It being a Monday in June, we have Supreme Court decisions. Four decently big ones came down today, Bank of America vs Caulkett, EEOC v Abercrombie & Fitch, Elonis v US, and Mellouli v Lynch.
The first case (Caulkett) involved whether or not Chapter 7 bankruptcy could wipe out a second mortgage as well as the first when it came to underwater mortgages. In a 9-0 decision, SCOTUS said no dice.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a win to Bank of America Corp by ruling that a second mortgage on an “underwater” home – one with a mortgage balance exceeding its current value – cannot by voided during bankruptcy.
On a unanimous vote, the court ruled against two homeowners, David Caulkett and Edelmiro Toledo-Cardona, in Florida, where many homeowners have struggled to pay their mortgages following the recent housing crisis.
Caulkett and Toledo-Cardona had both won before the regional appeals court that oversees Florida. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that homeowners in Chapter 7 bankruptcy can void – or in bankruptcy terms “strip off” – a second mortgage when the debt owed to the holder of the first mortgage is more than the property’s current value.
SCOTUS didn’t buy that argument in the least, with Clarence Thomas writing the opinion. Things went a little better in the EEOC case:
The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled against Abercrombie & Fitch in a dispute over its decision not to hire a 17-year-old Muslim girl who wore a headscarf that would have violated the store’s notorious “look policy.”
The dispute centered on a federal law that requires employers to “reasonably accommodate” workers’ religions or disabilities. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had sued on behalf of Samantha Elauf, who wore the offending head scarf to her Abercrombie interview.
In an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the high court ruled that job applicants don’t need to show that an employer knew that a job applicant needed special accommodation for their religious beliefs in order to claim they were treated differently because of those beliefs.
“Abercrombie’s primary argument is that an applicant cannot show disparate treatment without first showing an employer had ‘actual knowledge’ of the applicant’s need for accomodation. We disagree,” Scalia wrote.
That one was 8-1 with Thomas a partial dissent. Then there was Elonis v US, the so-called “Facebook threats case“:
The Supreme Court has reversed the conviction of a Pennsylvania man who said violent messages he posted on Facebook were therapeutic, not true threats. Anthony Elonis was arrested by the FBI, which had been monitoring his posts.
At issue is the standard by which a lower court viewed rap lyrics and messages from Elonis, who often posted graphically violent language along with disclaimers that he was merely asserting his First Amendment rights.
As we reported last year, Elonis began posting violent messages after his wife of seven years left him in 2010. The messages he posted to Facebook prompted Elonis’ now ex-wife to get a state protection order against him, and led his bosses to fire him from his job at an amusement park.
Elonis was charged with threatening his wife, a kindergarten class, and law enforcement officers — including a female agent who visited his house to question him. All were subjects of rap-style lyrics he posted to Facebook, under the pseudonym Tone Dougie.
A jury convicted him on those counts, and Elonis was sentenced to more than three years in prison.
SCOTUS tossed that conviction 7-2, Chief Justice Roberts on the opinion there, with dissents from Alito and Thomas. Finally in Mellouli, the Supremes overturned a drug conviction case for a Tunisian man that led to deportation:
The Supreme Court has overturned the deportation of a Tunisian man whose crime was possessing drug paraphernalia.
Mones Mellouli was deported after he pleaded guilty to the minor drug crime in Kansas state court. The item in question was a sock that contained four pills of the stimulant Adderall.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court Monday that federal law does not authorize deportation for such a minor offense.
That one went 7-2 with RBG on the opinion, Thomas and Alito dissenting.
Hash it out in the comments and all that.