Editor's Note :

Editor's Note :

Our Stat Pack for October Term 2016, prepared by Kedar Bhatia, is available at this link.

You can now download the final SCOTUSblog Stat Pack for October Term 2016 here. This year, the 43-page Stat Pack includes information about, among other things, the rate of unanimity, the opinions written by Justice Gorsuch in his first term, agreement among different justices, which justices asked the most questions at oral argument, and the advocates who argued the most frequently during the term.

Below you can view each section of the Stat Pack individually and review our key takeaways from the Stat Pack. Continue reading »

Posted in Featured

Kent Scheidegger is the legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. He filed amicus briefs in support of Texas in Davila v. Davis and Moore v. Texas.

The Supreme Court has often been the epicenter of the continuing debate over capital punishment, but it was not in October Term 2016. The larger battle was elsewhere, for the time being, and the Supreme Court was largely marking time and correcting errors in individual cases while waiting for its ninth seat to be filled.

The epicenter this year was at the ballot box. There were four propositions on state ballots for direct votes of the people, and the pro-death-penalty side ran the table. In Nebraska, the people delivered a stinging rebuke to their legislature, reversing the repeal of the death penalty by a 21-percent margin, with majorities in 92 of 93 counties. Even in deep-blue California, repeal failed and a reform measure to reduce delay passed. These results did not directly affect cases before the Supreme Court this term, but they surely will in the future when the high court is asked to declare particular applications of the death penalty or even the death penalty itself “cruel and unusual.”

Continue reading »

Nancy Morawetz is Professor of Clinical Law at NYU Law School.

Unanimous decisions might seem less noteworthy than holdings that divide the Supreme Court. But unanimous and otherwise lopsided rulings about substantive immigration law are significant for more than the issues they resolve. They also have important implications for how we think about the people who are the litigants in these cases and what kind of treatment they receive while they pursue their claims. And those issues will be front and center next term when the Supreme Court hears reargument in Jennings v. Rodriguez. Jennings concerns the prolonged detention of immigrants who are challenging their deportation. Unanimous decisions rejecting the government’s interpretation of immigration law show that immigrants facing prolonged detention may have extremely strong legal claims.

Continue reading »

Alice O’Brien is general counsel for the National Education Association. She filed an amicus brief in support of the state in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer.

Those following this symposium know that the Trinity Lutheran v. Comer dispute over a playground-resurfacing grant was viewed by many as a stalking horse for the Supreme Court to decide the extent to which state constitutional provisions against religious aid limit private-school voucher programs. After the Supreme Court held in 2002 in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris that the federal establishment clause did not prohibit the states from using taxpayer dollars to pay for religious education in private schools, the religion clauses of state constitutions have remained a barrier to such voucher programs. Fully three-quarters of all state constitutions contain “no-aid” provisions like Article I, Section 7, of the Missouri Constitution, on which that state relied in declining to fund the Trinity Lutheran Church’s playground. And many other states have constitutional provisions prohibiting the “compelled support” of religious institutions – including involuntary support through the payment of taxes.

Continue reading »

Jordan Steiker is the Judge Robert M. Parker Endowed Chair in Law and Director of the Capital Punishment Center at The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. Carol Steiker is the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School.

Two terms ago in Glossip v. Gross, Justice Stephen Breyer, dissenting from the Supreme Court’s rejection of a lethal-injection challenge, set forth a comprehensive case against the American death penalty, calling for the court to revisit the question of its basic constitutionality. Over the past 40 years, several justices have questioned the constitutional viability of the death penalty, but Breyer’s dissent seemed more significant because it came at a time when the death penalty appeared newly vulnerable. Seven states had legislatively abandoned the death penalty within the past decade (although Nebraska has since reinstated it by referendum). Executions and especially death sentences were in free-fall, declining around 80 percent and 90 percent respectively from their yearly highs in the mid-to-late 1990s. The few death sentences issued in recent years were increasingly confined to a few counties within a few states, leading Breyer to the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty was “unusual.” Breyer also argued that the death penalty had become “cruel” given evidence of wrongful convictions, continued arbitrariness in its administration and excessive (and unprecedented) delays between sentence and execution. The latter point has been of particular concern to Breyer, who has noted the suffering caused by prolonged death-row incarceration as well as the ways in which delay undercuts the deterrent and retributive rationales of the death penalty.

Continue reading »

Wednesday round-up

By on Jun 28, 2017 at 6:59 am

Yesterday the court accepted six new cases for next term, for a total of five hours of oral argument. Amy Howe covers the orders list for this blog. Additional coverage comes from Lyle Denniston at his eponymous blog. At Education Week, Mark Walsh reports that the justices “sent two sets of cases about aid to religious schools back to lower courts for reconsideration in light of their opinion on Monday that a church preschool could not be excluded from a state grant program to improve playgrounds.” Additional coverage of the aid-to-religion remands comes from Andrew Chung at Reuters. Reporting on some of yesterday’s other orders comes from Josh Gerstein at Politico, Lawrence Hurley at Reuters, and Howard Fischer at Capitol Media Services (via the Arizona Capitol Times).

Continue reading »

Posted in Round-up

Petition of the day

By on Jun 27, 2017 at 10:22 pm

The petition of the day is:


Issues: (1) Whether the dormant commerce clause requires a State that imposes a fairly apportioned use tax to also credit sales taxes paid to other States; and (2) whether the dormant commerce clause requires a State that does not impose county or municipal use taxes to provide a credit for sales taxes paid to other States’ counties or municipalities.

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia is the Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and founding director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law-University Park and the author of  Beyond Deportation: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases.”

On June 26, the Supreme Court ordered reargument in the case of Jennings v. Rodriguez, which involves an individual who was held in immigration detention for more than three years without a bond hearing. The question before the court was whether detained immigrants have a right to a bond hearing. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit concluded that detained immigrants must be given bond hearings at least every six months. Kevin Johnson has summarized the case in detail here. The decision by the Supreme Court to postpone Jennings is a disappointment, because it delays the uncertainty over fundamental questions about liberty and due process.

Continue reading »

Menu of today’s content

By on Jun 27, 2017 at 5:02 pm

Today we continue our symposium on the court’s ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer. Today’s contributions come from Erwin Chemerinsky, Hillary Byrnes and Fred Yarger. These and other contributions are available at this link.

Today we also began a symposium on October Term 2016’s death-penalty decisions. Today’s contributions come from Dominic Draye, Austin Sarat, Brian Stull and Brianne Gorod. These and future contributions are available at this link.

Additionally, this morning Amy Howe covered the court’s final orders of the term, and Steve Vladeck analyzed the court’s opinion in Davila v. Davis.

Posted in Everything Else

Brianne Gorod is Chief Counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center. She filed an amicus brief in support of defendant Duane Buck in Buck v. Davis.

With the election of Donald Trump as president and the addition of his Supreme Court nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch to the bench, there’s no question: The conservative court is back. But even with this very conservative Supreme Court, there can still occasionally be progressive victories, at least for now. This year’s death penalty cases provide a key example: There were a number of progressive wins, but only by the narrowest of margins. In this area, as in so many others, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s vote is often key.

Continue reading »

More Posts: Older Posts
Term Snapshot