SCOTUS: Upcoming

Ok, my nerd is coming out again. I really like the times when Supreme Court hears cases… I know, it’s weird! But the court does a lot more educated responses to some of the important questions of our legal system – our laws, the process, all of it.  Unlike politicians who just say whatever will get them ratings – I mean votes – the Supreme Court Justices put time and thought into their responses.

Supreme Court of the Unites States (SCOTUS) is listening to arguments beginning today.  I am a little stoked about some of the questions they are looking at:

  • If someone is charged monetary penalties when convicted of a crime, but it’s later overturned/reverse – should the state then require the person prove innocence or have to reimburse the monetary penalty? (Nelson v. Colorado)
  • Is it legal to require merchants to communicate the higher price via credit card as “discount” and not a credit-card “surcharge” instead? Is this unconstitutional restriction of free speech? (Expression Hair Design v. Scheiderman, Attorney General of NY)
  • What level of education is required to be delivered to disabled children per Individuals with Disabilities Education Act? (Endrew v. Douglas County Sch. Dist. RE-1)

(click on the name of the case to see more from SCOTUSBlog)

These are the three of the five cases being heard next week that I am curious how they will turn out – and not just in the immediate decision but some of the long-term implications.

The first one is directly related to due process – in Colorado apparently when your conviction is overturned, in order to get back the monetary penalty you paid, you have to prove you were innocent.  So the big argument being presented is that this rule is in violation of constitutional due process; especially because in order to get their funds back, the person has to go to civil court – so no guarantee of help from an attorney (they would have to pay out of their own pocket for council).  The implications of allowing states to arrest/imprison someone, charge them fines, reverse the charges, and still get to keep the money they charged?  Kind of terrifying actually.  I know I hope the SCOTUS votes heavily on the side of “pay the people back the money which you shouldn’t have taken in the first place!”

The second one is interesting because I have been annoyed by this so much – gas stations especially will do a “discount” if you use THEIR card or cash.  Really it’s a “+$.03 per gallon” up-charge because they get charged fees by the card-swiping providers.  Knowing that doesn’t make me happier to see it marketed as a “discount” – it’s not. Not in my world. (FYI, there is a provision in Frank-Dodd to help keeps these fees in check, so if F-D gets tossed out by the current legislation – this up-charge might become greater!).  I really hope SCOTUS throws these laws off the books. Pretty much universally, the laws are written so it doesn’t make the card-companies look bad (don’t say we [card companies] charge you more! But if you wanted to call it a discount instead… well, then we aren’t the bad guy now are we!).  I love the free speech argument (let us be truthful!), but apparently the other side is using regulating economic conduct as their basis – which might have some legitimacy.

The long-term consequences both in terms of Free Speech and economics have this case (a) in high contention and (b) creating some really interesting amicus briefs… (I know, I’m a nerd!)

The last case is the most emotional in my opinion and speaks to some of the greater issues which are going on: education.  The specifics of the case have to do with a boy with Austim not making much progress in public education so his parents put him in private school.  “Suddenly,” he made significant progress (almost like the private school put some effort into it…).  His parents wanted some reimbursement for the cost of the private school tuition (you know, because public school might have failed their kid) and were denied.

I won’t lie, I am really struggling on this case. On the one hand, I pretty much 100% believe the public school did a shitty job helping this kid actually learn/improve.  NOT because public schools are inherently bad but because they tend to have the lowest paid staff, the least assistance from external sources, and the fewest resources (books, games, etc.) to help them with anyone “outside the box.” So yeah, I bet a private school who could specialize or utilize unique resources did a better job.

On the other hand, I hate the idea of draining more money from a school system. See my list of WHY the school failed the kid in the first place… now his parents want to take money from supporting the other kids in that system for their special-little-snowflake (and he is! I need to write a blog about snowflakes and how in my world that both is-and-is-not an insult…).  If this precedence gets set that parents get to set the “expectations” for their disabled kids and if schools don’t meet it they get to get into private schools on tax-payer dollars… (ok, I know i’m exaggerating… I said it was an emotional case for me!).  I know it’s a small percentage of the population, but it is still a precedence I am not sure I want to see set.

In Summation: So the first two I have opinions on how the court rules. The third…. I am not sure what I want the court to do because I’m not sure I like either result! The problem is that the underlying issue (public schools are horribly funded & managed) can’t get fixed by SCOTUS and it doesn’t look like the current powers-that-be nationally have the slightest interest or inclination to even try….