With all attention focused on the Hobby Lobby decision on Monday, we didn’t want you to miss two other important rulings from the Supreme Court.  They’ve been busy!  Monday ended the term, so there were a lot of influential decisions to be made.  They certainly went out with a bang.

Not only did the Supreme Court put a limit on the IRS’s power to “summon” your information, they also enforced a check on the President and upheld the freedom of speech – doing both by unanimous votes, no less.

One writer at the National Review exulted that these “two unanimous Obama administration defeats” corrected years’ worth of confusion with “short paragraphs of basic constitutional common sense.”

In what some are calling the more important First Amendment decision, though less high-profile than Hobby Lobby, the Court struck down a Massachusetts law establishing “a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics that categorically excluded citizens from engaging in any expressive conduct.”  This was more than a protest-free zone or a prohibition of aggression towards women seeking abortions.  No one was even allowed to stand within 35 feet of the facility entrance.  Violators faced three months to two and a half years of jail time for offenses.

Eleanor McCullen and others challenged the law because it prevented them from having personal conversations with women entering abortion clinics.

One radio commentator described the law in evocative terms: legislators “went for the broadsword rather than the scalpel” to achieve the intended effect.  The Court essentially agreed.  If lawmakers’ aim is to prevent the harassment of women seeking an abortion, there are plenty of other ways to achieve the same goal in a less extreme way and preserve the people’s freedom of speech.  This is called the “least restrictive means” test, also invoked in the Hobby Lobby decision.  In the case of Massachusetts, preventing harassment doesn’t require the sweeping prohibition they chose, especially when other regulations are already in place to that end.

In striking down the Massachusetts law, the Court properly emphasized that “it is no accident that public streets and sidewalks have developed as venues for the exchange of ideas.” And responding to arguments from the state that the buffer zones helped with administrative enforcement, the Court noted that “the prime objective of the First Amendment is not efficiency.”

In another decision last week, the Supreme Court said the President can’t make recess appointments when the Senate is not in recess.  Why was this necessary to clarify?  Because he has made “recess” appointments to federal agencies when Congress was in session.

Sure seems like common sense to me, but we can’t take that for granted in today’s government.

President Obama appointed three people to the National Labor Relations Board during a period in 2012 when the Senate was meeting every three days.  The Supreme Court responded as it should, saying the President’s appointments exceeded his authority.

Though some justices think the decision should have reached farther, it’s nice to see one branch of the government doing its job.

On the other hand, Obama has announced he’s preparing to bypass Congress again, this time on immigration.  (Some say the mess he’s trying to fix was likely created by another executive order he made in 2012, and are doubtful two wrongs will make a right.)  This guy sure loves his executive orders.  It must be nice to have that handy tool when Congress won’t agree with him.

There are more issues coming in the future, but all in all, it was a pretty good finish for the Supreme Court this term.

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