Supreme Court to Hear Cases on Religious Liberty, Public Corruption

WASHINGTON—Former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R-VA) bribery conviction, as well as the constitutionality of state laws banning money from going to religious schools, have joined the Supreme Court’s docket, as the justices on Friday filled eight spots on their docket for cases to be decided by the time the current year’s term ends in June.

McDonnell faces jail time for his bribery conviction under federal law, alleging corrupt official acts as governor in exchange for lucrative benefits and expensive gifts. His lead lawyer from Jones Day, Noel Francisco—the Supreme Court heavyweight who dealt President Barack Obama a humiliating defeat by persuading the justices to vote 9-0 that Obama’s recess appointments (without Senate confirmation) were unconstitutional—petitioned the Court to review McDonnell’s case.

The former Virginia governor was convicted under the Hobbs Act, which makes it a felony to take “official action” in exchange for money, campaign contributions, or anything of value. The High Court limited its review in McDonnell v. United States to the following question: “Whether ‘official action’ is limited to exercising actual governmental power, threatening to exercise such power, or pressuring others to exercise such power, and whether the jury must be so instructed; or, if not so limited, whether the Hobbs Act and honest-services fraud statute are unconstitutional.”

Another “cert grant” (legal shorthand for the Court granting a petition for a writ of certiorari to review a case) was in what could become a landmark religious-liberty case. Blaine Amendments are state constitutional provisions adopted by some states in the late 1880s as anti-Catholic measures, as Breitbart News’s Susan Berry has previously reported. These amendments—barring taxpayer money from going to “sectarian” schools and other institutions—have become a tool for impeding all Christian education, as well as various faith-based services and organizations.

The Alliance Defending Freedom is representing a Christian school in Missouri, challenging the constitutionality of the Show Me State’s Blaine Amendment. On Friday, the justices granted review in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley, asking whether the excluding of churches from general state funds violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

These cases—along with the others just granted review by the Court—will likely be heard in April, with a decision before July 1.

Ken Klukowski is legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.


Comment count on this article reflects comments made on Breitbart.com and Facebook. Visit Breitbart's Facebook Page.