Four More Rulings from the Supreme Court

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from The Gray Area:

Today was another big day for the Supreme Court. Four rulings on important subjects. Each are 5-4 decisions along conservative / liberal lines with the swing vote, Kennedy, voting with conservatives in 2 and liberals in 2. In the abortion clinic case in Texas, and the Arizona redistricting he voted with the liberal wing. Roberts voted with the conservative wing in each case.

1. Supreme Court Allows Use of Execution Drug. The Supreme Court ruled on Monday against three death row inmates who had sought to bar the use of an execution drug they said risked causing excruciating pain. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote the majority opinion in the 5-to-4 decision. The drug, the sedative midazolam, played a part in three long and apparently painful executions last year. It was used in an effort to render inmates unconscious before they were injected with other, severely painful drugs.

2. Supreme Court Blocks Obama’s Limits on Power Plants. The Supreme Court on Monday blocked one of the Obama administration’s most ambitious environmental initiatives, one meant to limit emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion in the 5-to-4 decision, joined by the court’s more conservative members.

The decision, Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-46 was a setback for environmentalists.

3. Supreme Court Allows Texas Abortion Clinics to Remain Open. The Supreme Court on Monday allowed nine Texas abortion clinics to remain open while the justices consider whether to hear an appeal from a decision effectively ordering them to close.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. voting to deny the stay.

The case concerns two parts of a state law that imposes strict requirements on abortion providers. One requires all abortion clinics in the state to meet the standards for “ambulatory surgical centers,” including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Other parts of the law took effect in 2013, causing about half of the state’s 41 abortion clinics to close. If the contested provisions take effect, abortion rights advocates said, the number of clinics will again be halved.

The remaining clinics, they said, would be clustered in four metropolitan areas: Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. “There would be no licensed abortion facilities west of San Antonio,” the providers’ brief said, “and the only abortion clinic south of San Antonio would have a highly restricted capacity.”

4. Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Initiative on Redrawing Voting Districts. The Supreme Court on Monday upheld Arizona’s method of drawing congressional district lines, giving new life to a tool designed to end partisan gerrymandering.

The court, in a 5-4 opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, ruled the Constitution allowed Arizona voters to take line-drawing authority away from state lawmakers and give it to an independent commission. Ruling allows states to use independent commissions to draw congressional lines. The Arizona ballot initiative created a body made up of two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent. Commission members were slated to serve a single term of about 10 years.