Thursday, January 02, 2014

2014 Begins With A Roar

Ball drops in NYC's Times Square, ushering in 2014

Photo (Courtesy)

In freezing New York City's Times Square, a sea of horn-tooting, hat-wearing revelers cheered and some smooched as the famed crystal ball dropped at midnight.
Bronx-born U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor led the 60-second countdown and pushed the button that unleashed the shimmering orb with 2,688 crystals, a role usually filled by the New York City mayor.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on his last day in office, sat out the celebration after 12 years on the job, while newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio took the oath of office just after midnight at his Brooklyn home.

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---Somewhat related---
[Wow, on the same day she makes the BIG HEADLINES once again!]

Justice Sotomayor grants temporary Obamacare exemption to nuns 

The Catholic nuns would have faced 'draconian fines' if they failed to provide contraceptive coverage, as the healthcare law requires.

By David G. Savage and Maeve Reston December 31, 2013, 10:33 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a temporary exemption late Tuesday to a small group of Catholic nuns that shields it from having to comply with a part of President Obama's healthcare law that requires it to provide contraceptive coverage in its insurance plans. 

She acted on an emergency appeal from lawyers for the group who said the nuns faced "draconian fines" beginning on New Year's Day if they failed to comply with the law widely known as Obamacare.

Sotomayor gave the government until Friday to file a response in the case. Her order extends only to the group of nuns and does not apply more broadly to the Affordable Care Act and its requirements.

The Supreme Court is facing a series of appeals from religious organizations and private corporations whose owners object to paying for contraceptives. In March, the court will hear two cases involving corporations and the contraceptive mandate.

The Obama administration has exempted churches and other religious groups from providing contraceptive coverage. However, it has granted a more limited exemption for religiously affiliated charities. Although they need not pay for this coverage directly, their insurers are required to include the coverage in their policies.

Nonetheless, several religious charities have continued to press for exemptions to the law. And on Tuesday evening, hours before the mandate was to take effect, they sent several emergency appeals to the court seeking an emergency exemption.

It was unclear how the Obama administration would proceed after Sotomayor's order. Obama is vacationing with his family in Hawaii this week, and the White House is not expected to make any comment before the Justice Department files a response to Sotomayor's ruling on Friday.

A number of religious groups with similar objections have vigorously challenged the Affordable Care Act in court. The Colorado order of nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, asked for the last-minute ruling Tuesday because the healthcare law's provisions go into effect Jan. 1.

In late November, the Supreme Court agreed to hear several cases that could settle the dispute between the Obama administration and businesses run by Christian conservatives over whether those companies must pay for birth control if providing that coverage is in conflict with the religious beliefs of the business owner.

The November announcement that the Supreme Court would hear the constitutional challenge to the birth control mandate in Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., as well as another case, signaled a new phase of the political battle over the healthcare law.

David Green, founder of Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby Stores, has argued that business owners "should not have to choose between violating their beliefs and violating the law."

Savage reported from Washington and Reston from Honolulu.


---Related indeed---

Roberts calls for more money for courts

Roberts spoke out about sequestration's affect on the courts. | AP Photo
By TAL KOPAN | 1/1/14 8:28 AM EST

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts used his year-end report for 2013 to call for more funding for federal courts and lambaste sequestration’s effect on the judiciary.

In the New Year’s Eve missive, Roberts referenced the seasonally appropriate “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens to guide a “look at what has made our federal court system work in the past, what we are doing in the present to preserve it in an era of fiscal constraint, and what the future holds if the judiciary does not receive the funding it needs.”

Roberts wrote that while the judiciary recognizes the need for frugality, its operating costs are only 0.2 percent of the federal budget and it has been making austerity moves for years, even before the sequester went into effect. Because courts cannot manage their caseload, however, Roberts said the effects of sequestration hit them harder.

“The impact of the sequester was more significant on the courts than elsewhere in the government, because virtually all of their core functions are constitutionally and statutorily required,” Roberts wrote. “Unlike most Executive Branch agencies, the courts do not have discretionary programs they can eliminate or postpone in response to budget cuts.”

The chief justice also went through the appropriations request submitted by the judiciary to Congress, saying it was conservative and the minimum needed for the courts to operate properly.

“In the coming weeks, and into the future, I encourage the president and Congress to be attentive to the needs of the Judicial Branch and avert the adverse consequences that would result from funding the judiciary below its minimal needs,” Roberts wrote. “It takes no imagination to see that failing to meet the judiciary’s essential requirements undermines the public’s confidence in all three branches of government. Both ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ have happy endings. We are encouraged that the story of funding for the federal judiciary — though perhaps not as gripping a tale — will too.”

The Supreme Court justices and federal judges have not been shy in advocating for court funding under sequestration. The chief judges of 87 district courts wrote to Congress last August pleading for more money and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer made a rare appearance before a congressional hearing last March to make the case, as well.


The best for last

The Current U.S. Supreme Court
Six are Roman Catholics and Three Jewish!

Service Birth
Name, stateAssoc. JusticeChief JusticeYrs Place Date Died Religion
Antonin Scalia, DC 1986–N.J. 1936 Roman Catholic
Anthony M. Kennedy, Calif. 1988–Calif. 1936 Roman Catholic
Clarence Thomas, DC 1991–Ga. 1948 Roman Catholic
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, DC 1993–N.Y. 1933 Jewish
Stephen G. Breyer, Mass. 1994–Calif. 1938 Jewish
John G. Roberts, DC2005–N.Y.1955Roman Catholic
Samuel A. Alito, Jr., N.J.2006–N.J.1950Roman Catholic
Sonia Sotomayor N.Y.2009–N.Y.1954Roman Catholic
Elena Kagan N.Y.2010–N.Y.1960Jewish

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