MC&A Newsletter
Volume VI  ::  September 2009
Supreme Court Special
Fall is the season to start anew!  Now that the almost non-existent summer is over, MC&A is back with a season of legal news. This summer was full of law-related theatrics, including the legal issues surrounding the death of Michael Jackson, the antics of yet another Governor Gone Wild - Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina -- to the confirmation hearings of Judge Sonya Sotomayor.  As students go back to school so must the courts!  The United States Supreme Court will start its 2009/2010 term on Monday, October 5, 2009.  As an attorney admitted to practice before the Supreme Court, I can assure that it is quite an interesting court.  In light of Judge Sotomayor's meteoric and historic rise to the highest court in the land, MC&A has prepared a special newsletter complete with information on the Supreme Court for your reading pleasure!
Midwn Charles

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What is the Supreme Court?


Chief Justice of the United States:   John G. Roberts, Jr.
Associate Justices:
   John Paul Stevens
   Antonin Scalia
   Anthony M. Kennedy
   Clarence Thomas
   Ruth Bader Ginsburg
   Stephen G. Breyer
   Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
   Sonya Sotomayor
Retired Justices:                                         
   Sandra Day O'Connor
   David H. Souter
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States and it is the last stop of the judicial process.  Decisions made by the Court are binding and cannot be appealed.  The court is made up of nine justices - the Chief Justice of the United States and eight Associate Justices.  The justices are nominated by the President and confirmed with the majority vote of the Senate.  Justices are appointed for life.  Their terms end only upon death, resignation, retirement, or conviction on impeachment.  The Supreme Court meets in Washington, D.C. in the United States Supreme Court building.
An appellate court, the Supreme Court is not obligated to hear a case and in fact, only hear a small number of cases.  The Supreme Court hears cases to resolve a split in opinion among the lower federal courts to settle the division, which ensures consistency in the application of law.
Key Supreme Court Cases
and Their Impact
Supreme Court decisions shape the legal landscape in America because they interpret the United States Constitution.  While one may think that Supreme Court decisions have no bearing on their daily life, think again.  Here are some important Supreme Court decisions:
  • Brown v. Board of Education, 1954 -- the Court held that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.
  • Mapp v. Ohio, 1961 -- the Court held that evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against "unreasonable searches and seizures," could not be used in criminal prosecutions.
  • Gideon v. Wainwright, 1963 - the Court held that the Constitution grants the right of retaining a court-appointed attorney for those unable to pay for one.
  • Miranda v. Arizona, 1966 -- the Court held that statements made by a defendant in police custody will be admissible at trial only if the prosecution can show that the defendant was informed of the right to an attorney before and during questioning and of the right against self-incrimination before questioning by police, and that the defendant not only understood these rights, but voluntarily waived them.
  • Furman v. Georgia, 1972 -- the Court held that the methods used by several states to implement the death penalty were unconstitutional.
  • Roe v. Wade, 1973 -- the Court held that the Constitution protects a woman's right to privacy and control over her own body which guaranteed women the right to legally obtain an abortion.
  • Gregg v. Georgia, 1976 -- the Court held that the death penalty is not unconstitutional.
  • Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 1978 -- the Court barred quota systems in college admissions but affirmed the constitutionality of affirmative action programs.
  • Bush v. Gore, 2000 - the Court held that the Florida Supreme Court's method for recounting ballots was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, effectively resolving the 2000 election in favor of George W. Bush.
  • Grutter v. Bollinger; Gratz v. Bollinger, 2003 --the Court held that race can be a factor for universities shaping their admissions programs.
In the Spotlight:
Associate Justice Sonya Sotomayor
Sonya Sotomayer is the most recent addition to the Supreme Court.  Appointed by President Barack Obama on May 26, 2009 and confirmed by the Senate on August 6, 2009, Judge Sotomayor will be the first Latino to serve on the high court.  She will also be the third woman named to the Supreme Court, and the second on the current court.
Judge Sotomayor's parents are from Puerto Rico.  She was born and raised in the Bronx, New York and grew up in a public housing project.  Judge Sotomayor later graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and attended Yale Law School, where she was editor of the Yale Law Journal.  After law school, Judge Sotomayor became an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan in 1979, where she tried criminal cases for five years.  She then entered private practice in 1984 and became partner at the law firm Pavia and Harcourt in 1988.  There, she was a general civil litigator in the area of intellectual property law.  In 1992, President George H.W. Bush appointed her to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.  President Clinton appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1998.
The first Latina to serve on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor authored around 400 published opinions.  She tackled tough issues involving constitutional law, complex procedural matters, and lawsuits involving complex business organizations.
Recent Supreme Court Opinions
The Supreme Court has concluded its 2008-2009 term but it was not without some interesting decisions.  Two that took center stage were Ricci v. Destafano and Safford United School District No. 1 v. Redding.
In Ricci, the Court ruled that white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut were unfairly discriminated against because of their race when the city tossed the results of a promotional exam.  The case was based upon tests given in 2003 for promotion to lieutenant and captain.  The exams yielded no black firefighters eligible for advancement, and as a result, threw out the results and promoted no one.  That move triggered a lawsuit by 18 white firefighters, one of them Hispanic, who claimed reverse discrimination.
The ruling reversed a federal district court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which had found for the city, and sends the case back to the lower courts for further action.  This case has big implications for the workplace (i.e., how far employers can go in considering race in hiring and promotion) and also drew attention because Judge Sotomayor was one of the three Second Circuit judges who ruled in favor of the city.
In Safford, the Court ruled that the strip search of a 13-year-old Arizona girl by school officials who were looking for prescription strength drugs violated her constitutional rights.
The Court ruled that the officials would have been justified in 2003 had they limited their search to the backpack and outer clothing of Savana Redding, who was in the eighth grade at the time.  But in searching her undergarments, they went too far and violated her Fourth Amendment privacy rights.
For more information on the United States Supreme Court, go to www.supremecourtus.gov.
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For more information about how we can be of service to you, call us at 212.551.3617 or send an email to midwin@charleslawfirm.com.

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In This Issue
Supreme Court Special
What is the Supreme Court
Recent News
4 Paws Cause
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-Midwin Charles recently appeared on CNN HLN shows Showbiz Tonight, Prime News, and the Nancy Grace Show and Tru TV (formerly Court TV) show Courtside to discuss a wide range of legal, social and pop culture issues.

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MC&A Integrated Media Specialist  Mari Fetzer, will be running the 2009 NYC Marathon for TEAM ANIMAL LEAGUE to raise money for our four pawed friends. An avid animal rights advocate, Mari volunteers with Bide-a-wee and the Humane Society. She also lobbies her local elected officials to pass legislature advancing animal rights. Mari is grateful to MC&A for their support and legal guidance. We hope you can donate any amount for this worthy cause.

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