Monday, October 31, 2011

Cert. Denied In Utah Highway Patrol Memorial Cross Cases, Over Thomas Dissent

Today the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in Utah Highway Patrol Association v. American Atheists, Inc,. (Docket No. 10-1276), and a companion case Davenport v. American Atheists, Inc., (Docket No. 10-1267) (cert. denied 10/31/2011).  Justice Thomas wrote a 19-page dissent to the denial of cert. (Full text of order and Thomas, J's dissent at pg. 38 of Order List). In the case, a 3-judge panel of the 10th Circuit held that the Utah violated the Establishment Clause when it permitted the Utah Highway Patrol Association to put up crosses on public land as memorials to Highway Patrol members who were killed in the line of duty. (See prior posting.)  The full 10th Circuit denied en banc review by a 5-4 vote. (See prior posting.) In his dissent to the denial of cert., Justice Thomas wrote:
Today the Court rejects an opportunity to provide clarity to an Establishment Clause jurisprudence in shambles..... Because our jurisprudence has confounded the lower courts and rendered the constitutionality of displays of religious imagery on government property anyone’s guess, I would grant certiorari.....
Even if the Court does not share my view that the Establishment Clause restrains only the Federal Government, and that, even if incorporated, the Clause only prohibits “‘actual legal coercion,’” ..., the Court should be deeply troubled by what its Establishment Clause jurisprudence has wrought.