Law

At the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, hostile questioning from key justices seemed to imperil the individual mandate, the central provision of the Obama health care overhaul.

The mandate requires virtually all Americans to have health insurance — through Medicare, Medicaid or employer-provided insurance, or, if you are not covered by any of those, through individual insurance that you pay for.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli seemed unusually nervous at first, asking for a moment to sip water to clear his throat. He had good reason for his nerves.

The U.S. Supreme Court signaled Monday that it likely will resolve the constitutional challenge to the Obama health care overhaul, sidestepping the procedural issues that could derail the case until 2015.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court hears its second day of testimony about the Affordable Care Act. At issue is a central tenet of that law: whether it's legal to require individuals to purchase health care.

But apart from the legal debate, there are questions about the economics of the mandate. Some — like Peggy Bodner of Portland, Ore. — worry it may be difficult to find the money to pay for health insurance, even with government subsidies.

The U.S. Supreme Court gets to the heart of the health care arguments Tuesday. Almost exactly two years after Congress passed the Obama health care overhaul, the justices are hearing legal arguments testing the constitutionality of the so-called health care mandate — so-called because those words actually do not appear in the law.

When community leaders wanted justice for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, they went knocking on the door of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. And that's been happening a lot lately.

We begin with the implications of man-made beings in the 21st century, and some potential legal questions recently posed by New Hampshire attorney John Weaver.

When the U.S. Supreme Court hears challenges to the Obama administration's health care law this week, the arguments will be complex, with questions about states' rights, mandatory insurance, and Medicaid.

To introduce those concepts — and to give the rest of us something to do while the court hears six hours of arguments — we offer a word search game. The grid below features many words you'll likely hear this week, as NPR's Nina Totenberg reports from the court.

Free health clinics have long been places people turn to when they don't have health insurance or any money to pay for care. But the health law's expansion of coverage puts free clinics in uncharted territory.

While the law goes before the Supreme Court this week, health providers are already gearing up for a surge in patients with insurance.

Around the country, hundreds of free clinics have been established over the past 50 years to treat patients like Patsy Duarte.

For the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that defendants have a constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel in plea bargains. In a 5-4 decision Wednesday, the court went further, declaring that when a lawyer acts unethically or gives clearly wrong advice, the defendant may be entitled to a second chance at accepting a plea offer.

Strolling through the mall is an exercise in sensory overload or self-control, depending on whom you ask. There’s no denying the power of the mall’s kiosks to tempt us into paying for things we didn’t plan on, like bejeweled cell phone cases and knock-off sunglasses…but what if those kiosks offered something more practical, like legal advice? That’s the thinking behind the law booth, one Florida attorney’s solution to the problem of getting affordable legal services into the hands of people who can’t afford big firms, but aren’t poor enough to qualify for legal aid.

Eminent Domain Explained

Mar 21, 2012

It’s long been a controversial government power: The ability to take private property if it’s deemed for the “greater public good”.  But often, even the mere suggestion of its use provokes public outcry.  We’ll  look at this idea of eminent domain,  how it’s been applied by all levels of government, and how it’s come up recently here in New Hampshire.

Guests 

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case involving the arrest of a Colorado man who was thrown in jail after telling Vice President Cheney in 2006 that the Bush administration's policies in Iraq were "disgusting."

Most of the president's speeches these days focus on jobs or gas prices. But the health care law is his signature achievement, and it always gets a mention at political events.

"Change is health care reform that we passed after a century of trying," President Obama said to cheers and applause from the audience at a recent fundraiser in New York.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court said police had overstepped their legal authority by planting a GPS tracker on the car of a suspected drug dealer without getting a search warrant. It seemed like another instance in a long line of cases that test the balance between personal privacy and the needs of law enforcement.

The federal health law's expansion of Medicaid will cover some 16 million more Americans in the government program for the poor, if that part of the law survives the legal challenge it faces in the Supreme Court beginning next week.

Florida is leading 25 other states in that challenge, but that hasn't stopped two of Miami's most prominent hospitals from preparing for the Medicaid expansion.

We hear a lot about juvenile offenders when they commit a crime — and again, when they're sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison. But not much is known about what happens after the prison gates slam shut.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in two homicide cases testing whether it is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a 14-year-old to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

There are currently 79 of these juvenile killers who will die in prison. What's more, in many states, the penalty is mandatory, meaning neither judge nor jury is allowed to consider the youngster's age or background in meting out the sentence.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case testing whether children conceived through in vitro fertilization after the death of a parent are eligible for Social Security survivors benefits.

The case before the court began in 2001 when Robert Capato was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Before beginning treatments, he deposited sperm at a fertility clinic, and after he died, his wife, Karen, carried out the couple's plan to conceive using Robert's sperm.

Two eras clash on Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court, when a law written in 1939 is applied to in vitro fertilization. At issue is whether children conceived through in vitro fertilization after the death of a parent are eligible for Social Security survivors benefits.

At least 100 such cases are pending before the Social Security Administration.

An extraordinary special investigation by a federal judge has concluded that two Justice Department prosecutors intentionally hid evidence in the case against Sen. Ted Stevens, one of the biggest political corruption cases in recent history.

A blistering report released Thursday found that the government team concealed documents that would have helped the late Stevens, a longtime Republican senator from Alaska, defend himself against false-statements charges in 2008. Stevens lost his Senate seat as the scandal played out, and he died in a plane crash two years later.

Just off the side of the road in rural southern Texas is a large beige building that looks a lot like a prison. Fences and tall walls mark the outside. Inside, the doors slam and people sit in control booths at the end of long concrete hallways.

But just a little farther into the facility, the door opens to a courtyard in the center of the complex, and there, things begin to change. There's a soccer field, a pavilion and a gymnasium. There's also a walk-up pharmacy and commissary. All of it is guarded by officers in polo shirts.

NHPR Staff

Do indigent parents have a constitutional right to a lawyer when the state charges that parent with abuse or neglect of their child?

That’s the question put to the state’s top court.

Last year, lawmakers passed a historic budget – making cuts to General Fund spending for the first time since World War II.

One of the casualties....the $1.2 million dollars provided to indigent parents for legal representation in child abuse and neglect proceedings.

Over the past several years, 350-400 parents a year are charged, typically for neglect.

After a series of videos revealing apparent cruel treatment of farm animals went viral, Iowa has made it a crime for people to misrepresent themselves to gain access to a farm. The so-called "Ag-Gag" law targets undercover animal rights activists who secretly take videos. Farmers say they need the legal protection to block those trying to take down agriculture, but critics ask what the industry may be hiding.

Federal prosecutors have charged five men with responsibility for some of the biggest computer hacks in the past few years. The FBI says the hackers penetrated the computer systems of businesses like Fox Broadcasting and Sony Pictures, stole confidential information and splashed it all over the Internet.

But what's most unusual about the case is how investigators cracked it — with the help of an insider who became a secret government informant.

At the federal court in Concord, lawyers made opening statements in a case involving Beatrice Munyenyezi, a Manchester woman accused of lying about her role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide to obtain US citizenship.

NHPR's Dan Gorenstein was in court; he tells All Things Considered host Brady Carlson about the first day of the trial.

Recent debates over the new health care law and rules over refugee settlements have been challenged by states, including New Hampshire. Meanwhile several bills by the Granite state legislature, would overturn certain authorities of towns and school boards. We’ll see who can write the rules and where the lines are drawn.

Guests:

Mendocino Snuffing Medical Marijuana Experiment

Feb 13, 2012

This story is part of a collaboration between member station KQED and the Center for Investigative Reporting's California Watch.

Mendocino County in Northern California is expected Tuesday to end an unusual program that put pot growing under supervision of the local sheriff. It was the first effort of its kind in the nation and proved a success, at least in the eyes of many locals. But federal officials had a different view.

'Finally Part Of The County'

New Hampshire Bar Association DOVE Program

Feb 4, 2012
s_falkow via Flickr/Creative Commons

Since 1992, the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Domestic Violence Emergency Project has provided free legal services to low-income victims of domestic violence. Scott O’Connell is an attorney from Manchester who drives to a crisis center in Berlin once a month to volunteer his services, working there with local advocates. Donna Cummings is the director of the crisis center where O’Connell volunteers.

12 Angry Puppets

Jan 23, 2012
Photo by Mr.Ducke, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

From this year’s popular revival of Jim Henson’s Muppets in a new film starring Jason Segal, to our recent coverage of Wakka Wakka’s production, Baby Universe, an interplanetary puppet odyssey that took the stage in Hanover, it seems like puppets are popping up just about everywhere. 

Memorialized in a Bob Dylan song and an Academy Award nominated Denzel Washington film, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a successful prize fighter, who was falsely accused of murder. After nearly two decades in prison, Carter was exonerated by a federal judge (also heard in our documentary) in a ruling later affirmed by the US Supreme Court.

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