The Supreme Court on Thursday narrowed somewhat its plan to review the work of the independent Arizona agency that drew new election districts for the state legislature after the latest census.  In a new order, the Court said it would not be ruling on a complaint that the agency wrongly created districts to give Hispanic voters more political power.

On Tuesday, the Court accepted an appeal in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, without limiting the questions at issue.  Thursday’s order drops off the third question that the challenging voters had raised.

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Event announcement

By on Jul 2, 2015 at 10:30 am

On July 9, the Heritage Foundation will host its annual “Scholars and Scribes” review of the Court’s Term. The event consists of two panels, running from 11 a.m.to 1 p.m. For a list of panelists, a link to live stream, or to RSVP to attend, visit the Heritage Foundation’s website.

 
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Thursday round-up

By on Jul 2, 2015 at 8:31 am

Commentary on last week’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court struck down state bans on same-sex marriage and the recognition thereof, continues to pour in.  At Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Ruben Garcia suggests that the dissenting Justices “see the stigma of being viewed as a bigot for being against same-sex marriage as worse than the stigma of being denied marriage,” while in an op-ed for the Boston Globe Kent Greenfield argues that the difference between Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion for the Court and the dissent of Chief Justice John Roberts “is empathy, and lack thereof.”  At Slate, Brianne Gorod discusses the importance of the Obama administration’s decision not to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act for last week’s ruling, while casetext compiles its commentary on the ruling.  Continue reading »

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Wednesday round-up

By on Jul 1, 2015 at 9:06 am

Yesterday the Court added five new cases to its docket for next Term.  Lyle Denniston covered the order list for this blog.  The Court’s announcement that it had granted review in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a challenge to compulsory fees for public-sector unions, garnered the most attention.  Lyle Denniston covered the grant for this blog; other coverage comes from Mark Walsh at Education Week’s School Law Blog, while commentary comes from Deborah LaFetra at the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Liberty Blog and Moshe Marvit at Talking Points Memo.  Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services reports on the Court’s grant in a challenge to the legislative boundaries drawn by Arizona’s independent redistricting commission; Rick Hasen also discusses the grant at his Election Law BlogContinue reading »

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Fifteen years ago, Arizona voters took a drastic step to deal with partisanship in drawing the lines for federal congressional districts: they passed an amendment to the state constitution that transferred the redistricting power from the state legislature, which had previously controlled it, to an independent commission. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the legislature objected to being cut out of the process and filed a lawsuit, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The legislature alleged that tasking the commission with redistricting violates the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause, which provides that the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for . . . Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof” – because the phrase “the Legislature” can only refer to the official body that makes laws for the state.

Yesterday the Supreme Court rejected the legislature’s argument, in a decision that will be welcomed by many not only in Arizona, where the independent redistricting commission can continue to operate, but also in other states (including California) that also use commissions for redistricting. Let’s talk about the ruling in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission in Plain English. Continue reading »

Steven D. Schwinn is an Associate Professor of Law at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

In early 2014, Oklahoma had a problem. The state planned to execute Clayton Lockett with a three-drug lethal injection cocktail, but its sources for its critical first drug dried up. The first drug, traditionally a barbiturate, is supposed to render a condemned sufficiently insensate so as not to feel the excruciating pain of the second and third drugs, which paralyze the body and induce cardiac arrest. Without the first drug, the second and third drugs would produce a level of pain that would violate the Eighth Amendment.

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Deborah W. Denno is the Arthur A. McGivney Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law.

“Welcome to Groundhog Day,” begins Justice Antonin Scalia in his concurrence in Glossip v. Gross, a narrow five-to-four opinion in which the Court held that three death-row inmates failed to establish that the drug midazolam created a substantial risk of severe pain when used as the first of three drugs in Oklahoma’s lethal injection procedure. Assuming that Justice Scalia is referring to the movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray, a romantic comedy in which the lead character experiences the same day over and over, it seems an oddly lighthearted way to respond to Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent and to yet again pass on the opportunity to evaluate a method of execution that seemingly becomes more reckless each time it is used. Continue reading »

Twenty-four hours after giving constitutional backing for Arizona’s use of an independent commission to draw new election district maps for its members of Congress, the Supreme Court on Tuesday took on a case complaining that the same state agency wrongly used race and partisanship in crafting state legislative district boundaries.

This was one of five new cases in which the Court granted review in the final round of regular orders before the Justices began their summer recess.  Other cases dealt with public employee unionism, states’ immunity from lawsuits in other states’ courts, federal courts’ authority to hear securities cases based on state law, and Indian tribes’ rights in contracting with the federal government over public services for tribal members.  All will be heard in the new Term starting in October.

The Justices took no action Tuesday on Mississippi’s plea to uphold its new abortion law, which a lower court said would lead to the closing of the last abortion clinic in the state.  That case may be on hold until the Court decides what to do about a similar case from Texas.  Action may be delayed until the new Term, but could come during the summer recess, although that seems less likely.

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Today we are happy to present the final SCOTUSblog Stat Pack for October Term 2014. This year, our Stat Pack includes information about the wealth of dissenting opinions, dip in unanimous opinions, uptick in the number of liberal 5-4 decisions, and, as always, the Justice Agreement rates.

You can download the final Stat Pack in its entirety here. Below you can view each section of the Stat Pack individually. Continue reading »

 
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Reacting to an undoubted invitation by the Supreme Court to raise the issue, a group of California public school teachers on Tuesday persuaded the Justices to review the constitutionality of requiring government workers to pay fees to support any labor union activity.  The case involves a direct request for the Court to overrule a 1977 decision that had upheld such fees under “agency shop” rules.

It has been clear, since the Court’s ruling exactly one year ago in Harris v. Quinn, that a majority of the Court would welcome a plea to undo the first precedent extending “agency shop” rules to the public sector — Abood v. Detroit Education Association. That four-decade-old precedent was roundly criticized in the lead opinion in Harris, but the opinion stopped short of saying that the ruling should be overturned.

That is the key issue in the new case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers AssociationIn fact, that case from its beginning was intended as a direct challenge to the Abood decision, and two lower courts decided it quickly on that premise, sending it on toward the Supreme Court.

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