NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Obama Administration's Bad Year at the Supreme Court

July 3, 2014

When it comes to Supreme Court rulings, the Obama administration did not have the most successful year, writes Damon Root, senior editor of Reason magazine. In the last month alone, the Supreme Court issued a series of losses to the President, all of which -- minus one -- were 9-0 decisions. 

Root recaps four disappointing cases for the administration during the 2013-2014 Supreme Court term: 

  • Bond v. United States: The government attempted to prosecute Carol Ann Bond under the Chemical Weapons Implementation Act for smearing two substances on the mailbox, doorknob and car door of a woman who was having an affair with Bond's husband. The victim received only a minor hand burn, but the Obama Administration treated the incident as a chemical weapons attack, using its authority under the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty. The Court disagreed, calling the White House's interpretation of the law "boundless."
  • Riley v. California: In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court rejected the White House's claim that police did not need a warrant to search the cellphones of individuals under arrest. Said Chief Justice John Roberts, "Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple -- get a warrant."
  • National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning: In a unanimous ruling, the Court struck down the President's January 2012 recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. Obama had claimed the recess power, even though the Senate was holding pro forma sessions. Justice Breyer authored the opinion, writing, "The Senate is in session when it says it is."
  • Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: On Monday, the Court ruled 5-4 that closely-held corporations could not be forced to cover methods of birth control that the employers found objectionable on religious grounds.

From Fourth Amendment protections to executive power, the President did not have a good year in front of the nation's highest court.

Source: Damon Root, "Obama's Disappointing Year at the Supreme Court," Reason, July 1, 2014. 


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