Editor's Note :

Editor's Note :

On Tuesday at 10 a.m. we expect one or more opinions in argued cases; we will be live-blogging at this link at approximately 9:45.

The cause of electronic privacy gained a bit in the Supreme Court on Monday as the Justices ruled that it is a search, subject to constitutional challenge, when police install a monitoring device on an individual’s body to track movements after being convicted of a crime.  The Court did not itself settle, at this point, when such monitoring does violate the Fourth Amendment, leaving that to lower courts to decide first.

The ruling in the case of Grady v. North Carolina, issued without formal briefs and a hearing, was one of a series of actions the Justices took in several rulings and orders.  They also granted review of death penalty procedures used in two Kansas murder cases, and agreed to clarify when an employee benefit plan may sue a worker to recover funds that the plan claims were wrongly paid.  The newly granted cases will be decided at the Court’s next Term.  The Court also refused to clear the way for two new constitutional challenges to the new federal health insurance law, the Affordable Care Act.

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Today’s transcript

By on Mar 30, 2015 at 3:40 pm

The transcript in Brumfield v. Cain is here.

Posted in Everything Else


The Supreme Court, supposedly, is an appeals court set up to decide issues of law, and should not have to spend its hours — no, its days — getting familiar with a factual record that may run into many volumes.  But if the Court is to decide the case it heard on Monday, Brumfield v. Cain, the Justices and their clerks may need to start right away digging very deeply into at least twenty volumes of a record compiled in a state court.

The legal issue the Court said it would decide is simple enough.  But, when that issue came up for argument, eight Justices who took an active part and two lawyers went back and forth for an hour, sometimes impatiently, trying to figure out just what happened in this Louisiana murder case that could lead to the execution of a man found by a federal judge to be mentally disabled — a category that normally would exempt him from the death penalty.

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The last day of the March argument calendar presents the Justices with two consumer bankruptcy cases. First up is Bullard v. Blue Hills Bank, which presents a basic fact pattern doubtless repeated in tens (if not hundreds of thousands) of bankruptcy filings this decade: a bankrupt homeowner, whose home indisputably is worth far less than the mortgage that burdens it, with few other significant debts. Indeed, the Justices face that fact pattern three times this month (earlier this week in Caulkett and next Wednesday in this case and Harris v. Viegelahn). Continue reading »

Last week’s argument audio

By on Mar 30, 2015 at 9:21 am

Oyez has posted audio recordings of last week’s arguments.

The Court heard arguments last week in:

Posted in Everything Else

Monday round-up

By on Mar 30, 2015 at 6:24 am


  • In the Los Angeles Times, David Savage looks at a case that the Justices considered at their Conference last week, asking “whether a school official’s fear of violence justified disciplining students for wearing American flags on their shirts.”
  • At Slate, Judith Schaeffer looks back at comments about Loving v. Virginia made by Chief Justice John Roberts during his confirmation hearing, and she argues that the decision makes “clear” that the state laws at issue before the Court in the challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage “infringe on the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry.”
  • At ACSblog, Sarah Hunger and Meredith Kincaid discuss the amicus brief that they filed in support of Courtney Lockhart, an Alabama death row inmate who is challenging the state’s practice of allowing trial judges to override a jury’s recommendation and impose a death sentence.
  • At Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Ann McGinley analyzes last week’s decision in Young v. United Parcel Service, in which the Court sent the case of a female UPS driver who became pregnant back to the lower court for it to reconsider its ruling.
  • At the National Review’s Bench Memos, Robert Cheren disputes a statement made by Solicitor General Don Verrilli during last week’s oral arguments.

A friendly reminder:  We rely on our readers to send us links for the round-up.  If you have or know of a recent (published in the last two or three days) article, post, or op-ed relating to the Court that you’d like us to consider for inclusion in the round-up, please send it to roundup [at] scotusblog.com.

Posted in Round-up

Petition of the day

By on Mar 27, 2015 at 10:20 pm

The petition of the day is:


Issue: Whether the minimum required culpability state for denying a bankruptcy debtor a discharge of a tax debt based on the debtor's participation in a disallowed tax shelter, and spending decisions in light of a known or potential tax debt is: (1) negligence (i.e., the debtor should have known better than to participate in the tax shelter or spend money on something other than a present or potential future tax bill), per the analysis of several circuits including the Tenth Circuit in In re Vaughn; (2) specific intent (i.e., the debtor must specifically intend for his spending to defeat the IRS's ability to collect a tax debt), per the Ninth Circuit's analysis in Hawkins v. Franchise Tax Board; (3) the mental state of knowingly (i.e., the debtor knows it is practically certain that his spending will put money beyond the reach of the IRS's collection efforts), in conformity with this Court's decisions equating willfulness with knowledge; or (4) some other mental state.


At 10 a.m. Monday, the Supreme Court will hold one hour of oral argument on the procedure to be used to determine if an individual is mentally disabled and thus cannot be given a death sentence.  In Brumfield v. Cain, arguing for the Louisiana death-row inmate will be Michael B. DeSanctis of the Washington, D.C., office of Jenner & Block LLP.  Representing the state warden will be Premila Burns of Baton Rouge, an assistant district attorney for the East Baton Rouge Parish.  Each lawyer will have thirty minutes of time.


Over the years, the Supreme Court has created a fairly short list of categories of individuals who cannot constitutionally be executed for their crimes.   The list includes juveniles, the mentally insane, anyone who commits a crime other than murder, and, most recently, an individual who is mentally disabled.  Although each decision in this series supposedly imposed a flat ban on a death sentence for the individual or the crime, the Court has struggled the most with clarifying the mental disability category.  It returns to that effort next week.

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This week at the Court

By on Mar 27, 2015 at 1:24 pm

On Monday the Court will hear oral argument in Brumfield v. Cain. The Court will also issue orders from the March 27 Conference.

On Tuesday the Court will hear oral argument in Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises and Commil USA, LLC v. Cisco Systems.  We also expect one or more opinions in argued cases; we will be live-blogging at this link at approximately 9:45 a.m.

On Wednesday the Court will hear oral argument in Bullard v. Hyde Park Savings Bank and Harris v. Viegelahn.

This is the final week of the March sitting.

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