2019.06.17 Supreme Court Summary

Supreme CourtLibertarian breakdown of June 17 in the Supreme Court

In the final two weeks of its current term, the U.S. Supreme Court will be issuing many important rulings. On June 17, five decisions were handed down. Here is a broad overview of these decisions from a Libertarian perspective.

Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck

The court held that Manhattan Community Access Corp., the private nonprofit corporation runs public access television channels in Manhattan, is not a “state actor” and is therefore not subject to the First Amendment. Libertarians will agree that the private property rights of the corporation overrule any standards mandated by the government.

Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren

The court affirmed that a Virginia law banning the mining of uranium in the state is not overruled by the federal Atomic Energy Act, which generally prohibits states regulating such activities as the mining of uranium. Libertarians will note that although this ruling is a victory for decentralized state power over the power of the federal government, it will also allow the government of Virginia to limit how private companies go about their business.

Gamble v. United States

The court upheld the “dual-sovereignty doctrine,” which allows both state and federal governments to prosecute an individual for the same crime. Libertarians will observe that this ruling appears to contravene the Fifth Amendment, which provides protection against double jeopardy, while touching on the issue of incorporation. The idea of dual (or more) sovereigns is vexing to Libertarians, who have problems with just one.

Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill

In a 5-4 vote, the court ruled against a challenge by Virginia Republicans to a lower court’s ruling that some of Virginia’s legislative districts were racially gerrymandered. In other words, the court affirmed that the districts were in fact racially gerrymandered.

As stated in section 3.6 of the Libertarian Party platform, “We oppose laws that effectively exclude alternative candidates and parties, deny ballot access, gerrymander districts, or deny the voters their right to consider all legitimate alternatives.” The Libertarian Party applauds the Supreme Court’s ruling on this issue, as gerrymandering is by its very nature one of the many ways in which the two-party duopoly manipulates the political system to their advantage, shutting out alternative voices.

Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries

The court sent a case against two Oregon bakers, Aaron and Melissa Klein, who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple for religious reasons, back to a lower court. In doing so, the court referred to its own ruling last year on the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, in which it had ruled in favor of the cake shop’s owner to decline service based on his religious views, because the state of Colorado had not given him a fair hearing. The Oregon case had been decided by the lower court before the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece ruling.

The Libertarian Party’s platform states in section 1.2, “We favor the freedom to engage in or abstain from any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others.” In section 3.5, it states, “Members of private organizations retain their rights to set whatever standards of association they deem appropriate, and individuals are free to respond with ostracism, boycotts, and other free market solutions.” This Supreme Court decision is in accordance with the Libertarian Party platform. Private property rights and religious freedom trump the right to be served by any private establishment. Government intervention in the name of “fairness” is always problematic. The free market in today’s information era will decide whether a store owner should be patronized.