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Tue Jun 23, 2015, 02:51 PM

Justice Sotomayor Hides Good News For Abortion Clinics In An Obscure Case About Hotels

ThinkProgress

Justice Sotomayor Hides Good News For Abortion Clinics In An Obscure Case About Hotels

Los Angeles v Patel not a particularly closely watched decision this Supreme Court term, although Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s opinion for the Court may prove to be one of the seminal precedents civil libertarians cite to ward off government invasions of personal privacy. The most surprising aspect of Sotomayor’s opinion, however, is that it may also give a boost to abortion clinics that are fighting for their life in states such as Texas. Sotomayor — in an opinion joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the one justice pro-choice groups typically must sway to win a case in the Supreme Court — includes language in her Patel opinion that is inconsistent with a recent lower court opinion upholding Texas’s efforts to restrict access to abortion. (emphasis added)

Patel concerns a Los Angeles ordinance that requires hotel operators to keep certain records, such as the names and addresses of their guests, and which provides that those records “shall be made available to any officer of the Los Angeles Police Department for inspection.” Hotel operators who refuse to do so face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The Court, in a 5-4 decision that includes the four left-of-center justices plus Kennedy, holds that this ordinance violates the Fourth Amendment’s safeguards against unreasonable searches and seizures because it does not afford these hotel operators “an opportunity to obtain precompliance review before a neutral decisionmaker.”

The most significant aspect of Sotomayor’s opinion, however, is the Court’s holding that the plaintiffs in this case may bring what is known as a “facial” challenge to the Los Angeles ordinance. Generally speaking, facial challenges seek to invalidate a law altogether, while less potent “as-applied” challenges merely seek a decision holding that a particular law cannot be applied to a particular plaintiff or plaintiffs. Prior to Patel, the Court’s precedents were not especially clear regarding when facial challenges are appropriate, and one seminal case indicated that, to bring such a challenge, “the challenger must establish that no set of circumstances exists under which the Act would be valid.”

Patel clarifies this rule, and it relies on one of the Court’s most important abortion decisions to do so. When assessing if a facial challenge is proper, Sotomayor explains, “the Court has considered only applications of the statute in which it actually authorizes or prohibits conduct.” Thus, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the only major abortion case where Justice Kennedy cast a pro choice vote,

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http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/06/22/3672394/justice-sotomayor-hides-good-news-abortion-clinics-obscure-case-hotels/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tptop3&elqTrack=true&elqTrackId=b0754f9ff6d249b49dedd6de23569786&elqaid=26029&elqat=1


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