Supreme Court rul­ings wo­ven into ev­ery­day life

From bed­room to board­room, court is in your busi­ness.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY'S TOP NEWS - By Nancy Benac

Quick, name a Supreme Court jus­tice. OK, name three. One of the cur­rent jus­tices, Stephen Breyer, once noted wryly that their names are less well-known than those of the Three Stooges.

But from the time Amer­i­cans roll out of bed in the morn­ing un­til they turn in, the court’s rul­ings are wo­ven into daily life in ways large and small.

So pay at­ten­tion as Congress pre­pares to take up the nom­i­na­tion of Judge Neil Gor­such to join the high court: The in­flu­ence of the court’s nine jus­tices is hard to over­state.

“From the air you breathe and the wa­ter you drink to the roof over your head and the per­son across from you in bed, the Supreme Court touches all of that,” says El­iz­a­beth Wy­dra, pres­i­dent of the Con­sti­tu­tional Ac­count­abil­ity Cen­ter.

A walk through daily life on the look­out for Supreme Court fin­ger­prints:

Pil­low talk

It starts when your alarm goes off. Per­haps you glance over at your spouse.

The Supreme Court has had a big say over the decades in who can marry whom: In 1967, it ruled in Lov­ing v. Vir­ginia that laws ban­ning in­ter­ra­cial mar­riage were un­con­sti­tu­tional. And the Lov­ing rul­ing helped lay the foun­da­tion for the court’s 2015 rul­ing in Oberge­fell v. Hodges that na­tion­al­ized the right for same-sex cou­ples to marry.

Rinse and spit

Con­sider the wa­ter you swish when you brush your teeth: The high court has re­peat­edly taken up cases re­lated to the Clean Wa­ter Act to try to re­solve con­fu­sion over which wa­ter­ways are pro­tected by the law — with im­por­tant im­pli­ca­tions for drink­ing wa­ter sup­plies. This is still a live is­sue: Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is work­ing to undo for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s at­tempt to shield more wa­ter­ways from pol­lu­tion un­der the law, and more court cases are surely in the off­ing.

Cal­i­for­nia raisins

What’s for break­fast? A court rul­ing with your raisin bran?

Yes, the Supreme Court deals with raisins. The jus­tice were at the cen­ter of a prop­erty rights dis­pute that ended with a 2015 rul­ing in Horne v. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture that found un­con­sti­tu­tional a De­pres­sion-era pro­gram that let the gov­ern­ment seize a por­tion of raisin farm­ers’ crops to help keep prices sta­ble.

Hit the books — punch the clock

Time for work and school. The makeup of the stu­dent body at your child’s school is tied to the court’s land­mark Brown v. Board of Ed­u­ca­tion rul­ing in 1954 that unan­i­mously de­clared it un­con­sti­tu­tional to have sep­a­rate pub­lic schools for black and white students. In more re­cent years, the court has ruled re­peat­edly on how to en­sure dis­abled students get a “free ap­pro­pri­ate pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion” un­der the In­di­vid­u­als with Dis­abil­i­ties Ed­u­ca­tion Act. And it has helped de­fine what kind of school choice is al­lowed.

What to wear? The Supreme Court even goes there. Last year, the court took up a trade­mark dis­pute over cheer­leader uni­forms, de­bat­ing mat­ters of stripes, zigzags and chevrons and what makes a cheer­leader look slim­mer or curvier. Look for a rul­ing on Star Ath­let­ica v. Var­sity Brands this spring, with im­pli­ca­tions for the whole fash­ion in­dus­try.

At work, the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of min­i­mum-wage laws and health and safety reg­u­la­tions dates to New Deal-era Supreme Court rul­ings. It was a 1937 case, West Coast Ho­tel v. Par­rish, in­volv­ing ho­tel cham­ber­maid Elsie Par­rish, that paved the way for the court’s rul­ing that Washington state’s “Min­i­mum Wages of Women” law was con­sti­tu­tional. Later court rul­ings bol­stered pro­tec­tions against racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the work­place.

While past court rul­ings helped to boost union clout, fu­ture ac­tion could threaten their power.

Last year, the court split 4-4 in Friedrichs v. Cal­i­for­nia Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion on whether unions rep­re­sent­ing gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees can col­lect fees from work­ers who choose not to join. The tie up­held the col­lec­tion of “fair share” fees from non­mem­bers, but the ques­tion is widely ex­pected to make its way back to the court once the va­cancy cre­ated by Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia’s death is filled.

Prime time

Af­ter work, maybe you kick back to watch TV. How you watch — and what you see — could be in­flu­enced by the court. For one thing, a 2014 court rul­ing in ABC v. Aereo put the ki­bosh on a com­pany that let peo­ple watch and record broad­cast TV on­line for $8 a month on tablets, phones and other gad­gets. The court said the com­pany had vi­o­lated copyright law by tak­ing the broad­cast­ers’ pro­grams for free and es­sen­tially re­selling them.

What do you see on TV? If it’s cam­paign sea­son, thank — or blame — the Supreme Court’s 2010 Cit­i­zens United v. FEC rul­ing for an ex­plo­sion in political advertising by out­side groups af­ter the court threw out parts of a 63-yearold law pro­hibit­ing cor­po­ra­tions and unions from run­ning ads for or against political can­di­dates.

Home rule

When it’s finally time to turn in for the night, con­sider that the house you live in — and what it’s worth — could be af­fected by the Supreme Court’s hand­i­work.

The court is fre­quently called on to in­ter­pret the anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion Fair Hous­ing Act. This term, it is con­sid­er­ing Bank of Amer­ica v. Mi­ami and Wells Fargo v. Mi­ami, in which the banks are chal­leng­ing the city’s right to sue them for preda­tory lend­ing prac­tices that led to fore­clo­sures and de­clin­ing prop­erty taxes and prop­erty val­ues.

And hope you can hang on to that house. In 2005, the court ruled in Kelo v. New London that cities can take away peo­ple’s homes to make way for shop­ping malls or other pri­vate de­vel­op­ment. The court gave lo­cal gov­ern­ments broad power to seize prop­erty to gen­er­ate tax rev­enue. More than 40 states have since taken steps to amend their em­i­nent do­main laws to pro­tect prop­erty rights.

For the record

The eight jus­tices cur­rently on the court are: John Roberts, An­thony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sa­muel Al­ito, So­nia So­tomayor and Elena Ka­gan.

As for the stooges, over time, six men cy­cled in and out: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Shemp Howard, Joe Besser and Curly Joe DeRita.

AP 2014

Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion staff mem­bers join students, par­ents and ed­u­ca­tors at a Brown v. Board of Ed­u­ca­tion rally in 2014. Ed­u­ca­tion is one of many daily is­sues in­flu­enced by the Supreme Court.

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