The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments on Wednesday in Weaver v. Massachusetts and Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [dockets]. In Weaver v. Massachusetts [SCOTUSblog materials], the court considered arguments [transcript, PDF] on whether a defendant who is claiming ineffective assistance of counsel due to a structural error must show the they were prejudiced by the ineffectiveness. Petitioner in this matter argued that it is an unreasonable standard for defendant’s to prove actual prejudice as a result of their attorney’s deficiency, asserting that when the deficiency is a result of a structural error, it is practically impossible to demonstrate the practical effects of that error. Respondent in return argued that judgments should only be overturned in circumstances where the deficiency impacts the outcome rather than assuming prejudice and disrupting judgement that were not impacted by the error.
In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia [SCOTUSblog materials], Inc. v. Comer the court heard arguments [transcript, PDF] on whether excluding churchs from neutral aid programs violates Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses if the state does not provide a valid Establishment clause concern. Petitioner argues that a churn run preschool being excluded from a recycling program due to their religious nature violates Free Exercise Principles by discriminating based upon religion as well as depriving religious organizations of general benefits for secular activities. Respondent in turn argued that the majority of states have maintained a tradition of not providing government aid in regards to religion, and that such a tradition should be protected. In essence, Respondent argues that deciding what type of activities run by religious groups can be funded by the government would lead to entanglement and establishment clause concerns.