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Court Decides Fair Sentencing, Burden of Proof, 1st Am. Cases

By Robyn Hagan Cain on June 21, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As the remaining days of the 2011 Term unofficially dwindle into the single digits, the Court is almost finished disposing of its caseload. After the four cases resolved on Thursday, only five cases remain. Those include the Stolen Valor Act challenge, the Arizona immigration appeal, and that little matter of the Affordable Care Act.

But instead of looking ahead to what we’re inevitably going to be discussing next week, it’s time to live in the now and focus on today’s Supreme Court opinions.

The four opinions issued today were: Southern Union v. United States, Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Dorsey v. United States and Hill v. United States (which were consolidated appeals), and Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. Here's a rundown on the rulings and the votes:

  • Southern Union v. United States. In a 6-3 decision written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Court reversed the First Circuit and held that the Apprendi v. New Jersey rule applies to the imposition of criminal fines. (In the 2000 Apprendi decision, the Court held that any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum, other than the fact of a prior conviction, must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.)
  • Knox v. Service Employees International Union. In a 7-2 decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit to hold that, under the First Amendment, when a union imposes a special assessment or dues increase levied to meet expenses that were not disclosed when the regular assessment was set, it must provide a fresh notice and may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent.
  • Dorsey v. United States. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the 5-4 majority in the Fair Sentencing Act appeal, finding that the Act's new, lower mandatory minimums apply to the post-Act sentencing of pre-Act offenders.
  • Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations. In a unanimous decision, the Court tossed FCC penalties against ABC and Fox, which were accused of violating indecency rules by broadcasting profanity and nudity. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Court, reasoned that the networks couldn't have known that the broadcasts in question could lead to penalties.

There should be more of the remaining 2011 Term Supreme Court opinions on Monday, so keep checking back for the latest and greatest.

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