Issue: (1) For purposes of federal habeas review, has the U.S. Supreme Court clearly established the rule that due process prohibits a state court judge from taking into account his own religious beliefs in sentencing a defendant? (2) Did the state court judge violate petitioners’ due process rights when the judge told petitioners, following their guilty plea to the robbery at a church, that they had stolen God’s money intended for the establishment of a religious kingdom on earth and then sentenced each of them to 53 to 71 years? (3) Did the sentences of petitioners, who were adolescents without any serious prior record and did not harm anyone in the robbery, violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment?
On Monday, the Court issued orders from its May 19 Conference. It did not add any new cases to its merits docket for next Term or call for the views of the Solicitor General in any cases. The Court also released its opinions in three cases. On Thursday, the Justices met for their May 26 Conference; our list of "petitions to watch" for that Conference is available here.
United States v. Texas Whether the Obama administration has the authority to issue its new deferred-action policy for undocumented immigrants, whether the states have standing to challenge the policy at all, whether DHS was required to notify the public about the proposed policy and provide opportunity for the public to weigh in on it, and whether the policy violates the Constitution’s “Take Care Clause,” which requires the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Zubik v. Burwell Because both the Obama administration and the religious non-profits, colleges, and schools challenging the accommodation offered to those who object to complying with the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate confirm that contraceptive coverage could be provided to the challengers’ female employees, through the challengers’ insurance companies, without any notice from the challengers, the decisions of the courts of appeals rejecting the challenge are vacated and remanded. Given the gravity of the dispute and the substantial clarification and refinement in the positions of the parties, the parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates the challengers’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by the challengers’ health plans receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Whether, when applying the “undue burden” standard of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Fifth Circuit erred in concluding that this standard permits Texas to enforce, in nearly all circumstances, laws that would cause a significant reduction in the availability of abortion services while failing to advance the State’s interest in promoting health - or any other valid interest.
Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins Because the Ninth Circuit failed to consider both aspects of the injury-in-fact requirements -- an injury in fact must be both concrete and particularized, but the Ninth Circuit's observations concerned only "particularization" -- its Article III standing analysis was incomplete.
Rogers v. Chatman Whether petitioner was denied effective assistance of counsel where (1) the only issue at trial was whether petitioner is intellectually disabled; (2) petitioner’s IQ scores were within the range for intellectual disability with the Flynn effect, a well-established scientific principle demonstrating that aging norms cause IQ scores to rise for each year since the test was normed, but outside the range without it; and (3) petitioner’s counsel failed to explain the Flynn effect.
Unite Here Local 54 v. Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc. Whether, under § 1113 of the Bankruptcy Code, a bankruptcy court may authorize a unionized debtor employer to abolish its employees’ pensions, health coverage and other benefits without complying with its bargaining obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, when no collective bargaining agreement exists.