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06.19.17 | 2:28 pm

The Supreme Court just overturned a law that banned sex offenders from social media

The Supreme Court on Monday overturned a North Carolina law barring sex offenders from accessing Facebook and other social networks open to minors. The decision indicates that SCOTUS views social media so vital to modern life that broadly denying access to it would infringe on basic rights

"It is unsettling to suggest that only a limited set of websites can be used even by persons who have completed their sentences," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, in an 8-0 decision, overturning the law on First Amendment grounds. "Even convicted criminals—and in some instances especially convicted criminals—might receive legitimate benefits from these means for access to the world of ideas, in particular if they seek to reform and to pursue lawful and rewarding lives."

The case arose after a Durham police officer spotted a convicted sex offender celebrating on Facebook under a pseudonym about having a traffic ticket dismissed. Read the full court opinion here.

[Photo: Flickr user Jeff Kubina]

06.05.17 | 12:39 pm

SCOTUS is about to weigh in on cell phone privacy

The U.S. Supreme Court said today it would decide whether law enforcement needs to get a warrant before it tracks someone's location via cell phone data. As anyone who listened to Serial or watches enough Law & Order knows, when a cell phone is used for calls or text messages, it pings nearby cell towers to connect with the telephone network. As the user travels, the phone pings off of various cell towers, creating a de facto map of the user's movements. That data is stored by cell companies. Civil liberty groups believe such data is private and police should have to prove probable cause to get a warrant to search through such data, but so far courts have disagreed.

In Carpenter v. United States, SCOTUS will look at the case of Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted of six robberies after cell phone records placed him near the sites of four of them. A federal appeals court upheld the conviction, as reported by NBC News, ruling that cell phone users have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their cell phone records based on a 1986 law on stored records. The ACLU is representing Carpenter and believes that the law needs to reflect the realities of the digital age. Now, the Supreme Court will finally weigh in. Read more about the case here.

06.23.16 | 1:30 pm

All of today’s SCOTUS decisions, from immigration to affirmative action

What a day for news! Here's a quick recap of what the Supreme Court ruled on today: 

• The Supreme Court tied 4-4 on a case that challenged Obama's plan to shield illegal immigrants from deportation. This means the decision of a lower court holds, thereby blocking hopes of bringing the proposal to fruition—a big blow to the Obama administration. There's a chance this could change, however, depending on the outcome of the election:

• The Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in favor of affirmative action, on a case that called into question the practices of the University of Texas, which employs a race-based admissions program.

• And in yet another SCOTUS ruling:

Next up on the docket: A key abortion ruling, which would be the court's most significant one on the issue since the Planned Parenthood case in 1992.