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The U.S. Supreme Court on May 23 rendered the following decisions: The justices ruled, 6-3, that states may bar political parties from opening their primary elections to members of other parties, and thereby upheld restrictions in 24 states. Clingman v. Beaver, No. 04-37. The justices ruled against the Libertarian Party in its First Amendment challenge to Oklahoma’s system. The party wanted to open its primaries to voters registered as Democrats or Republicans in hopes of attracting more members. In a semiclosed system like Oklahoma’s, political parties may only allow their own members and independents to cast ballots. Closed primaries require people to register with one political party and vote only in that party’s primary. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said that states have broad powers to structure primaries as they see fit. “Oklahoma remains free to allow the Libertarian Party to invite registered voters of other parties to vote in its primary. But the Constitution leaves that choice to the democratic process, not the courts,” Thomas wrote. Thomas’ opinion was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer. Justice John Paul Stevens’ dissent was joined by justices David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The justices held, 6-3, that the U.S. government was within its rights to force beef producers to pay for a multimillion-dollar “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner” marketing program, even when individual cattle producers disagreed with the campaign. Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Association, No. 03-1164, and Nebraska Cattlemen v. Livestock Marketing Association, No. 03-1165. The decision is a defeat for farmers who oppose paying mandatory fees for advertising they oppose. Writing for the majority, Scalia said that the beef campaign was a form of “government speech,” immune to First Amendment challenge. “The message set out in the beef promotions is from beginning to end the message established by the federal government.” At issue was a 1985 law requiring producers to pay a $1-per-head fee on cattle sold in the United States. That fee, which generates more than $80 million per year, goes to an industry group appointed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support advertising and research programs. The government was sued by ranchers who sell cattle in South Dakota and Montana. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held the 20-year-old program to be in violation of the First Amendment. Scalia’s opinion was joined by Rehnquist, O’Connor, Thomas, Ginsburg and Breyer. Stevens, Kennedy and Souter dissented. The justices ruled, 7-2, that it is unconstitutional to force capital murder defendants to appear before juries in chains and shackles. Deck v. Missouri, No. 04-5293. The justices threw out the sentence of Carman Deck, who was shackled in leg irons and handcuffed to a chain around his belly when he faced a Missouri jury that sent him to death row. Writing for the majority, Breyer said that shackling indicates to juries “that court authorities consider the offender a danger to the community. It also almost inevitably affects adversely the jury’s perception of the character of the defendant.” Breyer’s opinion was joined by Rehnquist, Stevens, O’Connor, Kennedy, Souter and Ginsburg. Thomas, joined by Scalia, dissented. The justices’ unanimous ruling that Hawaii did not overstep its authority when it moved to keep gasoline prices in line by imposing caps on the rent paid by dealer-run stations is discussed on Page 1. Lingle v. Chevron USA, No. 04-163. Certiorari granted The justices also added one case to their 2005-2006 docket. The court will review the validity of New Hampshire’s parental consent law, which prohibits doctors from performing abortions on minors until at least 48 hours after the securing of written consent from the girl’s parent or guardian. The statute was challenged by Planned Parenthood. Affirming a district court ruling that the statute was unconstitutional, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the act’s flaws included the lack of an explicit exception for health emergencies. Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, No. 04-1144.

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