Bench Memos

NRO’s home for judicial news and analysis.

Today’s Rulings


On this final day of the Court’s term, I will again borrow from SCOTUSblog’s live blogging of the Court’s announcement session and update this post over the next half hour or so to give a quick bottom line on today’s rulings, along with links to the opinions. 


Here, in order of general interest (as I perceive it), are the rulings coming down today:


1.  District of Columbia v. Heller (Second Amendment challenge to D.C. handgun ban):  Scalia majority opinion striking down ban.  5-4 ruling.  Dissents by both Stevens and Breyer on behalf of both of them and Souter and Ginsburg.  (No concurring opinions.)


From the Court’s syllabus:


(a) The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense at home.


(b) The Second Amendment right is not unlimited.  The Court’s opinion should not cast doubt on concealed-weapons prohibitions, laws barring possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, laws barring firearms in sensitive places like schools and government buildings, and laws imposing conditions on commercial sale of arms.


(c) D.C.’s handgun ban and trigger-lock requirement violate the Second Amendment.  The total ban on handgun possession prohibits an entire class of arms that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense.  Under any standard of scrutiny, that ban falls.  The trigger-lock requirement makes self-defense impossible.  D.C. may use a licensing scheme.


2.  Davis v. FEC (constitutionality of millionaire’s amendment to campaign-finance law):  Alito opinion striking down millionaire’s amendment.  5-4 ruling, with Stevens dissent joined (in large part) by Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer.


From the opinion’s syllabus:  Millionaire’s-amendment provision violates the First Amendment by impermissibly burdening candidate’s right to spend his own money for campaign speech.


3.  Morgan Stanley Capital Group v. Public Utility District (FERC review of contracts):  Scalia opinion, 5-2 (Stevens dissent joined by Souter; Chief and Breyer not taking part).


I hope to offer some additional commentary later today on at least the first two cases after I’ve read the opinions.

Tags: Whelan


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