Top Supreme Court talkers of 2012

(LIN) — This year was a big year for Supreme Court justices. While they heard dozens of cases this year, there are a few cases that stand out above the rest.

Here’s a look back at what this year had in store.

NFIB v. Sebelius – decided June 28, 2012

Arguably the landmark case of the year, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling requiring Americans to either buy health insurance or pay a tax. The “individual mandate,” a key provision of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, was questioned by some as unconstitutional.

The final decision was 5-4, upholding the mandate with Chief Justice John Roberts uncharacteristically siding with the more liberally leaning justices.

Roberts stated that although the individual mandate is a tax, it is a valid exercise of Congressional authority, and that the penalty payment isn’t too severe to be considered coercive.

Decided during a heated presidential election year, the healthcare ruling caused obvious riffs in campaign, Obama called the mandate “the right thing to do,” while Mitt Romney’s camp pledged to repeal “ObamaCare” if he was elected president.

Read the court’s full decision.

Immigrants’ Rights
Arizona v. United States – decided June 25, 2012

This case presumably all started when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law in 2010, which was referred to as the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.” The new law made it a crime for illegal immigrants to be in Arizona without carrying proper registration documents.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a case in 2010 challenging the law, stating that Arizona was both trumping federal authority and impeding on civil rights.

When the High Court heard the case this year, a 5-3 decision struck down three tenets of the law, but upheld the key provision that allows police officers to ask about someone’s immigration status during traffic stops.

The provisions struck down include allowing police to arrest anyone they believe to be an illegal immigrant, enforcing illegal immigrants to carry registration with them at all times and making it a crime for illegal immigrants to gain employment in Arizona.

Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case because she was solicitor general when Obama’s administration filed the suit in 2010.

Read the full decision

Free Speech
U.S. v. Alvarez  - decided June 28, 2012

In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether the Stolen Valor Act violates the First Amendment.

In 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Stolen Valor Act. This law made it a crime for anyone to misrepresent themselves as having received any military medal or decoration.

Some time later, Xavier Alvarez, who never served in the military, portrayed himself as a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. He was charged and convicted, but challenged the law, saying it was against his First Amendment rights.

Arguably, the law had good intentions, but the Supreme Court struck it down in a 6-3 decision, saying the language was too broad.

Read the full decision

Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals – decided March 20, 2012

This case began when Daniel Coleman filed a suit, claiming he was fired after requesting sick leave. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, U.S. employees have the right to leave work to take care of themselves or family members.

The question brought to the High Court was whether states can be sued under the “self-care” provision under this Act.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that suits against states under this provision of the FMLA are barred by sovereign immunity, as laid out in the 11th Amendment.

The Court’s opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, addresses concerns that Congress should discuss evidence that men and women take medical leave in roughly equal numbers, and that it wasn’t discriminatory under the 14th Amendment. Because of this, the law did not trump Maryland’s sovereign immunity.

Dissenters, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, claim that the entire Act as a whole is directed at sex discrimination, making a case for pregnant women.

Read the full decision

On the Docket is a feature written by Jessica O. Swink covering the U.S. Supreme Court. Get the latest political news at,  and join in the conversation on  Facebook  and  Twitter.

Copyright 2014 LIN TV News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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