment, and I cannot recall any judge suggesting that the amendment might place any limit on state authority to do anything.

Organizations such as the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and mounted a vigorous campaign claiming that federal regulation of the use of firearms severely curtailed Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Five years after his retirement, during a 1991 appearance on ‘The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,’ Burger himself remarked that the Second Amendment ‘has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.’” (Emphasis supplied).

To which all a caring and thinking person can add is: “Amen (and amend).”

Mt. Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, the case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court which addresses the question of whether a party can establish a discriminatory housing practice under the Fair Housing Act by showing that minorities have been disproportionately affected (the “disparate impact” test) — as opposed to showing an intent to discriminate — is nearing a settlement.

Philly.com is reporting that the parties have reached a tentative settlement, with signatures awaiting. If completed before Dec. 4, the parties will not have to proceed with argument before the high court on that date.

Read more about the case here.

Voter IDHere’s a pretty amazing and frustrating story: Richard Posner, one of the conservative pillars of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago told an interviewer last Friday that he erred in upholding Indiana’s groundbreaking and vote-suppressing voter ID law.

As Think Progress reports today:

Judge Richard Posner authored a federal appeals court decision upholding the nation’s first voter ID law, a common voter suppression law that disproportionately disenfranchises people of color, students and low income voters. The Supreme Court, while technically deciding the case on a narrower grounds than Posner’s opinion, later ensured that voter ID laws would flourish by making them virtually impossible to challenge under the Constitution. Read More

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC, the case challenging overall limits on campaign contributions, and already the tea-leaf reading has begun.

The consensus?  The four justices on the liberal wing (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan) favor upholding the law;  Justice Anthony Kennedy is unpredictable; and the four justices on the conservative wing (John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito) are in favor of striking down the limits (although Roberts might be looking for a compromise).

From the New York Times:

The justices seemed to divide along familiar ideological lines.

“By having these limits, you are promoting democratic participation,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. “Then the little people will count some.”

Justice Antonin Scalia responded, sarcastically, that he assumed “a law that only prohibits the speech of 2 percent of the country is O.K.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who probably holds the crucial vote, indicated that he was inclined to strike down overall limits on contributions to several candidates, but not a separate overall limit on contributions to several political committees.

From Scotusblog:

The Justices who favor limits on campaign donations seemed to believe that the current system is corrupting in favor of the rich, but that they still would like some harder information on just how that happens.  And the Justices who favor the freer flow of money into federal campaigns seemed to think there are enough safeguards against corruption already and that any more will stifle political expression, of the not so rich, too.  But anything like a consensus that could attract five votes eluded both sides.

Read more about the McCutcheon case here.