[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Wednesday in Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Assn. v. Brentwood Academy [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-427, in which the Court considered whether the TSSAA violated the First Amendment and due process rights of Brentwood Academy in imposing "contractual penalties for violations of the recruiting rule that Brentwood agreed to follow." The TSSAA fined the school and suspended it for four years after a Brentwood football coach sent a letter inviting 12 eighth-graders to spring training. The students had already signed agreements to attend the school in the fall. In 2001, the Supreme Court decided the TSSAA was a state actor [decision text] and could be be sued for alleged First Amendment violations. On remand, the Sixth Circuit ruled on the merits in favor of the school [decision text, PDF]. An attorney for the TSSAA argued that the rule placed only a minimal burden on the school's free speech rights, and that the burden was outweighed by the TSSAA's concern that such communications between high school coaches and future athletes would harm or place unnecessary pressure the students. AP has more.
The Court also heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] in Panetti v. Quarterman [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-6407, where the Court is considering whether the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of a convicted felon who is aware of the factual connection between his execution and his crime, but believes that the state is actually executing him as punishment for preaching the gospel. After Panetti petitioned the district court for a writ of habeas corpus, the district court concluded after a competency hearing that Panetti understood that he committed murder, that he will be executed, and that the state has said he is being executed for the murders. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed [decision text], finding that a "rational understanding" of the punishment is not required for the state to establish that a convict is competent to be executed.