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For the first time in almost 16 years in the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts filed a single objection. In it, he bluntly accused his colleagues of being “Extend the jurisdiction” of the court in a straightforward manner.
The point was the case where two college students at Georgia Gwinnett College were repeatedly blocked from making religious speeches and distributing religious literature on campus. They sued the college, claiming it infringed on the First Amendment free speech right.
The college soon came to a halt, agreeing to abandon its challenging policy and pay its students legal fees. But when the students tried to proceed with the case on the grounds that they had asked for little compensation, the lower court dismissed the case on suspicion.
The dismissal means that while the students ultimately get everything they need, the case is not typical. It is not a mark in the law to give other colleges similar responsibility.
Now, however, the Supreme Court has decided otherwise. With an 8-to-1 vote, it was announced that because the student had asked for a small amount of $ 1 in damages, it was therefore not suspicious and they could return to court for a formal hearing.
“Small damage is not a consolation award,” Judge Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority in court. “Even a little But the slightest damage is certainly substantial … and those who suffer the slightest damage … will receive relief from his claims. “
With disagreement, Robert noted that “There are few problems” with students who wish to continue to prosecute.
“Challenging limitations no longer exist,” he said. [the students] Did not accuse any real damage “
He added that the case was questionable as there were no legal questions pending.
If the damage is small “No matter how small,” the case can be kept as if it were in court after all the key issues were eliminated – and when the verdict of that amount indicated. Students’ status or condition “does not change” – What has changed is the award. “Show the court decision” that the students are right.
Roberts said it would turn the U.S. court into something the founders especially rejected – the figure shown. “Opinion Advisor”
“The court saw there was no problem converting judges into advice columnists,” Roberts wrote.
Robert rejected the fundamental assumption of Thomas’ majority opinion, with an integral part of the British general law of the 18th century. Not against the role assigned to the judiciary “in the US Constitution.
He noted that while British general law was inherited from the Crown and was permitted to have an advisory opinion, the Framers of the Constitution “specifically denied it. [that premise] It separates management from the judiciary and restricts the court to actual decisions and controversies.
“Today’s decision risks extending the role of the judiciary. So far, we have said that federal courts can verify the legality of policy and action only if necessary in the” legal case “. The only real resolution of disputes in the future, the judges will have to do this. Whenever the plaintiff asks for dollars “
Thursday’s ruling was a “big deal,” said Michael McConnell, a Stanford law professor who, as a federal judge, wrote about it.
“Right now, every lawyer worth his salt will raise little claims” in every lawsuit, McConnell said.
Its purpose is to force the court to make a decision on cases in which the opposing party has been voluntarily resolved. But the minor claims remain. “
$ 1 and a dream
What if the defendant only paid $ 1?
It seems that most courts have pointed out that the case may be settled. Whenever the plaintiff asks for just $ 1, the defendant should be able to settle the case, giving him $ 1 without the court necessarily surrendering the interests of the plaintiff’s claim, Thomas said in the majority of the opinion. he
Robert called that A “welcome caveat” that can save a federal court from issuing a “ream” of advisory comments. But he added “For more than two centuries, consecutive judges have been a reminder that the court cannot give an answer just because someone has asked.”
Thursday’s comments put constitutional restrictions in the head, he said. Instead of encouraging the plaintiff “Fight for us”