Coverage of and commentary on the Court looks back at the Term that just ended. In Los Angeles Times, David Savage reports on the “alliance” between two Justices from California: Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer. In a story for The National Law Journal (subscription or registration required), Tony Mauro looks at how business interests fared at the Court this Term, while he and Marcia Coyle have a second story at Law.com (subscription required) with “nine takeaways” from the Term. At Bench Memos, Mark Pulliam suggests that “one thing is clear: Justice Kennedy is rapidly rising in the pantheon of Bad Supreme Court Picks. This will be Kennedy’s ignominious legacy.”
Today I am happy to present the final SCOTUSblog Stat Pack for October Term 2015. This year, the fifty-page Stat Pack includes information about, among other things, the rate of unanimity, the number of opinions written by each Justice, agreement among different Justices, and how opinions were distributed in each sitting.
The petition of the day is:
Issue: Whether a U.S. citizen may bring a Bivens claim in the absence of any other remedy when federal law enforcement officers unlawfully detain and grossly mistreat him during a criminal counterterrorism investigation abroad.
On July 5 at 12 p.m., the DC Bar will offer a “view from the press gallery” on the recently concluded Supreme Court Term. Speakers will include Ariane de Vogue, Adam Liptak, Tony Mauro, and David Savage; Arthur Spitzer will serve as moderator. More information about this event, which will be held at the offices of Arnold & Porter LLP in Washington, D.C., is available here.
More coverage relating to Monday’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in which the Court struck down two provisions of a Texas law regulating abortions, comes from NPR’s Nina Totenberg; David Crary of the Associated Press; and Emily Crockett, who reports for Vox on the decision’s effects on similar laws in other states.
Commentary comes from Michael Dorf, who at Verdict argues that there “is no evidence of procedural bad faith on the part of the majority”; Julia Quinn, who at If When How discusses being on the Court’s plaza when the ruling was issued on Monday; Jessica Valenti, who in The Guardian interprets the ruling as “a powerful message”; Steven Mazie, who in The Economist concludes that there were “no great surprises” in the decision; and Sarah Kliff of Vox, who contends that – despite Monday’s decision — the “abortion rights movement isn’t winning.” Continue reading »
Misha Tseytlin is Solicitor General of the State of Wisconsin.
In a symposium article for this blog posted in advance of the oral argument in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, I explained that for the abortion industry to win this case, the Supreme Court would have to adopt a more searching level of scrutiny for abortion regulations than it has for laws affecting other sorts of businesses. I argued that this would be an unfortunate and inequitable approach.
In a critical portion of its opinion invalidating Texas’s requirement that abortion providers must obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals, a majority of the Supreme Court confirmed this concern. Responding to the argument that mandating admitting privileges furthers the goal of stopping another Dr. Kermit Gosnell from slipping through the cracks in the regulatory artifice – because, after all, a local hospital may well know if a monster like Gosnell was regularly sending women to its emergency room – the Court offered the following response:
Gosnell’s behavior was terribly wrong. But there is no reason to believe that an extra layer of regulation would have affected that behavior. Determined wrongdoers, already ignoring existing statutes and safety measures, are unlikely to be convinced to adopt safe practices by a new overlay of regulations.
As Lyle previewed in his lovely piece this weekend, the end of this Term is a turning point for SCOTUSblog. We say a fond goodbye to our longtime reporter Lyle Denniston, and we welcome our current editor Amy Howe into that role. Our access to the Court’s proceedings will be unaffected. We plan to announce the hire of a new editor in the next few weeks.
The fact that this transition has been shaped for more than a year does not make it easier. As I often say, Lyle is the beating heart of the blog. It is impossible to overstate the importance of his role.
Lyle joined us more than a decade ago. His arrival marked – and probably caused – the blog’s evolution into a serious news organization. Lyle obviously brought with him a great deal of knowledge about the Court, but – just as important – every fiber of his being pulsed as a newsman. His objectivity, the clarity of his writing, and his work ethic set the standard for the entire staff.
I confess that in the early days I questioned how a reporter from an earlier generation with such great experience would adapt to the technology and format of blogging. The answer was stark. Lyle has not been wedded to the ways of an earlier era; exactly the opposite. He has thrived in the ability to communicate directly and immediately with his readers.
The evidence is everywhere. Lyle wrote the great majority of the blog’s most important posts over the past ten years. He was the hub of all of our real-time reporting on orders and opinions. It is difficult to imagine a multi-person news operation that is more directly associated with one person.
As Lyle has explained, he will now move on to other challenges. As his publisher, I have only one piece of advice for those who have the privilege of working with him in the future: just stay out of his way. I did my very best work when I did nothing at all and simply let Lyle use his skill, knowledge, and hard work communicate with the readers. All of us hope that he will continue to do so for another fifty years.
Tara Malloy is Deputy Executive Director of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell on eleven counts of bribery-related charges, holding that his trial proceeded under an overly expansive reading of the “official act” element of the federal bribery statute. The Court’s remand order leaves the door open for a retrial under a narrower standard, but all in all, it was a good day for the governor and a bad day for public-corruption prosecutions. Mostly, though, it was a bad day for Americans, as eight Supreme Court Justices all but told us that we must tolerate some level of “pay to play” politics in democratic governance.
Fred Wertheimer is President of Democracy 21.
The United States Constitution provides a “right of the people…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It does not say that a citizen can be charged a fee for exercising that right.
But, in essence, here’s what a unanimous Supreme Court said yesterday in interpreting a federal law enacted to protect the integrity of government and of the right to petition:
Citizen X meets with her representative to ask for help in setting up a meeting with a government agency. The representative says I’m happy to set up the meeting if you give me a check for $15,000. No check, no meeting.
The American people clearly would see this as selling your office for personal gain.
The Supreme Court pointed to the routine actions that officeholders undertake for constituents in finding that the facts of McDonnell v. United States do not fall within federal laws designed to ensure that officeholders provide “honest services.” But there was nothing “routine” about what happened in this case.
Amid prospects that the Supreme Court will still be operating with one fewer Justice well into its next Term, the Justices on Tuesday added eight new cases for hearing and decision after the summer recess, with major controversies among the cases. The Court also put off, probably for many months, a chance to settle the heated controversy over union fees assessed on public employees who do not belong to a union, denying rehearing of a case that had ended with a four-to-four split on that question (Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association). That issue will have to be confronted anew, first by lower courts..
It now appears that the eight added cases, along with others previously accepted for the new Term, will be heard by the Justices before the end of this calendar year, and by only eight Justices. There appears little prospect that a ninth Justice would be approved by the Senate before then.
Perhaps the most significant of the disputes that the Court agreed to hear, in the final orders of the now-ended Term, is a test of who may sue mortgage lenders and housing operators for racial discrimination in housing. The specific issue is whether city governments — here, the city of Miami, Fla. — are among those whom Congress has given permission to sue to enforce the equality guarantees of the Fair Housing Act. That question will be heard in the consolidated cases of Bank of America v. Miami and Wells Fargo & Co. v. Miami. Lower courts are deeply split on the issue.