Tag Archives: Breyer

Supreme Court Allows Tax Credits for Religious Schools

Monday, the Supreme Court further limited the power of citizens to challenge government programs as unconstitutionally promoting religion and permitted an Arizona tax credit aimed at helping cover private school tuition.

This ruling is the second under Chief Justice John Roberts that insulates the government against church-state challenges.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices said opponents lacked standing to challenge the program which gives tax credits for donations to organizations that provide private school scholarships. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the conservative majority.

Since the 1968 case Flast v. Cohen, individuals have possessed the right to challenge statutes that direct government money to religious purposes. This week, the majority said Flast didn’t apply because the case involved a tax credit, not an appropriation of government dollars. Justice Kennedy said the money at issue belonged to the taxpayers claiming the credit. 

The majority agreed with President Barack Obama’s administration, which had defended Arizona’s program.

Justice Elena Kagan, previously Pres. Obama‘s top lawyer, wrote the dissenting opinion, saying the majority created a “novel distinction” between a tax credit and a government appropriation. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor joined Justice Kagan‘s dissent.

Via Boston.com.

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Supreme Court Says Exonerated Inmates Cannot Sue District Attorneys

Official portrait of Supreme Court Justice Rut...

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The Supreme Court this week ruled in a 5-4 decision that a former death row inmate could not sue the District Attorney’s office after a prosecutor hid blood tests that would have earlier proven his innocence.

The former inmate, John Thompson, came within weeks of execution after spending 18 years behind bars. He was finally set free after the new evidence came to light. He filed a civil rights lawsuit, and a jury awarded him $14 million in damages.

A 1963 Supreme Court ruling, Brady v. Maryland, said prosecutors have a duty to turn over exculpatory evidence. However, in a subsequent ruling, the Court said that individual prosecutors cannot be sued for constitutional violations in the courtroom. This decision further limits when defendants can sue for Brady violations.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave a rare oral dissent in which she strongly criticized the majority’s conclusions. Joining Justice Ginsburg’s dissent were Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

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