Today is the last day of this years Supreme Court session. After yesterday’s momentous ruling in favor of marriage equality for all (yes, gays should have the same right to be miserably married as heterosexuals), the court handed down rulings in three cases, two which have even a wider impact than the Affordable Care Act ruling.
In another five – four ruling Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the conservatives approving Oklahoma’s use of the controversial sedative midazolam in Oklahoma’s execution protocols which opened the door for the state to carry out the first executions since January.
The ruling ends a hold on most executions outside Texas and Missouri. Several states had delayed executions while they awaited the ruling in Glossip v Gross, in which the court was asked to decide whether Oklahoma’s use of midazolam fell within the boundaries of the US constitution.
Though the ruling fell into the familiar 5 to 4 conservative to liberal split within the supreme court, it marked the first time in seven years that the nation’s highest judicial panel considered directly the constitutional basis of modern executions by lethal injection. It also gave the progressive-leaning justices an opportunity to vent their opinions on the ultimate punishment, with Stephen Breyer backed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, using a dissenting opinion to openly denounce the death penalty as a violation of the eighth amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
In the case against the Environmental Protection Agency, the court struck down the agency’s efforts to set limits on the amount of mercury, arsenic and other toxins coal-fired power plants can spew into the air, lakes and rivers.
The 5-4 decision was a major setback to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and could leave the agency more vulnerable to legal challenges from industry and Republican-led states to its new carbon pollution rules.
It was also a blow to years of local efforts to clean up dangerous air pollution.
The supreme court has now sent the case back to the Washington DC circuit court of appeals, which will then ask the EPA to reconsider its rule-making. Activists are now urging the EPA to act definitively and quickly to issue revised regulation.
In its final ruling, the curt upheld Arizona’s independent redistricting that was passed in a 2000 ballot referendum, striking a blow to gerrymandering.
The court’s decision affirms the constitutionality of an Arizona state ballot measure approved by voters in 2000 that allowed an independent commissioner to determine congressional districts in the state.
State legislatures determine congressional district boundaries after each census, as dictated by the constitution, but the Arizona measure sought to undo this model, which is widely understood as a tool for partisan lawmakers to divvy up districts to favor the political party in power – also known as gerrymandering.
The supreme court ruled 5-4 that the elections clause of the US constitution does not disallow such commissions from being created.