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Under gentle pressure from the Supreme Court not to split up the argument on single questions, the legal teams supporting same-sex marriage have settled on one lawyer to present each issue.  The teams thus have abandoned their earlier request to let four lawyers appear on their side — along with a federal government lawyer — at the April 28 hearing.

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We are live-blogging this morning as opinions in argued cases are announced. Join us here.

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Tuesday round-up

By on Mar 31, 2015 at 6:06 am

Yesterday the Court heard oral argument in Brumfield v. Cain, a capital case from Louisiana.  Lyle Denniston covered the oral argument for this blog, with other coverage coming from Edward Lee at ISCOTUSnow, who predicts the winner in the case based on the number of questions for both sides at oral argument.

Other coverage and commentary focus on yesterday’s orders, in which the Court granted four new cases, issued two per curiam opinions, and denied some noteworthy cases.  Lyle Denniston covered the orders for this blog.  Other commentary on yesterday’s grants comes from Kent Scheidegger at Crime and ConsequencesContinue reading »

Posted in Round-up

Petition of the day

By on Mar 30, 2015 at 10:17 pm

The petition of the day is:


Issue: (1) Whether the Ninth Circuit erred by holding, in conflict with the decisions of this Court, and other courts of appeals, that for purposes of preemption under the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA), a state law of general applicability only “relates to prices, routes and services” when it “binds the carrier to a particular price, route or service”; and (2) whether California's meal and rest break requirements impermissibly “relate to” motor carriers' prices, routes or services under the FAAAA when they require truck drivers to alter and deviate from their preferred routes and suspend services up to five times a day, every day.

The Court closes out the last day of its March argument session with the second of a pair of bankruptcy cases, Harris v. Viegelahn. This surely is one of the more low-stakes cases of the Term: a dispute involving a little more than $4,000, funds from income petitioner Charles Harris earned after he sought bankruptcy relief under Chapter 13, and turned over to the trustee handling that case (respondent Mary Viegelahn), but before Harris converted his case to Chapter 7 (more below on what those chapters mean). But both sides are represented (presumably pro bono) by lawyers from two well-regarded law firms — Robbins, Russell and Wilmer Hale. So it comes as no surprise that the briefs on both sides are excellent. Continue reading »


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 or 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. The second case 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 »

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    On Monday afternoon Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer testified before the House Appropriations Committee. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the Court’s budget for the next fiscal year and the federal judiciary, but the legislators also took full advantage of the occasion to touch on other topics as well.

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