Oklahoma executions put off

By on Jan 28, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Without a noted dissent, the Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon delayed the scheduled execution of three Oklahoma death-row inmates, whose case the Justices will hear in late April.  The executions were put on hold, but only so far as the state would use a specific drug in the procedure — the sedative midazolam.

Although the order blocked the execution until a final ruling is issued in that case, the fact that the order was specific in forbidding the state temporarily from using only one specific drug left Oklahoma with the option of trying to develop a new lethal-drug protocol that could free it to resume executions.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 10.20.31 AMIt looks like 2015 might be the year of books on the Justices, mainly the female members of the Supreme Court.

Cambridge University Press has just released a book on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That book, edited by Scott Dodson, has contributions by journalists, scholars, judges, and practicing lawyers, including Tom Goldstein, Lani Guinier, Robert A. Katzmann, Herma Hill Kay, Dahlia Lithwick, Reva Siegel, Nina Totenberg and Joan Williams, among others.

Linda Hirshman (a retired professor of philosophy and law) likewise has a forthcoming book, one on Justices Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor.

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Wednesday round-up

By on Jan 28, 2015 at 7:47 am

The death penalty is at the forefront of coverage of and commentary on the Court right now.  Writing for this blog, Lyle Denniston reports on yesterday’s order by the Court allowing Georgia to execute inmate Warren Hill, while at USA Today Richard Wolf looks at the Court and capital punishment issues more broadly.  At The Economist’s Democracy in America blog, Steven Mazie focuses on the case of the three Oklahoma inmates whose challenge the Court agreed to hear last week; he contends that “[t]he conundrum facing these three Oklahoma inmates rivals anything written by Kafka. Although the court recognises that their case has merit, they all may be executed anyway.”  And at Constitution Daily, Lyle Denniston has more on the Court and the Oklahoma lethal injection case. Continue reading »

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Petition of the day

By on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:15 pm

The petition of the day is:

14-342

Issue: Whether Sixth Circuit precedent which precludes judicial review of the administrative sanction disqualifying petitioners from further participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program should be reversed because the express language of 7 U.S.C. § 2023(a)(15) permits de novo judicial review of “the questioned administrative action in issue” and because the Sixth Circuit precedent conflicts with other circuits which have reviewed the issue.

UPDATED 8:25 p.m.  Georgia completed the execution of Warren Hill, with death pronounced at 7:55 p.m.

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In two brief orders allowing the state of Georgia to execute a man whose lawyers claim he is intellectually disabled, the Supreme Court gave a strong signal on Tuesday evening that it is not undertaking a general review of capital punishment this Term.  Two Justices dissented from one of the two orders permitting the execution of Warren L. Hill, Jr.; there were no noted dissents from the other order.

Hill has attempted repeatedly to challenge the constitutionality of Georgia’s procedure for determining when a death-row inmate is too intellectually disabled to be put to death: it requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of that disability.  In his latest plea to the Justices, he asked that the Court apply to his case a 2014 ruling, in the case of Hall v. Florida, putting new limits on state authority to execute those with intellectual disabilities.   The Court gave no reason on Tuesday for turning down both of his new pleas.

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Beginning on February 1, the Supreme Court will publicly disclose documents on actions it is considering or taking to discipline lawyers who are members of its bar, a process long shielded in privacy, the Court announced on Tuesday.  Currently, that file is treated as confidential, although final disciplinary actions are made public along with regular orders on pending cases. In the new arrangement, attorneys involved in a case may ask to keep their response confidential, in whole or in part.

Under the new disclosure policy, the Court’s announcement made clear, public availability of that docket will be the general rule.  It will apply to documents filed after February 1.  But if there are reasons to keep an attorney’s response confidential, that will be considered on a case-by-case basis, if sought by the lawyer involved.  Typically, a lawyer is notified that potential disciplinary action is being considered by way of a “show cause” order, to which the lawyer then has a chance to respond and to argue against a disciplinary order. Continue reading »

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Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer on Tuesday refused to order a quick release of the Court’s new ruling in the Copaxone drug patent case, but he left open the option for the generic companies to ask another Justice to take the step.  Breyer did not issue an opinion as he denied prompt implementation of the ruling last week in Teva Pharmaceuticals USA v. Sandoz(An earlier post on this dispute is here.)

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Tuesday round-up

By on Jan 27, 2015 at 7:25 am

Yesterday the Justices issued one opinion in an argued case, vacating and remanding the decision of the Sixth Circuit in M&G Polymers v. Tackett, a dispute between an employer and its retired employees over the vesting of health-care benefits.  Ronald Mann covered the decision for this blog; other coverage comes from Jess Bravin in The Wall Street Journal, David Savage in the Los Angeles Times, and Hera Arsen at the Ogletree Deakins blog.

Other coverage of the Court focuses on the fall-out from the Court’s announcement last week that it would review a challenge by a group of Oklahoma death-row inmates to the state’s lethal-injection protocol — specifically, the state’s announcement yesterday that it would seek to delay the executions of three prisoners but at the same time keep open the possibility of resuming executions if it can establish a new lethal-injection protocol.  Lyle Denniston reported on those developments for this blog, with other coverage coming from Jess Bravin and Nathan Koppel of The Wall Street Journal and Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News. Continue reading »

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Petition of the day

By on Jan 26, 2015 at 10:25 pm

The petition of the day is:

14-585

Issue: Whether New Orleans's tour-guide licensing requirements violate the First Amendment.

Event announcement

By on Jan 26, 2015 at 7:00 pm

On February 5 at one o’clock, the National Institute for Health Care Management will host a ninety-minute webinar on King v. Burwell. Speakers will include Julie Rovner, Nicholas Bagley, and Michael Cannon.  There is no cost to participate. Registration is available here.

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