Supreme Court Update, Part 1

The Supreme Court recently ended its 2014 term.  As always, the final few weeks of the term were a flurry of activity.  A few of the most noteworthy decisions are recapped here; we’ll post Part Two soon. If you wish to become a paralegal in Washington DC, it is important to stay up to date on these decisions.

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Obergefell v. Hodges (Decided June 26, 2015).  Four states (Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee) argued that they should not be required to recognize same-sex marriages lawfully obtained in other states when their state law does not provide for such unions.  The Court recognized a right to marriage for same-sex partners under the 14th Amendment.  Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, noting “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Glossip v. Gross (Decided June 29, 2015).  Execution by lethal injection is lawful in Oklahoma.  The State uses a three-drug process to administer lethal injection to death row inmates, beginning with a barbiturate to cause unconsciousness and prevent pain, followed by a paralytic drug to end breathing, and concluding with potassium chloride to stop the heart.  Oklahoma had difficulties obtaining barbiturates, so it began using the anti-anxiety drug midazolam as the first step in the lethal injection process.  Midazolam was administered unsuccessfully in the execution of Clayton Locket; he awoke after receiving midazolam and did not die until about 40 minutes later.  This caused 21 death row prisoners to file suit against Oklahoma, arguing that the drug was so ineffective that the State’s use of it violated their Eighth Amendment rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.  In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that the prisoners failed to meet their burden of proof to show that there is a reasonable alternative to midazolam that presents a significantly lower risk of pain.

These are interesting cases that may have implications in your field. If you are a paralegal, or wish to become a Washington DC paralegal, check our blog for our second update, coming soon.

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