Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants Inc.

Back in 1991, the government passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. It was basically a law preventing spammers from calling you on your cell phone via a machine (robocalls), and racking up costs for the phone’s owner. Obviously, in 1991, people were often paying for minutes of usage, whereas now, most phone plans have unlimited calling. But still, I hate these assholes, so I like the law.

There were exemptions, though. It allowed for emergency calls. And it allowed for calls when you had previously agreed to get them from that party.

In 2015, those assholes in congress added a provision to allow debt collection calls “owed to or guaranteed by the United States” as well. Any calls from the federal government in general are also allowed.

Along come these butt plugs from The American Association of Political Consultants, Inc., who love spamming the hell out of people with their surveys and shit. They claim their 1st amendment right to free speech is being limited by not allowing them to annoy the fuck out of all of us with cell phones wanting to talk to us about politics and shit. They argued that because the law limits calls based on content, allowing the government to make them, while these assholes can’t, versus banning all calls—this makes such a ban a 1A violation of free speech.

At one point, this scumbag also argued:

The government-debt exception confirms that Congress did not view the privacy interests here as compelling. That exception exposes 60 million Americans to unlimited calls to collect more than 4.2 trillion dollars in debt.

Those are the kinds of calls consumers hate the most. If Congress really thought privacy was paramount, it would not have allowed those calls.

While it’s true those are the calls people hate the most, the fact is, those people agreed to incur a debt, and agreed to allow the people who lent them money or services to collect that debt, and then they didn’t fucking pay it. I’ve been there, it’s annoying. But it’s no one’s fault but my own.

Yet these shady fuckhats want to call you and just shoot the breeze about who you plan on voting for and shit. Ain’t nobody got time for that, and I didn’t agree to that shit in advance. They also argue these calls are non-commercial, meaning they’re not trying to sell you anything. So that’s why they think it should be OK.

Both an appeals court and the fourth circuit were highly unimpressed with this bullshit argument. So here were are to determine if it’s a 1A violation or not.

In a 6:3 majority, the right-leaning justices along with Sotomayor agreed that the government-debt exception violates the 1st amendment. That the government doesn’t get to say you can be called if the debt is guaranteed by them, but restrict a private debt collector.

The interesting part, is while the government lost and AAPC won, technically, AAPC still can’t call your ass. Instead, SCOTUS ruled that this “government-backed debt collection” exemption could be struck from the law itself, while leaving the rest of the law in tact. So now, you cannot robocall for any debt collection to your cell phone, whether it’s backed by the government, or a private debt. So AAPC still can’t call your mobile phone, but neither can any other debt collector.

This is basically like when you’re a kid, and you’re mad your older brother can go out, and you can’t. So instead of letting you go out, your parents say your brother can’t either. You didn’t make your own situation better, you just made it worse for others.

Average Joe SCOTUS: Chiafalo v. Washington

Similar to Colorado Department of State v. Baca, but no longer enjoined with it, this involves faithless electors.

In Washington, as in other states, an elector is bound to vote for the winner of the popular vote in that state, and if they don’t, they can be fined $1,000.

Well, Chiafalo, despite Clinton winning their popular vote, cast a ballot for Colin Powell. Washington wasn’t amused, and levied the fine accordingly.

Chiafalo argued that it’s their first amendment right to choose whatever fucking candidate they want, regardless of what the people chose.

Lower courts sided with Washington, but Chiafalo kept insisting, so here we are at SCOTUS deciding how electors are to be managed, along with the Baca  case.

In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS decided that the states can set whatever fucking rules they want for electors. That the constitution delegated that power to the states, leaving it up to them to decide how their electors are to be managed.

Average Joe SCOTUS: Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue

In Montana, they offer a tax-credit for people who donate to scholarship funds. Espinoza’s child was a recipient of one of these scholarships. But because Espinoza’s spawn was going to a private Christian school, it’s an issue. Because Montana has a rule, and we have the 1st amendment, which largely forbids any relationship between government and the church.

So now SCOTUS must decide if giving someone a scholarship, funded by taxpayers, should be prohibited from going to a religious school, in order to preserve the separation of church and state that people believe the 1st amendment represents. For the record, it doesn’t. It’s merely written as “Congress shall make no law…”

But, a long time ago, SCOTUS has ruled that 1A was meant to create a separation between church and state, and it’s been precedent ever since.

So Espinoza’s team is trying to argue that this law from Montana forbidding such scholarships based on religious grounds is the unconstitutional rule, because it discriminates against religious people.

Montana obviously argues that giving taxpayer money to a religious school violates the first amendment.

In a 5:4 partisan decision, SCOTUS sided with Epinoza. That the scholarship was awarded with no consideration to the school they choose to attend. As such, it is discriminatory to award it to them, but then restrict what school they can use the funds for.

The libertarian in me would like to point out that taxpayers shouldn’t be fucking funding education for anyone but their own fucking kids, or anyone else they voluntarily choose to help. If that were the case, we wouldn’t even be having this fucking argument.

While I’m atheist, I tend to agree with this decision. If we’re going to dole out scholarships on merit, we don’t have the right to tell them what school they use it with.

Ginsburg and Sotomayor argued that the law didn’t place any burden on the scholarship’s recipient, and therefore wasn’t a violation of 1A. But that’s fucking dumber than a box of rocks. If this person chooses a school, and then government steps in and says you can’t use our scholarship for THAT school, that’s a fucking burden. Again, I’m atheist. But fuck that. This is the problem with left wing assholes. They want the taxpayer to help everyone, but then they only want that help applied to things they agree with, and not what the person wants. This is why they can all kiss my lily-white ass, those arrogant pricks and prickettes.

Breyer’s and Kagan’s opinion was also a dissent, but in their case, they more argued that this was a 1A conflict since taxpayer’s ultimately end up funding a religious education. I can buy into that one.

 

Average Joe SCOTUS: Colorado Department of State v. Baca

The Bacas are electors in the state of Colorado. During the 2016 election, despite the fact that in Colorado, they have a rule stating electors must cast their votes for the winner of the popular vote, the Mr. Baca inexplicably cast his vote for John Kasich.

Colorado was less than pleased, and told him to take a hike. So then Mrs. Baca went ahead and cast her vote for Clinton, along with a 3rd party, even though they still preferred to vote for Kasich.

After the election, the Bacas sued Colorado saying that the twelfth amendment should prohibit Colorado for passing such a law, and as electors, they should be able to vote for whomever the fuck they want.

So now SCOTUS is being asked to determine if the courts have the right to rule on this, and if so, is Colorado’s law, and many other state laws that are similar, unconstitutional.

Colorado argued that siding with the Bacas would effectively allow electors to vote based on a bribe, or other nefarious reasons.

Of course, the more credible argument they made, was that this basically negates individual ballots, because if the whole damn state voted for candidate A, and yet the elector picks candidate B, then the state was effectively not heard.

Justice Alito questioned the petitioner on the notion that if they win, doesn’t it give government the power to ignore the people’s votes by removing the elector, and replacing with an elector of their choosing, presumably one who favors them, such as a Republican state government who replaces an elector who votes Democrat after the Democrat wins the popular vote.

The petitioners for the Bacas argue that the state’s arguments prevents electors from making an intelligent and proper decision should something bad occur with the candidate in question. Like in this instance, imagine Hillary Clinton had been shown to have destroyed evidence in a criminal investigation, or if she had choked on a bag of dicks and was comatose in the hospital, the electors could make a credible argument to not submit their votes for her, despite the populace choosing her, which seems kinda unlikely if I’m honest.

This case was decided in two separate cases. SCOTUS in a unanimous decision decided that the states can set whatever fucking rules they want for electors. Those assholes can’t just go rogue and do whatever the hell they want.

Average Joe SCOTUS: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V.

Booking.com, is a website where people can book travel and hotels and shit. They’ve been operating since 2006. In 2011, they asked for a patent/trademark of the name Booking.com, and for stylized versions of the logo.

Under the Lanham act, which guides the Patent Office (PTO), such requests must be distinctive enough, that they are unique to the applicant in a meaningful way. Since there are a shitload of booking sites, calling themselves Booking.com seems mighty fucking generic. Aside from that, you can win, if what you’re asking for has a secondary meaning that is unique to you, even if the primary meaning is pretty generic. But the PTO didn’t think that applied here either. So the PTO told Booking.com to fuck off.

The rejection of such generic terms tries to prevent people from copyrighting everything on the planet, making it impossible for new businesses to engage in such business. Like if a company who does bookings, but calls themselves BookThisShit.com, if someone could copyright the word “Booking,” then BookThatShit.com, along with any other company, couldn’t refer to the service they’re offering as “booking” because it’s been trademarked.

On appeals, Booking.com still lost. But then a district court felt like Booking.com had indeed taken on it’s own unique secondary meaning by combining the word “Booking” with “.com” that was unique to them.

So now SCOTUS is being asked to determine if a normally generic term that the PTO would typically reject, all of a sudden take on unique secondary meaning, just by adding the also generic term of “.com” to the end of it, and therefore should allow such a patent to be issued?

The PTO argued that Booking.com didn’t contest the rejection of “Booking Inc.” as a company name for copyright protection. So how the hell is “.com” at the end any different?

In a rare move, Clarence Thomas asked a question, proving once again, he’s not mute (Thomas is famously quiet during oral arguments, rarely asking anything), to ask about whether they could have patented a vanity phone number such as 1-800-BOOKING. Such trademarks are typically allowed, so why is a phone number OK, but a .com isn’t? Which let’s be honest, seems like a pretty good question.

He later asking Booking.com if they relied on the “primary significance” test to win. Meaning, if that should be all that’s considered for them to win. But she argued that by combining the two generic terms together, “Booking” and “.com”, you’ve made it unique, and therefore they win.

In my own mind, since that website can only be assigned in a technical manner to one company, seems kinda odd anyone could argue it isn’t unique, when technically it is distinctly unique. Yet no one seemed to argue this point.

Anyway, SCOTUS seemed to agree with me. In an 8-1 decision, they decided that if “booking.com” isn’t thought of as a generic term for all electronic bookings, but instead is uniquely thought of as a booking site specific to that company, then it’s fucking eligible for copyright protection.

Breyer was the lone dissenter.

Hear oral arguments or read about the case here.

Average Joe SCOTUS: Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

So…this is kinda complicated. These scummy folks at Seila Law are in the business of debt relief law. Meaning, they try to help people who racked up a bunch of debt and can’t pay it. Having worked with a law firm who does this, I personally found it less than helpful. They pretty much charged me a couple thousand dollars to do what I could have done, by just calling the IRS (the people I owed). But maybe they’re more effective with credit card companies and shit, IDGAF.

Anyway, as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, a bunch of bullshit laws designed to protect an economic collapse that assholes in congress argue happened in 2008 because of deregulation and those scummy bankers, when the reality was, that collapse was caused just as much or more by fucking government’s interference in the market in the first place. But I digress.

Anyway… The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created as part of this stupid law, and it’s leader, appointed by the president, can’t be fired other than for like if they commit a crime or some shit.  When the CFPB decided to investigate those douchebags at Seila Law, Seila was like, “How fucking dare you? Go the fuck away. As a matter of fact, we don’t even recognize your constitutional right to exist, you assholes.”

Seila’s argument being that the separation of powers rule in the constitution shouldn’t allow for a committee like this to be set up by congress, but then act like the president when they’re not in fact the actual president. It would basically make the asshole running this board unanswerable to the three branches of government, and effectively their own new branch.

In a 5:4 Republican-appointee decision SCOTUS sided with Seila Law, that such an appointment does in-fact violate the separation of powers. But, that provision is able to be removed from the law without ending the law entirely, so sadly Dodd-Frank still stands as law, just without this bullshit appointee. If the president gets to appoint them, they get to fire them too.

The Democrat-appointee’s dissented based on principle, but in my opinion it’s kinda bullshit.

They rightly claim that these restrictions on termination are good for the same reason SCOTUS being that way is good. It makes sure these people don’t make decisions based on political pressure. But there’s little doubt that it does indeed take the power away from the president. Richard Cordray for instance was the first person nominated to the post by Obama in 2010. Once Trump took office, this law basically said Trump couldn’t force Cordray to enforce the law as Trump dictates, which is his job as president.

So while I believe it’s a decent argument by the Dem-appointees, they’re still wrong to argue it. I’m glad they lost.

Average Joe SCOTUS: June Medical Services v. Russo

About 6 years ago, Louisiana enacted Act 620, which dictated “every physician who performs or induces an abortion shall ‘have active admitting privileges at a hospital that is located not further than thirty miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced.”

The idea being, if something goes wrong during the abortion process, the doctor performing it must be able to quickly take the patient to a hospital if the issue requires care over and above what can be done at the clinic.

But all the pro-choice people merely argue that it’s a scheme by pro-life politicians meant to reduce the number of places a woman can get an abortion, and therefore reduce abortions, something she has a right to do, since Roe v. Wade.

Earlier, SCOTUS dropped the hammer on a similar Texas law in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt (WWH), saying that the law did make it more difficult to get an abortion, with no apparent health benefit. I’m speculating here, but presumably, if there is a complication, the patient would still be taken and admitted to the hospital, and simply treated by an ER doc there, making this mostly some red tape bullshit, and supporting the pro-choice peep’s arguments.

Part of the State’s (Russo) argument, is that some of these practitioners doing abortions, were not people who were trained properly to do these services, citing one was a radiologist, and the other eye doc. There are medical abortions, which I think are basically, they give you some bullshit to drink, and it induces the body to end the pregnancy and produce a still birth. But then there are surgical abortions, which involve cutting into the patient.

While these practitioners may be able to do the medical abortions, fucking no one trusts these assholes with a scalpel.

So if the medical abortion fails, or shit hits the fan in some way, and now they have to do a surgical abortion, these people aren’t capable of doing it.

But the abortion peeps are saying that they have a doctor on staff supervising these other assholes, and if it does escalate, there is someone on staff to deal with this shit.

So now SCOTUS for some reason, is hearing this case, because while a federal district course blocked the law, relating it to the other case, the 5th circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed, saying the law didn’t in fact place an undue burden on women seeking an abortion. Their argument seemed to be that in Texas, their law would have left only like one fucking doctor who could do abortions, where Louisiana already has many who have such privileges.

In a 5:4 decision where Chief Justice Roberts sided with the Democrat-appointed justices, SCOTUS ruled that since Roe v. Wade already established a woman’s right to choose to abort—any law restricting that right must have a clearly defined health benefit to justify the burden imposed on the woman in question, as opposed to the state just making a law that restricts that clearly-defined right because they don’t like it.

Justice Thomas’ dissent was one that states basically Roe v. Wade had no basis in the constitution for allowing abortions, and in Roe v. Wade,  SCOTUS effectively created that right out of “whole cloth,” versus the Constitution. Since SCOTUS doesn’t establish rights, striking down a law as unconstitutional in this manner makes zero sense, when the Constitution didn’t define the right, SCOTUS did, outside what is their clearly defined scope, in his opinion.

log·i·cal: capable of reasoning or of using reason in an orderly cogent fashion lib·er·tar·i·an: an advocate of the doctrine of free will; a person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action

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