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Justice Sotomayor's first Church and State decision: Salazar v. Buono (orals begin 10/07/2009) [View All]

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usregimechange Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-26-09 11:46 PM
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Justice Sotomayor's first Church and State decision: Salazar v. Buono (orals begin 10/07/2009)
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On October 7th 2009 the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in what will be Justice Sotomayor's first Establishment Clause case as a Justice. This case is also a growing battleground in what already is a major fight involving all the usual groups aligning for and against this application of one of our most cherished and important legal principles, the Separation Church and State.

The Case:
Salazar v. Buono, 08-472

Petition for a writ of certiorari was granted by at least four Justices on Feb 23 2009.

What is the case about?

A large Latin cross at the top of...

Mojave National Preserve:

In Southern California between I-15 and I-40; headquarters in Barstow, CA.

...which is under the jurisdiction of... /

The questions presented:
1. Whether respondent has standing to maintain this action where he has no objection to the public display of a cross, but instead is offended that the public land on which the cross is located is not also an open forum on which other persons might display other symbols.

2. Whether, even assuming respondent has standing, the court of appeals erred in refusing to give effect to the Act of Congress providing for the transfer of the land to private hands.

ACLU description:
Whether a congressional statute transferring a small parcel of land in the Mojave Desert National Preserve to private owners satisfies the government's obligation to cure the Establishment Clause violation created by a Latin cross on public land, when the government also designates the cross as a national memorial and retains a reversionary interest in the land...

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is watching the case closely:
The newest justice and her colleagues have before them Salazar v. Buono, a case the Supreme Court will hear this fall. Her opinion in that California dispute will be the first indication as to whether AU and Sotomayor see eye-to-eye on the Constitution.

Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Salazar last week because a lot is at stake in the case. The Religious Right has used this lawsuit to wage war on long-standing court precedent that allows those who are forced to view permanent religious displays on public property the right to sue... /

9th Circuit 3 judge panel ruling:
A Latin cross sits atop a prominent rock outcropping known as Sunrise Rock in the Mojave National Preserve (Preserve). Our court previously held that the presence of the cross in the Preservewhich consists of more than 90 percent federally-owned land, including the land where the cross is situatedviolates the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. Buono v. Norton, 371 F.3d 543 (9th Cir. 2004). We affirmed the district courts judgment permanently enjoining the government from permitting the display of the Latin cross in the area of Sunrise Rock in the Mojave National Preserve.

During the pendency of the first appeal, Congress enacted a statute directing that the land on which the cross is situated be transferred to a private organization in exchange for a parcel of privately-owned land located elsewhere in the Preserve. See Pub.L. No. 108-87, R. 12.1, 12.4 8121(a)-(f), 117 Stat. 1100 (2003). That land exchange is already in progress and would leave a little donut hole of land with a cross in the midst of a vast federal preserve. The issue we address today is whether the land exchange violates the district courts permanent injunction. We conclude that it does, and affirm the district courts order permanently enjoining the government from effectuating the land exchange and ordering the government to comply with the original injunction.

District Judge (who ruled that the Latin cross on public land violated the Establishment Clause):
Timlin, Robert J. - Nominated by William J. Clinton on April 26, 1994.

9th Circuit Panel Judges (who affirmed the District Court):
McKeown, M. Margaret - Nominated by William J. Clinton on January 7, 1997.
Whyte, Ronald M. - Nominated by George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1991 (District Judge sitting by designation).
Fletcher, Betty Binns - Nominated by Jimmy Carter on July 12, 1979.

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