Court rules on ad ban, self-incrimination. Identical vote patterns reflect larger ideological alignment
Boston — By identical 5-to-4 votes on Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that: The government of Puerto Rico may ban gambling casinos from advertising among the island's residents.
``Sexually dangerous'' persons are not entitled to the constitutional protection against self-incrimination in proceedings for civil commitments to psychiatric institutions.
These decisions could be indicative of an emerging conservative consensus in the court which tends to back state or lower-court edicts when they do not patently violate individual rights, and which defines constitutional protections of the accused more narrowly than in the past.
Both rulings were written by Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist, who has been nominated by President Reagan to succeed Warren E. Burger as chief justice. Mr. Rehnquist and Mr. Burger, along with Associate Justices Byron R. White, Lewis F. Powell, and Sandra Day O'Connor, constituted the majority in both cases.
Dissenting in both cases were Associate Justices John Paul Stevens, William J. Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, and Harry A. Blackmun.
In the Puerto Rico case, the justices upheld a 1948 law that prohibits casino advertisements aimed at residents but allows those targeted for tourists.
As a US commonwealth, Puerto Rico's laws -- like those of the 50 states -- may be challenged under the Constitution.
Writing for the majority, Rehnquist upheld the advertising restrictions, explaining that ``the Puerto Rico legislature surely could have prohibited casino gambling by the residents of Puerto Rico altogether.''
``In our view,'' he added ``the greater power to completely ban casino gambling necessarily includes the [lesser] power to ban advertising of casino gambling.''
In dissent, Justice Brennan said: ``I do not believe that Puerto Rico constitutionally may suppress truthful commercial speech in order to discourage its residents from engaging in lawful activity.''
Justice Stevens, also opposing the ruling, said the ban was ``plainly forbidden by the First Amendment.''
In the other case, involving a sexual assault, the court rejected the appeal of an Illinois man who claimed he was improperly committed to a state prison maximum-security psychiatric ward after a civil proceeding.
An appeals court had thrown out the commitment, ruling that statements made to psychiatrists on which it was based violated the defendant's privilege against self-incrimination. However, the Illinois Supreme Court reinstated it, and the case was appealed to the US Supreme Court.
In his majority opinion, Rehnquist held that when psychiatric-commitment proceedings are not based on criminal charges, individuals facing commitment are not entitled to the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
``The state serves its purpose of treating rather than punishing sexually dangerous persons by committing them to an institution expressly designed to provide psychiatric care and treatment,'' Rehnquist wrote.
But in dissent, Justice Stevens argued that Illinois treats the sexually dangerous as the typical criminal in almost all respects. He noted that the state's civil-commitment procedure ``may only be initiated by the state's prosecuting authorities; . . . may only proceed if a criminal offense is established; and has the consequence of incarceration in the state's prison system.''
In yet a third case, the high court ruled unanimously that North Carolina's Agricultural Extension Service could be in violation of federal civil rights laws for paying black workers less than whites in the same jobs with similar seniority and education.
In a related decision, however, the court voted 5 to 4 that North Carolina officials cannot be forced to desegregate the state's 4-H clubs.