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U.S. Supreme Court: Naturally Occurring DNA Can be Swabbed But Not Patented

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Last week, in a 5-4 decision in Maryland v. King (No. 12-207), the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly held the following:

“When officers make an arrest supported by probably cause to hold or a serious offense and bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

Today, in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. (No. 12-398), the Court unanimously held that “[a] naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and is not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated, but cDNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring.”

As expected, the reactions in both cases were mixed.  Civil libertarians criticized the King case for being too invasive and unconstitutional.  Opponents of genetic patents are undoubtedly pleased with today’s ruling because no one can monopolize and exploit for profit a segment of naturally occurring DNA.

 

Written by Admin

June 13, 2013 at 11:00 am

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The Nail Biting Begins

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With arguments over affirmative action, gay marriage, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and patents over human genes already presented, the nail biting among court observers has certainly begun.  If history is a guide, the most controversial decisions will be released in late June before the Court adjourns.

This term’s cases will have a huge impact on social and political issues.  Affirmative action in higher education could be outlawed, the Defense of Marriage Act could be declared unconstitutional, minority voting rights under Section 5 could be scaled back and human patenting could be prohibited.

In the coming weeks,  SupremeCourtInsider.com will be analyzing the cases for the public’s review.

Stay tuned.

Written by Admin

April 22, 2013 at 11:38 am

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Section 5 Under Scrutiny

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The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today on the constitutionality of the 2006 reauthorization of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

To read more, click here.

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February 27, 2013 at 3:36 pm

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Unanimous!

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Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two unanimous decisions involving Aldo, a drug sniffing dog, and a soldier’s right to seek custody of his child in a U.S. court.

To read more, click here.

Written by Admin

February 19, 2013 at 4:55 pm

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The Looming Battle Over Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act

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On February 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a challenge by Shelby County, Alabama (Shelby County v. Holder) (12-96), regarding the constitutionality of the 2006 reauthorization of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  In 2009, in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder, the Court said that it had “serious constitutional concerns”, but it decided the case on other grounds.

The specific question the justices will consider is as follows:

“”Whether Congress’ decision in 2006 to reauthorize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act under the pre-existing coverage formula of Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act exceeded its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and thus violated the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the United States Constitution.”

The stakes are high in this case.  The preclearance provisions in Section 5 have been used to ensure that minority rights are protected in covered jurisdictions, which have had a history of discrimination. Opponents of the reauthorization argue that the formula used in 2006 is outdated and does not reflect modern day realities of the electoral gains by minorities.  Proponents maintain that preclearance under Section 5 is still necessary because discrimination still exists.

A decision is expected in June.

 

Written by Admin

February 13, 2013 at 2:53 pm

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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Captivates Austinites

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Wearing an orange jacket and ear rings, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor left a memorable impression in Longhorn Country when she appeared yesterday in Overheard with Evan Smith in the KLRU studio at The University of Texas at Austin.

Justice Sotomayor, the 111th justice on the U.S. Supreme Court and the first Hispanic to serve on the High Court, came to Austin, a city she promised to visit again because of its music venues, to discuss her new book My Beloved World.  The book is now ranked number one in the New York Times best sellers list.

The book provides a detailed glimpse of how a young Latina was able to overcome adversity through hard work, determination, and guidance from her mother and “abuelita”.  Justice Sotomayor told the audience that the message of the book is to “aim high to move forward.”  She also emphasized that it is okay not to know certain things.  “You can’t succeed if you are not willing to say,  ‘I don’t know,'” said Justice Sotomayor.

Her most poignant advice was to an elementary student who asked what advice she would give a fifth grader with big dreams.  After a brief pause, she said, “Do not be afraid of failure.  Do not let fear stop you because it stops everyone else.”

A participant in the audience asked her what advice she would give to aspiring law students.  She was very honest in her response:  “Don’t practice law unless you have a passion for it.”

After her presentation at The University of Texas Austin, she signed hundreds of books at Book People, an independent book store in Austin.  At her signing, she was glad to see Professor Gerald Torres of The University of Texas School of Law.  Professor Torres was a third year law student at Yale Law School when Justice Sotomayor began her legal studies there.

Austinites look forward to her return.

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January 24, 2013 at 10:07 am

Clarence Thomas Speaks

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Earlier this week, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas spoke for the first time in 7 years.

Known for sitting silent during oral argument, Justice Thomas remarked “Well – he did not….” after a lawyer representing the state of Louisiana in Boyer v. Louisiana responded to Justice Scalia’s question regarding the education of the attorney’s representing the defendant who faced the death penalty.  According to the state’s attorney, the attorneys went to Harvard and Yale Law Schools.

An audio of the court’s arguments will be released tomorrow.

Written by Admin

January 17, 2013 at 5:06 pm

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