Supreme Court decisions: Emory experts weigh in

June 11, 2014


Corey Broman-Fulks

Elaine Justice


Emory University law experts are available to speak on a number of upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decisions expected before the end of the 2014 term.

Hobby Lobby and Contraception

Mark Goldfeder, director of Emory’s Law and Religion Student Program, believes it is important that the court and federal government not wade into citizens’ beliefs and understandings of sin. “No one is questioning whether or not the feelings behind Hobby Lobby's claims are sincere; to dial back the deference given to sincere religious beliefs and to insert the court's own ideas of what constitutes complicity or sin would be quite a powerful and terrible precedent.” Goldfeder is an expert of law and religion and the issues of marriage, polygamy, and religious liberty.

Campaign Finance Reform

Michael Kang, an expert in election law, believes the Supreme Court will strike down contribution limits from individuals in the McCutcheon v. FEC case, but the reasoning in this matter is what's more important, he says. "The court could head in the direction of a broad ruling that would cut away at the constitutionality of contribution limits in general, or it could issue a more limited ruling specific to aggregate limits." Kang has written extensively on campaign finance law and the Citizens United case.

Recess Appointments

Charles Shanor, a labor law and employment discrimination expert, says Noel v. Canning is really a fight between two branches of the federal government: executive and legislative. If the court finds that recess appointments are illegal, it could change the way the Senate operates. “Government may be slowed, but how much and for how long are the interesting details that would need to be examined,” he says. “Of course, if the National Labor Relations Board wins, there will be a collective yawn on the practical front but lots of gnashing of teeth about how the court threw out the Constitution again.”

Patent Law

Tim Holbrook, a leading patent law scholar, says in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank the court has the opportunity to decide, if ever, computer software is eligible for patent protection. Holbrook says any directive in this case is significant to, at the very least, provide some guidance to lower courts on patent claims as well as the collateral consequences for “patent trolls.”  “Alice, in conjunction with these other cases, has the potential to rework the patent landscape, particularly with respect to patent assertion entities,” he says. “Given that anti-troll legislation has likely died in the Senate, these cases are of even greater importance.”