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SCOTUS round-up Plus: The $54 million pants case decided Update: Analysts Mull Possibility of Supreme Court Vacancy

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By Michelle Malkin  •  June 25, 2007 10:35 AM

A bunch of Supreme Court decisions coming down today…

Allah’s watching: Breaking: SCOTUS says schools can censor “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” (plus there’s a decision in the $54 million lost pants case filed by a crazy judge against D.C. dry cleaners.)

So’s SCOTUSBlog:

LiveBlog from the Court: 5 opinions, no schools cases

Posted by Jason Harrow at 10:11 AM

In this space, we’ll give real-time details regarding what opinions are being issued today. Lyle will have further details below.

10:00: 4 grants on today’s Orders list (to be posted). 06-179, 457, 1286, 10119. Orders can now be found here.
10:01: NAHB v. Defenders of Wildlife decided. Rev’d. Written by Alito. 5-4.
10:05: Alito still reciting from Defenders of Wildlife.
10:07: Hein decided. Written by Alito. 5-4.
10:12: Wilkie v. Robbins decided. Written by Souter. 7-2. Rev’d and remanded.
10:19: Morse decided. Written by 5-4 in part.
10:25: Election case decided. Written by the Chief. That’s it – no schools cases.

Wires reporting on a business win in an environmental case…

The Supreme Court sided with developers and the Bush administration Monday in a dispute with environmentalists over protecting endangered species.

The court ruled 5-4 for home builders and the Environmental Protection Agency in a case that involved the intersection of two environmental laws, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the conservative majority, said the endangered species law takes a back seat to the clean water law when it comes to the EPA handing authority to a state to issue water pollution permits. Developers often need such permits before they can begin building.

A federal appeals court had said that EPA did not do enough to ensure that endangered species would not be harmed if the state took over the permitting.

Environmental groups, backed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal, said the administration position would in essence gut a key provision of the endangered species law. The act prohibits federal agency action that will jeopardize a species and calls for consultation between federal agencies.

The cases are National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife, 06-340, EPA v. Defenders of Wildlife, 06-549.

…and a win for Bush on faith-based initiatives

The Supreme Court on Monday said ordinary taxpayers don’t have the legal standing to challenge a White House initiative helping religious charities get a share of federal money.

The 5-4 decision dealt with a suit by a group of atheists and agnostics against Bush administration officials including the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

The taxpayers’ group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation Inc., objected to government conferences in which administration officials encourage religious charities to apply for federal grants.

Taxpayers in the case “set out a parade of horribles that they claim could occur” unless the court stopped the Bush administration initiative, wrote Justice Samuel Alito. “Of course, none of these things has happened.”

More good news:

McCain-Feingold gets loosened…

The Supreme Court loosened restrictions Monday on corporate- and union-funded television ads that air close to elections, weakening a key provision of a landmark campaign finance law.

The court, split 5-4, in upholding an appeals court ruling that an anti-abortion group should have been allowed to air ads during the final two months before the 2004 elections.

The case involved advertisements that Wisconsin Right to Life was prevented from broadcasting. The ads asked voters to contact the state’s two senators, Democrats Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, and urge them not to filibuster President Bush’s judicial nominees.

Feingold, a co-author of the campaign finance law, was up for re-election in 2004.

Who will fill the next vacant SCOTUS seats? CNS reports:

If a U.S. Supreme Court justice steps down in the coming months, the Bush administration may have an easier time filling the seat with a conservative nominee than is generally expected, some political analysts argue.

The first full term in which Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., and Associate Justice Samuel Alito have served together is drawing to a close, and the country is again bracing for the possibility of another justice retiring from the bench.

Retirement speculation focuses on Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, both liberals. Stevens is 87 years old; and although Ginsburg is 13 years younger, her frail appearance has often prompted conjecture of poor health.

These justices have also taken to reading their dissents from the bench in recent months, a practice that Curt Levey, general counsel for the Judicial Confirmation Network, believes may signify their displeasure with being in the minority on several important cases.

Justice David Souter, 67, who was appointed by President George H. W. Bush, also is rumored to be considering retirement.

Jan Crawford Greenburg, author of the recent book, “Supreme Conflict: The Inside Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court,” has written that the Bush administration has prepared a “short list” of possible nominees should a justice step down.

According to Greenburg, possible nominees include Janice Rogers Brown of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; Priscilla Owen and Edith Brown Clement, both of the Fifth Circuit; Diane Sykes of the Seventh Circuit; Loretta Preska, a New York Federal District judge; and Raoul Cantero of the Florida State Supreme Court.

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