OT2013 opinion announcements

By on Oct 20, 2014 at 10:59 am

At the beginning of every Term, the Court releases the complete recordings of sessions to the National Archives and Records Administration. Oyez has collected these recordings and posted audio of all opinion announcements, including dissents from the bench, from OT2013.

During the last Term, the Court addressed hot-button issues ranging from affirmative action to campaign finance reform, which led some of the Justices to vocalize their dissents. Highlights include:

Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s first dissent from the bench, in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action:

“My colleagues endorse this political restructuring because it is the product of democratic action, but to know the history of our nation is to understand that democratically approved legislation has often discriminated against minorities.”

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The Supreme Court, taking on an issue that reaches hotels and motels across the nation, agreed on Monday to rule on the power of city governments to require commercial lodgings to open their guest lists to the police.  In agreeing to hear a Los Angeles case, the Justices also said they would rule on whether a lawsuit can be filed to use the Fourth Amendment to strike down a police inspection law in its entirety, whatever the factual situation in a given case.

The case of Los Angeles v. Patel was one of three new cases the Justices accepted for review.  The Court also asked for the federal government’s views on whether the Justices should conduct a trial on a claim by Mississippi that the city of Memphis and its water utility, backed by the state of Tennessee, are illegally pumping water out of an underground formation on Mississippi’s side of the border.  In the case of Mississippi v. Tennessee (143 Original), Mississippi is seeking money damages and a court order against further pumping.

Other issues in the newly granted cases focus on whether federal courts have power to order that guns taken from an individual during a drug prosecution should be transferred when the case is over to a neighbor or a friend to whom the owner wanted to sell them (Henderson v. United States), and whether it is unconstitutional for a state court to exclude an accused individual and defense lawyers from a hearing to examine the legality of prosecutors’ exclusion of minority jurors from serving (Chappell v. Ayala).  The Ayala case also includes an issue on the scope of federal appeals courts in habeas cases.  Oral argument in the three new cases is likely in the February sitting, which continues into the first week of March.

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Today’s orders in brief

By on Oct 20, 2014 at 9:40 am

The Court has granted three new cases:

The Court also invited the Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the United States in an original action, a water dispute between Mississippi and Tennessee. Continue reading »

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Monday round-up

By on Oct 20, 2014 at 7:17 am

Most of the weekend coverage of the Court focused on the announcement, which came shortly before dawn on Saturday morning, that the Court would not block Texas from implementing its new voter ID law.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from that order, in an opinion joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.  Lyle Denniston covered the order for this blog; other coverage came from Adam Liptak of The New York Times and Scott Neuman of NPR, while in analysis for the Los Angeles Times, David Savage looked at the relationship between Saturday’s order and the Court’s campaign finance jurisprudence.  Commentary on the Court’s order came from Kenneth Jost at Jost on Justice and from Rick Hasen at Slate, while at his Election Law Blog Hasen discussed the possible reasons why Justice Stephen Breyer did not join the dissent.  In another post, Hasen transcribed remarks by Ginsburg about the Texas order in an interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg. Continue reading »

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This week at the Court

By on Oct 18, 2014 at 8:37 pm

On Monday morning the Court issued orders from its October 17 Conference. It granted review in three new cases and called for the views of the Solicitor General in one more. The Court’s next Conference is scheduled for October 31. The November sitting begins November 3.


In a stinging defeat for the Obama administration and a number of civil rights groups in a major test case on voters’ rights, a divided Supreme Court told the state of Texas early Saturday morning that it may enforce its strict voter ID law for this year’s general election, with early voting starting next Monday.  Three Justices dissented from the ruling, which was released a few minutes after 5 a.m. folllowing a seemingly lengthy study.

This apparently was the first time since 1982 that the Court has allowed a law restricting voters’ rights to be enforced after a federal court had ruled it to be unconstitutional because it intentionally discriminated against minorities.   A U.S. District Court judge in Corpus Christi struck down the ID law last week after a nine-day trial, but it now awaits review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which temporarily blocked the trial judge’s ruling.

The Justice Department has indicated that the case is likely to return to the Supreme Court after the appeals court rules.  Neither the Fifth Circuit’s action so far nor the Supreme Court’s Saturday order dealt with the issue of the law’s constitutionality.  The ultimate validity of the law, described by Saturday’s dissenters as “the strictest regime in the country,” probably depends upon Supreme Court review.

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Petition of the day

By on Oct 17, 2014 at 10:05 pm

The petition of the day is:


Issue: (1) Whether, under this Court’s decision in Martinez v. Ryan, post-conviction counsel’s ineffectiveness can provide cause to excuse the procedural default of an ineffective-assistance-of-appellate-counsel claim, or whether Martinez v. Ryan is limited to excusing only the default of a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel; and (2) whether, under the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), a state-court adjudication of a judicial-bias claim is per se unreasonable under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2) merely because the allegedly biased judge rules on the claim based on facts within her knowledge without first conducting an evidentiary hearing, or whether a federal court must grant AEDPA deference to the judge’s determination when the evidence in the state-court record supports it.



Oyez has posted audio recordings of oral arguments from the first two weeks of the term. The Court heard arguments in:

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Courts’ constitutional rulings or orders on state power to ban same-sex marriages kept up their very rapid pace on Friday, as the Supreme Court allowed gay and lesbian couples to begin getting licenses in Alaska, a federal judge did the same in Arizona and the state opted not to appeal, and a federal judge in Wyoming added another ruling against a ban.

A post on the Justices’ Alaska order is here, and a post on the Arizona rulings is here.

In Wyoming, U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl of Casper, relying on an earlier decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, ruled that state’s ban unconstitutional.  The judge gave the state six days (until next Thursday) to tell him whether officials planned to appeal.  However, the state’s governor, Matt Mead, had said during a election campaign debate on Thursday night that if the ban were nullified, he saw no need to appeal.  Wyoming thus seemed poised to become the thirty-second state where same-sex marriage would be legal.  (UPDATE 8:21 p.m.  The governor has now issued a public statement indicating that the state would not appeal.)

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