The Court issued orders from its April 29 Conference on Monday. It granted review in two new cases. On Monday the Court also released its opinion in Ocasio v. United States. The Justices will meet next for their May 12 Conference; our list of “petitions to watch” for that Conference will be available soon.
Oral argument audio and transcripts from this week’s oral arguments at the Supreme Court are available on Oyez. The Court heard arguments this week in:
In a ruling that potentially could disrupt Amtrak’s efforts to make its passenger trains run on time and its ability to earn profits in doing so, a federal appeals court on Friday struck down the corporation’s power to help write rules on the use of railroad tracks across the country. In a separate part of the ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit nullified Amtrak’s shared role in settling disputes over those rules.
The D.C. Circuit was carrying out an assignment given to it by the Supreme Court last year, and the result is very likely to lead ultimately to a return to the Supreme Court. The Obama administration had defended Amtrak on both issues at stake, and government officials almost always feel a duty to appeal a ruling in which a federal law has been struck down. The government has the option of first trying to get the full D.C. Circuit to rule en banc on the constitutional dispute.
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.
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.
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 »
The petition of the day is:
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.
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.
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 »
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.