Editor's Note :

Editor's Note :

On Monday we expect the Court to issue orders from its April 29 Conference at 9:30 a.m. and opinions in one or more argued cases at 10 a.m. We will begin live-blogging at 9:25 a.m.

The Supreme Court refused on Friday to stop Texas from enforcing a strict photo ID requirement for voters in the state, but left open the chance that it might change its mind later.  The order in essence gave a federal appeals court until July 20 to decide a case about that law’s validity under the federal Voting Rights Act.  After that date, the Court might step in, it said.

The Texas law, first passed five years ago, has been used in three Texas elections, and it will be used again on May 24, when voters go to the polls to cast ballots in a run-off election. The challengers who took a new plea to the Court recently want the requirement blocked for the November 8 general election.   The challengers contend that the Texas measure imposes the most rigorous ID requirements of any such law in the nation.

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Relist Watch

By on Apr 29, 2016 at 8:21 am

John Elwood (barely) reviews Monday’s relisted cases.

For a second week, my day job is inexplicably crowding out my efforts to bring the legal market to a screeching halt by inserting malicious hyperlinks into purportedly humorous SCOTUSblog posts. While not being the “Relist Watch guy” has precipitated something of an identity crisis, it has at least succeeded in increasing my productivity. And it has definitively answered those small-minded people who thought that Relist Watch really couldn’t get any worse.

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Friday round-up

By on Apr 29, 2016 at 8:10 am

On Wednesday the Court heard oral arguments in the challenge by former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell to his fraud convictions.  Commentary comes from Steven Mazie of The Economist, who suggests that a ruling reversing McDonnell’s “conviction or ordering a new trial with sharply constrained jury guidelines would be, more than anything, a pragmatic bow to the way politics in America functions”; Kenneth Jost of Jost on Justice, who contends that “a broadly written decision to throw out the convictions will hamper future public corruption prosecutions and make the practice of ‘pay for play’ all the more common than it already is: mostly legal if done with a wink and a nod”; Noah Bookbinder and Nancy Gertner in a podcast for the National Constitution Center; and Kenneth Gross and Jeffrey Bellin in a podcast with Bloomberg Law’s June Grasso. And in The National Law Journal (subscription or registration required), Tony Mauro reports that, on the same day as the argument, three Justices “praised deputy U.S. solicitor general Michael Dreeben” – who argued on behalf of the United States in the case – at a reception hosted by Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute. Continue reading »

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Petition of the day

By on Apr 28, 2016 at 11:00 pm

The petition of the day is:

15-1256

Issue: Whether Colorado’s requirement that defendants must prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence to get their money back, after reversal of conviction of a crime entailing various monetary penalties, is consistent with due process.

 
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Event announcement

By on Apr 28, 2016 at 12:48 pm

On April 29 at 6 p.m., the James Wilson Institute on Natural Rights and the American Founding will host a discussion on the life of Justice Antonin Scalia. Speakers will include Hadley Arkes, John Baker, Paul Clement, Noel Francisco, Gene Schaerr, Michael Uhlmann, and Edward Whelan. More information about the event, which will be at the University Club in Washington, D.C., is available here.

 
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Thursday round-up

By on Apr 28, 2016 at 6:37 am

Yesterday the Court heard oral arguments in the challenge by former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell to his fraud convictions.  Molly Runkle rounded up early coverage for this blog, which included Lyle Denniston’s report for us.  I covered the oral argument for my own blog, with other coverage coming from NPR’s Nina Totenberg.

On Tuesday, the Court issued its decision in Heffernan v. City of Paterson, holding that, when an employer demotes an employee out of a desire to prevent the employee from engaging in protected political activity, the employee can challenge that demotion even if the employer’s actions are based on a factual mistake about the employee’s behavior.  Coverage comes from NorthJersey.com, with commentary from Lisa Soronen at Appellate Practice Blog. Continue reading »

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In its Conference of April 29, 2016, the Court will consider petitions involving issues such as whether, for federal habeas purposes, California’s procedural rule generally barring review of claims that were available but not raised on direct appeal is an “adequate” state-law ground for rejection of a claim; the appropriate test to determine when a feature of a useful article is protectable under Section 101 of the Copyright Act; and whether execution of a condemned individual more than three-and-a-half decades after the imposition of a death sentence violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

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This morning the Court heard oral argument in McDonnell v. United States, the challenge by former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell to his fraud convictions. Lyle Denniston covered the argument for this blog, while Mark Walsh has our “view” from the Court.

Other early coverage of the argument comes from Pete Williams of NBC News, Lydia Wheeler of The Hill, Ariane de Vogue of CNN, Adam Liptak of The New York Times, Lawrence Hurley of Reuters, Richard Wolf of USA Today, Jess Bravin of The Wall Street Journal, Robert Barnes and Laura Vozzella of The Washington Post, David G. Savage of the Los Angeles Times, Josh Gerstein of Politico, Greg Stohr of Bloomberg, Cristian Farias of The Huffington Post, and Sam Hananel of the Associated Press.

Early commentary comes from Amitai Etzioni for Huffington Post, Mark Joseph Stern of Slate, and Rick Hasen at his Election Law Blog.

 
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It’s the last day of oral argument for the Term, and the Court has one big case to deal with: McDonnell v. United States, about whether “official action” under the relevant federal fraud statutes is limited to exercising actual government power, or pressuring others to exercise such power, and related questions.

The petitioner, former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell, was convicted of various counts of “honest services” wire fraud, conspiracy to obtain property of official right, and obtaining property under color of official right. He was sentenced to twenty-four months in prison, but is free while this appeal is pending.

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Analysis

When a government criminal case looks like it may collapse from more than one legal weakness, maybe the only challenge to the Supreme Court is to pick the one that limits the damage for prosecutors.   That was the prospect on Wednesday as the Court — in the final hearing of the current Term — spent an hour pondering ways that it could scuttle the high-profile public corruption verdict against former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell — as he and his wife sat silently in the second row of spectators.

With Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Anthony M. Kennedy energetically taking apart the verdict — and, with it, the laws used by the prosecution — the prospect of imminent prison for McDonnell appeared to have visibly lifted.  At a minimum, a new trial for him seemed in store, but there also was a more significant chance that the Court would make it considerably harder to build a new case against him and, in general, to prosecute other public officials for doing favors for benefactors.

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