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Column: Best quotes from the Supremes

Times files

Times files

Who says the Supreme Court is boring? Here are excerpts of a few opinions and arguments — combative, quizzical, or maybe even historic — from the just-concluded Supreme Court session.

1. Justice Antonin Scalia on abortion protesters

Though the court in June struck down 35-foot protest-free "buffer zones" around abortion clinics, Scalia said the ruling did not go far enough:

"Today's opinion carries forward this court's practice of giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents," Scalia wrote. "There is an entirely separate, abridged edition of the First Amendment applicable to speech against abortion."

2. Justice Sonia Sotomayor on affirmative action

In a blistering 58-page dissent to a ruling in April, the high court's first Latina justice wrote that some of her colleagues just didn't understand the issue:

"This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination. … As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society."

Chief Justice John Roberts responded with a sharp statement of his own:

"To disagree with the dissent's views on the costs and benefits of racial preferences is not to 'wish away, rather than confront' racial inequality," Roberts wrote. "People can disagree in good faith on this issue, but it similarly does more harm than good to question the openness and candor of those on either side of the debate."

3. Justice Anthony Kennedy on pomegranates

In which the justice questioned the clarity of Coca-Cola's labeling of its pomegranate juice that was really 99.4 percent apple and grape. In arguments, Coke's attorney said the name and label of its drink — Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of Five Juices — met federal standards and said that "we don't think that consumers are quite as unintelligent as (a competitor, Pom Wonderful) must think they are." Kennedy replied: "Don't make me feel bad, because I thought this was pomegranate juice." (Sadly, it's only 0.3 percent pomegranate juice.) His opinion? Not Coke-friendly.

4. Chief Justice Roberts and cellphone privacy

Roberts, in a majority opinion in June, rejected police cellphone searches without a warrant, arguing that a cellphone in some respects is more private than even a person's home.

"A cellphone search would typically expose to the government far more than the most exhaustive search of a house: A phone not only contains in digital form many sensitive records previously found in the home; it also contains a broad array of private information never found in a home in any form. …

"Modern cellphones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans 'the privacies of life.' The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cellphone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple — get a warrant."

5. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on employer-covered birth control

The justice minced no words in her blistering dissent of a ruling June 30 that provided exemptions to an employer health care coverage mandate.

"In a decision of startling breadth, the court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs," Ginsburg wrote in her dissent, joined by three other justices. "The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would … deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' beliefs access to contraceptive coverage. …

Suppose an employer's sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage or according women equal pay for substantially similar work?"

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Column: Best quotes from the Supremes 07/02/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 3:29pm]

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