By Will Hall, Message Executive Editor
WASHINGTON, D.C. (LBM)—The Supreme Court has accepted two cases that will determine whether Louisiana laws are constitutional.
One case deals with a pro-life issue and the other involves non-unanimous juries in felony cases.
In 2014 Louisiana legislators passed Act 620, requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital in case of complications during an abortion. Lawmakers concluded this requirement would ensure “continuity of care, qualifications, communication, and prevent abandonment of patients.”
Critics of the law say it is just an end run to close the only three abortion clinics in the state, and argue the matter was settled when the Supreme Court invalidated the portion of a Texas case that required doctors performing abortions to maintain patient-admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their abortion facility – the issue being contested in the Louisiana law.
U.S. District Judge John W. deGravelles, an Obama appointee, ruled against the Louisiana law, but the largely conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit overruled him.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments during the 2020 docket.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has stated his intentions to vigorously protect the law, noting the “poor safety records, inadequate credentialing practices, and questionable efforts to undermine health and safety regulations” by Louisiana abortion clinics.
“Incompetent and unsafe providers should not be allowed to challenge health and safety standards designed to protect women from those very providers,” he has argued.
Meanwhile, in 2018 Louisiana voters repealed a state law that allowed a non-unanimous jury to convict a criminal defendant in a non-capital felony cases.
The vote essentially reversed a Jim Crow-era practice that made it easier to convict non-whites in felony cases not involving the death penalty.
However, the change was not retroactive, only applying to crimes committed on or after Jan. 1, 2019.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Oct. 7, asking the justices to strike down the non-unanimity rule, which is still in use in Oregon, once and for all.
The plaintiff is Envangelisto Ramos who was convicted in a New Orleans murder case. He received a life sentence on a 10-2 jury vote.
One of the issues is whether the floodgates, in Louisiana and Oregon, would be opened if the Supreme Court struck down the law. But Ramos’s attorney told the justices there are only 36 cases on direct review that would be involved.
Likewise, in response to the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in 1970 that a six-person jury could convict a defendant in a similar case (making the point that if six minds could decide such a case, 10 minds should be good enough, too), the lawyer responded by saying that ruling still required a unanimous verdict among the six jurors.