Supreme Court Still Not Ready To Hear Case Challenging NSA Surveillance

from the not-yet,-not-yet dept

While the Supreme Court Justices seem to recognize that they’ll eventually need to determine the constitutionality of the NSA’s surveillance efforts, for now it’s not letting cases about it jump the line to be heard. Back in November, it rejected an attempt by EPIC to skip the long process of first getting district court and appeals court rulings, and bring the issue straight to the Supreme Court. And now it’s done the same thing in a case that tried to skip the appeals court step.

As you may recall, back in December, district court judge Richard Leon ruled that the program was likely unconstitutional in a case brought by Larry Klayman, but then agreed to stay the ruling until the inevitable appeals process played itself out. Klayman decided to take a shot at going straight to the Supreme Court, saying that the “case is of such imperative public importance that it justifies deviation from normal appellate practice and requires immediate consideration and determination in the Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court, however, appears to disagree. That doesn’t mean it won’t eventually hear such a case (potentially even this very case). But it does mean that the Court is in no rush to take on the constitutionality of the NSA’s surveillance efforts, and will let the process play out in various district and appeals courts over the next few years.

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Comments on “Supreme Court Still Not Ready To Hear Case Challenging NSA Surveillance”

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zip says:

uphill battle

If the Supreme Court were to rule against Obama’s NSA, I don’t see how it would in the end make any difference. Trying to compel government agencies that operate in complete secrecy to do something against their will seems like fighting a losing battle.

As in President Andrew Jackson’s famous scoff at a Supreme Court ruling he didn’t like:
“John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: the supreme court of the usa is being blackmailed

So, the SC is being blackmailed, and according to numerous other comments, the executive and the legislative branches are also being blackmailed.

The idea that everyone in government is being blackmailed seems like a pretty huge stretch to me. But even if it’s true, it means absolutely nothing. A person being blackmailed is just as responsible for his actions as someone who is not being blackmailed. It excuses nothing whatsoever.

While it may be a fun thing to contemplate, it’s purely recreational. Seriously contemplating it gets us nowhere.

Beech says:

Phew, almost had the Supreme Court doing it’s goddamn job there for a minute. Can’t be having that. They have more important and more nuanced cases to decide, like “Whether 42 U.S.C. ? 1981 prohibits a retail establishment from treating a customer in a racially discriminatory manner” or “Whether a document from a state or local government stating that an application has been denied, but providing no reasons whatsoever for the denial, can satisfy the Communications Act’s ?in writing? requirement.”

I mean, it’s not like those cases should have been slam dunks or anything that never should have gotten to the supreme court. It’s not like ALL of us are being spied on ALL the time or anything.

Seriously, the Supreme Court has been nothing but rage fuel for me recently. I’m honestly shocked everytime I hear about a SCOTUS ruling that I actually agree with.

(source for those cases i quoted above:

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Must stick to the rules of the game!

While it is lamentable that the SC does not want to hear right away any cases about the constitutionality of the various NSA cases, it is also understandable that they want the process to be done correctly.

I mean, it’s like being in a long line, and jumping to the head of it just because you think you should.

It doesn’t mean that you’re correct to do it.Because the basis for the rulings have to be established, it will take some time for a case to get to the top.

That means no shortcuts, no jumping to the head of the line while ten other cases with similar arguments are being done in the lower courts.

It’s called due process in other words. One step at a time.

After all, this is about the legality of the laws invoked. Taking shortcuts to the end does not establish precedents.

Quiet Lurcker says:

Re: Must stick to the rules of the game!

Respectfully disagree. Art. III, Sec. 2, to the U. S. Constitution grants to the Supreme Court original jurisdiction – they can actually try the case, rather than simply review – in cases involving ‘public ministers and consuls’, or words to that effect. Essentially, government officials. Since this matter directly involves the president, the attorney general, and other governmental officials, the supreme court could – and in my PERSONAL opinion – should hear the case directly.

Sadly, SCOTUS is playing politics with this and several other cases of late.

Edward Teach says:

Re: Re: Re: Must stick to the rules of the game!

Hear! Hear!

Avast, ye swabbies! What Master Coward hath stated!

Seriously, what has happened to the US Supreme Court? When That Swine Reinquist took over, they would often make a serious statement. Now, they quibble over technicalitites.

Or are we just seeing thing? Does anyone have any serious references to how dickbones like Clarence Thomas and Scalia have changed what the Supreme Court rules and what it says? Or is this typical for SCOTUS? Narrow, constitution-shaving rulings, always in favor of “law enforcements” and big business are the norm, and we’re living at the very tail end of a time when civil liberties were actually taken into account?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Must stick to the rules of the game!

Or is this typical for SCOTUS?

From what I hear about SCOTUS, it’s new. They used to be willing to take issues on and rule about the core of what’s being contested. Since Roberts, it seems to me, they’ve tried to rule as narrowly as possible, and try to make their decisions based on a technicality around the margin to send it back to an appeals court without actually ruling on the substance of the case.

Edward Teach says:

Re: Re: Unconstitutional

Oh, fer cryin out loud! Don’t be a lawyer. The Justices all took an oath that binds them to behave better than “strictly legal”. Why, I wager that even compromised ideologs like Thomas and Scalia believe in “higher causes”. Although it’s hard to detect what any Justices after Bork actually believe…

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Unconstitutional

Oh, fer cryin out loud! Don’t be a lawyer. The Justices all took an oath that binds them to behave better than “strictly legal”.

I won’t argue with that, but jim said “illegal” so I was wondering what law he thought they were breaking. That is what illegal means after all, not “failing to live up to our ideals”.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Must stick to the rules of the game!

From Findlaw, which is pretty reputable when talking about legal shit-

Factors the Court Considers When Choosing Cases

Every year, the Supreme Court receives about 10,000 petitions for certiorari, but only hears about 80 of them. While no one really knows why some cases get heard but others do not, the Supreme Court has several factors that it considers when deciding what cases to hear:

1.The Court will Hear Cases to Resolve a Conflict of Law: The U.S. judicial system consists of 13 federal circuits and 50 state supreme courts. When a number of these courts reach different conclusions about an issue of federal or constitutional law, the Supreme Court may step in and decide the law so that all areas of the country can then operate under the same law.
2. The Court will Hear Cases that are Important: Sometimes the Court will consider a highly unusual case such as U.S. v Nixon (concerning the Watergate tapes) or Bush v. Gore (concerning the extremely close election in 2000), or a case with an important social issue, such as abortion in Roe v. Wade.
3.The Court will Sometimes Hear Cases that Speak to the Justices’ Interests: Sometimes Justices give preference to cases that decide an issue in their favorite area of law.
4. The Court hears Cases when Lower Courts Disregard past Supreme Court decisions: If a lower court blatantly disregards a past Supreme Court decision, the court may hear the case to correct the lower court, or alternatively, simply overrule the case without comment.

There’s also this little known rule-The Rule of Four:

The rule of four is a custom of the United States Supreme Court that dictates that, if four justices decide that a case is worthy of being heard, the Court will agree to hear it. This rule is designed to ensure that the court’s majority cannot control which cases are heard, as without it, the minority justices might find themselves unable to try cases of interest.

Now, again, which one of these rules did this case compare to?

From what I can see, none of them-and for all intents and purposes, that’s the end of this case. He’s just going to have to wait until some more circuits rule against or for one the exact same grounds before this gets to the Supreme Court.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Not a surprise

The Supreme Court is buried in cases; far more than it can reasonably hear. It’s not taking a case that can be decided by a lower court, until the issue is ripe for decision at the Supreme Court.

That only happens when the Appeals court is clearly wrong, when different Appeals courts disagree, or (very rarely) when an issue is especially urgent.

So it’s not a surprise they’ve refused to hear it now. Despite our frustrations, it’s not urgent enough to require them to decide yet.

doesn't really matter says:

Waiting for the right case

It seems to me that since the SCOTUS is specifically bound to evaluate the *facts* and *evidence* in a given case against the constitution and existing law, they might not wish to take on this particular case because they find that the facts and evidence present aren’t necessarily compelling enough to move forward. If that is true, I speculate that they are waiting for a better case to rule on, given the stakes.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Not yet, this time

“This case isn’t important?”

It is only important in so much as it is one of many cases trying to be the one that gets the SC to finally rule on the constitutionality issue.

When “important” is measured by the Court, cases like US v. Nixon, or the Pentagon papers case will almost always be heard quickly and without too much notice primarily because the government has a very heavy stake in the outcome. In those cases, the matter of timeliness, prompt presentations and fairly swift rulings in them were justified.

Mind you, they were all decided correctly, but I wouldn’t want to bet the same would be true today with this court, which has become a corporate tool.

I almost fear the day when the issue of the NSA comes forward. They might give us the finger once again.

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