SCOTUS rules: Travel ban, same-sex weddings, guns

Supreme Court in its final week of its session

The US Supreme Court, June 20, 2016 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
The US Supreme Court, June 20, 2016 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is letting the Trump administration enforce its 90-day ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries, overturning lower court orders that blocked it.

The action Monday is a victory for President Donald Trump in the biggest legal controversy of his young presidency.

Trump said last week that the ban would take effect 72 hours being cleared by courts.

The justices will hear arguments in the case in the fall.

Other cases:

The Supreme Court is taking on a new clash between gay rights and religion in a case about a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in Colorado.

The justices said Monday they will consider whether a baker who objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds can refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The case asks the high court to balance the religious rights of the baker against the couple’s right to equal treatment under the law. Similar disputes have popped up across the United States.

The decision to take on the case reflects renewed energy among the court’s conservative justices, whose ranks have recently been bolstered by the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the high court.

The court will review a Colorado court decision that found baker Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop discriminated against the gay couple under Colorado law.

Phillips told the Supreme Court he has free speech and religious rights under the First Amendment that should protect him. He said he should not be compelled to bake a cake specifically to honor a same-sex marriage.

Colorado’s anti-discrimination law protects people on the basis of their sexual orientation. Charlie Craig and David Mullins filed a complaint against Phillips and his suburban Denver shop after Phillips said he would not create and decorate a cake in honor of their marriage.

Colorado did not permit same-sex couples to marry until 2014. Two years earlier, Craig and Mullin were planning to fly to Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage was legal, and host a reception in Denver upon their return to Colorado. They wanted the cake for the occasion.

Supreme Court rules for Missouri church in playground case

The Supreme Court has ruled that churches have the same right as other charitable groups to seek state money for new playground surfaces and other non-religious needs.

The justices on Monday ruled 7-2 in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri. The church sought a grant to put a soft surface on its preschool playground, but was denied any money even though its application was ranked fifth out of 44 submissions.

Chief Justice John Roberts said for the court that it “is odious to our Constitution” to exclude the church.

Supreme Court sides with same-sex couples in Arkansas suit

The Supreme Court has ruled for same-sex couples who complained an Arkansas birth certificate law discriminated against them.

The justices on Monday issued an unsigned opinion reversing an Arkansas high court ruling that upheld the law.

Under the law, married lesbian couples had to get a court order to have both spouses listed as parents on their children’s birth certificates.

Arkansas routinely lists a woman’s husband as a child’s father, even if he is not the biological parent of the child. The same-sex couples want the same presumption applied to the married partner of a woman who gives birth to a child.

Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented from the ruling.

Supreme Court rejects gun rights appeal

The Supreme Court is rejecting yet another call to decide whether Americans have a constitutional right to carry guns with them outside their homes.

The justices on Monday left in place an appeals court ruling that upheld the San Diego sheriff’s strict limits on issuing permits for concealed weapons.

The high court decided in 2008 that the Constitution guarantees the right to a gun, at least for self-defense at home.

But the justices have refused repeated pleas to spell out the extent of gun rights in the United States, allowing permit restrictions and assault weapons bans to remain in effect in some cities and states.

More than 40 states already broadly allow gun owners to be armed in public.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch said the court should have reviewed the appellate ruling. Thomas said the decision not to hear the case “reflects a distressing trend: the treatment of the Second Amendment as a disfavored right.”

The high court also turned away a second case involving guns and the federal law that bars people convicted of crimes from owning guns.

The Trump administration had urged the court to review an appellate ruling that restored the rights of two men who had been convicted of non-violent crimes to own guns.

The federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled for the two men. The crimes were classified as misdemeanors, which typically are less serious, but carried potential prison sentences of more than a year. Such prison terms typically are for felonies, more serious crimes.

The administration says that the court should have upheld the blanket prohibition on gun ownership in the federal law and rejected case-by-case challenges.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have heard the administration’s appeal.

Daniel Binderup of Manheim, Pennsylvania, was 41 when he pleaded guilty to “corruption of minors” after acknowledging that he had been involved in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old employee of his bakery business. The crime is a misdemeanor yet carries with it a maximum prison term of five years, although Binderup was given probation instead of time behind bars.

Julio Suarez was convicted in Maryland of carrying a handgun without a license, a misdemeanor with a possible prison term of up to three years. Suarez received a six-month sentence, which was suspended, and a year of probation.

Justices turn away appeal in Somali torture case

The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal in the case of a Somali farmer who alleges he was tortured by a former Somali military officer now living in Virginia.

The justices on Monday left in place an appeals court ruling that said part of Farhan Warfaa’s lawsuit against Yusuf Abdi Ali could move forward.

Warfaa claims Ali tortured him for three months in 1987 and 1988 before shooting him and leaving him for dead. Ali settled in northern Virginia in 1992.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the lawsuit to proceed under the Torture Victim Protection Act. But it dismissed another claim under the Alien Tort Statute.

Both men appealed. Ali said he was immune from the lawsuit for acts performed on behalf of a foreign nation.

High court won’t hear challenge to consumer agency actions

The Supreme Court won’t hear a challenge to enforcement actions the government’s consumer finance watchdog agency took while its director was serving under an invalid appointment.

The justices on Monday declined to hear an appeal from California attorney Chance Gordon, who said the agency filed an invalid enforcement action against him in 2012. At the time, the bureau was headed by Richard Cordray, who was appointed by President Barack Obama while the Senate was in recess. The appointment was later found to be unauthorized.

Cordray was renominated in 2013 and confirmed by the Senate. He retroactively ratified the actions that took place while his tenure was unauthorized.

Gordon argued that Cordray could did not have the power to retroactively approve the unauthorized enforcement actions against him and others.

Justices rule against death row inmate over lawyer errors

The Supreme Court has ruled against a Texas death row inmate who said his lawyers failed to challenge a faulty jury instruction at his trial and on appeal.

The justices ruled 5-4 on Monday that Erick Davila could not bring a claim that his appeals lawyer was ineffective for failing to challenge the work of his trial lawyer.

Davila was convicted in 2009 of the shooting deaths of a 5-year-old girl and her grandmother at a children’s birthday party in Fort Worth. Prosecutors said Davila was trying to shoot someone else as part of a gang dispute.

Davila claimed the jury should have been instructed it could find him guilty of both murders only if he meant to kill two people. He said he only meant to kill one.

 

Earlier in the day:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Before taking their long summer break, the Supreme Court justices are poised to act on the Trump administration’s travel ban and a separation of church and state dispute involving a Missouri church playground.

But something could overshadow rulings in those high-profile cases: If Justice Anthony Kennedy were to use the court’s last public session on Monday to announce his retirement.

Kennedy has given no public sign that he would step down this year and give President Donald Trump his second high court pick in the first months of his administration. Kennedy’s departure would allow conservatives to take firm control of the court.

But Kennedy turns 81 next month and has been on the court for nearly 30 years. Several of his former law clerks have said they think he is contemplating stepping down in the next year or so. Kennedy did not address the retirement rumors when he and his clerks gathered over the weekend for a reunion, according to three clerks who were there. The decision to push up the reunion by a year helped spark talk he might be leaving the court.

The justices on Monday were expected to decide the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, which was excluded from a state grant program to pay for soft surfaces on playgrounds run by not-for-profit groups.

The case was being closely watched by advocates of school vouchers, who hope the court will make it easier to use state money to pay for private, religious schooling in states that now prohibit it.

Missouri has since changed its policy under Republican Gov. Eric Greitens so that churches may now apply for the money.

Also expected in the next few days, though there’s no deadline by which the court must decide, was a ruling on whether to allow the administration to immediately enforce a 90-day ban on visitors from six mostly Muslim countries.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, could play a pivotal role in both the travel ban and church playground cases.

In all, six cases that were argued between November and April remain undecided. Three of those, all involving immigrants or foreigners, were heard by an eight-justice court, before Gorsuch joined the bench in April.

If the eight justices are evenly divided, those cases could be argued a second time in the fall, with Gorsuch available to provide the tie-breaking vote.