Operators of electric generating plants that burn coal or oil have a right to try to convince the government that regulating poisons that come out of their smokestacks will cost them too much and thus should not go ahead, the Supreme Court ruled by a five-to-four vote on Monday.   The decision focused on the very hazardous pollutant mercury but may apply to others as well.

When Congress orders an agency to begin regulating an industry, but says it should do so only if “appropriate and necessary,” the agency must take costs into account before it issues any orders, according to the ruling in a group of cases under the name Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency.

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The story of Glossip v. Gross is that no lethal injection protocol can satisfy people who believe there should be no executions. That has always been the subtext of the case. And now that the Justices have issued their opinions, it has become explicit. Continue reading »

Continuing to make sure that female employees and students have access to birth control, but that religious non-profit organizations where those women work or study do not have to provide it, the Supreme Court took action Monday on a case that is developing for next Term.

In a two-page order, the Court turned aside requests by Roman Catholic colleges, charities, and other non-profits in Pennsylvania to keep on hold a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, rejecting those groups’ challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.   Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., had temporarily put that ruling on hold last April until further legal papers were filed, but had taken no further action since.

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Splitting five to four, the Supreme Court on Monday afternoon temporarily blocked Texas from enforcing two new requirements that abortion clinic operators say will force many of them to close.  The order will keep those rules on hold at least until the Court decides whether to rule on their constitutionality.   The restrictions had been due to go into effect Wednesday.

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It’s unseasonably mild on this last Monday of June in Washington. That will make it easier on those who partake in what has come to be known as “the running of the interns.”

These are the young assistants, many clad in athletic shoes, who rush written opinions from the Public Information Office out to the broadcast and cable TV correspondents on the sidewalk in front of the Court building. They first became a thing a few years ago, and have re-emerged as a meme this month, with mentions on the news and in The Washington Post. Continue reading »

 
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Justice Ginsburg with opinion of the Court (Art Lien)

Justice Ginsburg with opinion of the Court (Art Lien)

Analysis

Unable itself to find a constitutional way to curb the habits of lawmakers in crafting new election districts to give their party an advantage, a divided Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a state’s voters can do that if they choose to hand over the task of fashioning congressional district boundaries to an independent commission.

The five-to-four decision in an Arizona case does not immediately control the situation in other states, but does empower voters where they have direct legislative power to use it to try to reduce partisan control of elections for at least one house of Congress.  At least six other states do it in the way that Arizona does.

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Relist Watch

By on Jun 29, 2015 at 3:05 pm

John Elwood reviews today’s relisted cases.

Before clearing out of town for the summer recess, the Justices gathered for one final Conference today. Below are the relisted cases that they considered at that Conference. We’ll find out tomorrow at 9:30 whether any of these cases made the cut.

Thanks to Stephen Gilstrap for compiling this update. And thanks to the whole Relist Watch gang for all their hard work this Term – I don’t want to say it was thankless drudgery, because that would describe it perfectly. See you in the fall! Continue reading »

 
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In 2008, the Court rejected a challenge to the three-drug protocol that Kentucky used to carry out executions by lethal injection, holding that it did not violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.  In that case, inmates had unsuccessfully argued that there was a risk of serious pain if the protocol was not followed properly.  Today, in a decision marked by deep divisions among the Justices, the Court rejected a new lethal injection challenge –  this time to Oklahoma’s use of a drug called midazolam, a sedative normally used to treat anxiety.  Let’s talk about the decision in Glossip v. Gross in Plain English.  Continue reading »

There is a lot of commentary about the unusually liberal results of this Term.  I thought I would mention a few data points which back up that view of things.

For present purposes, I treat four Justices as sitting to the Court’s left: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.  I treat four Justices as sitting to the Court’s right:  Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.  I treat Justice Anthony Kennedy as the Court’s “center.”

I count 26 cases this Term that were both close (5-4 or 6-3) and ideological (in the sense that they broke down principally on ideological lines, with ideology seemingly an important factor).  Continue reading »

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Raising new doubts about state universities and colleges’ use of race in choosing their entering classes, the Supreme Court on Monday assigned itself once more the task of judging the constitutionality of the admissions plan at Texas’s flagship university.  The grant of review of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin — the Court’s second look at that case — signaled uncertainty and maybe discontent with the way a federal appeals court had carried out a new review of that plan.

At this point, the Fisher case does not appear to pose a direct threat to the Court’s most recent ruling allowing some use of race in higher education admissions — the 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger.  But that precedent may be at least reinterpreted, and possibly narrowed.

That was one of five cases in which the Justices granted review on Monday.  The Court may grant additional cases when it issues the final orders of the current Term, at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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