The annual meeting of the American Bar Association, which will take place from August 8 through August 10 in Boston, will include several events of interest to Court watchers.  On August 8 this blog’s Rory Little will moderate a panel to review the Court’s criminal docket in the October Term 2013; more information about that panel is available here.  On August 10, Sports Illustrated analyst and law professor Michael McCann will moderate a panel to discuss federal regulation of sports betting in the wake of the Supreme Court’s order denying review in a group of challenges filed by (among others) New Jersey governor Chris Christie; more information is available here.  Other Court-related events include a review of the October Term 2013 featuring Linda Greenhouse and a panel on the impact of the Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, holding unconstitutional the coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act, as well as a panel — featuring, among others, Laurence Tribe — on August 9 to discuss the implications of the Court’s recent Second Amendment decisions for gun control and gun safety.


FURTHER UPDATE: Tuesday, July 29, 11:12 p.m.  The judge has delayed the ruling striking down the gun-carry ban for ninety days — until October 22 — to give the local government time to enact a new permit system.  That was the length of delay on which the two sides could agree.  The order is here.


UPDATE:  Monday, July 28, 7:32 p.m.  The Washington, D.C., government and its police chief on Monday asked the federal judge in this case to postpone the decision that would allow the public carrying of handguns in the city.   The motion asked that the judge at least allow a delay while the city appeals, but also suggested a 180-day delay to allow the city council time to pass a new licensing law that would put some limits on public carrying of guns in the city.   The motion argued that, because of the nature of the city as the nation’s capital, it should be treated differently on the scope of gun rights.


The nation’s last total ban on carrying a gun in public — a local handgun law in Washington, D.C. — has been struck down by a federal judge in a case that took almost five years to decide.  The ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia emerged on Saturday — a day when federal courts seldom issue decisions.  The judge extended Second Amendment rights to have a gun so that they apply outside the home.

Written by a judge brought in from outside the city, the case had gained notoriety as the challengers to the D.C. law tried repeatedly to get a ruling, even asking a federal appeals court to step in to command that the case be decided.  The ruling came more than seven months after the appeals court refused to get involved, saying it was confident the district court ”will act . . . as promptly as its docket permits.”  Frustrated, the challengers renewed that plea in May, and that was still pending when the judge ruled.

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Petition of the day

By on Jul 25, 2014 at 10:11 pm

The petition of the day is:

Athena Cosmetics, Inc. v. Allergan, Inc.

Issue: Whether, under Buckman Co. v. Plaintiffs’ Legal Committee, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act impliedly preempts a private state-law claim for unfair competition premised on a party’s purported failure to obtain Food and Drug Administration approval, where the Food and Drug Administration itself has not imposed any such requirement.

There has never been a shortage of books on the Supreme Court, and that tradition continues as evidenced by fifteen new or forthcoming works.  The new books cover a range of topics, from a critique of the current Court to an examination of the Court’s monetary decisions to books on how the traditional and electronic media cover the Court’s work.

If you missed it the first time around, you might be interested to know that H.N. Hirsh’s The Enigma of Felix Frankfurter (1981) has been reprinted in paperback and on Kindles by Quid Pro Books.

Speaking of Supreme Court Justices, Dan Ernst notes at the Legal History blog that Justice Hugo Black’s papers are available in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. A listing of the documents is available online.  (We posted more information about access to the Justices’ papers last summer.)  And on a related front, the papers of Mark W. Cannon, the former administrative assistant to the late Chief Justice Warren Burger, are available at the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University.

With that all said, here are fifteen new or forthcoming works on the Supreme Court: Continue reading »

Posted in Book Reviews

This fall the Court will hear a case on the future of retiree health care. M&G Polymers USA v. Tackett asks a challenging question:  what language in a union collective bargaining agreement will cause health-care benefits to vest – that is, continue as long as the beneficiary remains a retiree?  Many employers and tens of thousands of retirees have an interest in the Court’s decision.  If benefits are vested, employers are obligated to provide them, regardless of future employer-union negotiations.  If not, they can later be modified or terminated.

In an experiment designed to explore how members of the Supreme Court bar can assist the Court, Goldstein & Russell has submitted an amicus brief in the case.  This is a “true” amicus brief, with no agenda or desire to advocate for a particular outcome.  Instead, the brief’s only goal is to provide the Court with factual information that may be useful in guiding its decision.

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Petition of the day

By on Jul 24, 2014 at 10:13 pm

The petition of the day is:

Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency

Issue: (1) Whether the lower court’s refusal to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to justify the revised 2008 national ambient air quality standards as being “not lower or higher than is necessary” can stand in light of that decision’s conflict with Whitman v. American Trucking Ass’ns; and (2) whether the lower court’s agreement with the EPA that the 1997 findings were irrelevant to the 2008 revision can stand in light of the EPA’s obligation under this Court’s decision in Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. to justify changed findings that underlie changed regulation.

Thursday round-up

By on Jul 24, 2014 at 4:07 pm

The Coalition for Court Transparency released a report on transparency at the Supreme Court during the October Term 2013.  It concluded that the Term ended “with only modest improvements to [the Court’s] overall openness.”  Tony Mauro covered the report for Legal Times.

Other coverage of the Court focused on Tuesday’s decisions by the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the D.C. and Fourth Circuits, reaching conflicting conclusions on challenges to the operation of a provision of the Affordable Care Act.  Writing for this blog, Tom Goldstein discussed the likelihood that the Court will take up the issue, and – if so — how the Justices might rule.  Other Court-related coverage of the D.C. and Fourth Circuit decisions comes from Sahil Kapur at Talking Points Memo.  (Note:  As one might expect, Tuesday’s decisions garnered substantial coverage, but we have only included posts whose primary focus is the Supreme Court.)  Continue reading »

Posted in Round-up


How the ACLU thinks about and uses amicus briefs — and when — and what a successful amicus practice looks like.

In this six-part interview, Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) since 1993, discusses his background; the ACLU’s history and mission; what civil liberties and Supreme Court advocacy look like now; and what civil liberties challenges we face next.

Posted in Everything Else

Petition of the day

By on Jul 23, 2014 at 10:38 pm

The petition of the day is:

Dize v. Association of Maryland Pilots

Issue: Whether, when applying the Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis thirty-percent rule—that, ordinarily, a qualifying “seaman” under the Jones Act must spend thirty percent or more of his time in service of a vessel in navigation—a court may consider the time a maritime worker spends in the service of a vessel in navigation that is moored, dockside, or ashore, as the Third, Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits have held, or whether a court must categorically exclude such time, as the Eleventh Circuit and the Maryland Court of Appeals have held.

Gently chiding the Supreme Court for not making itself clear, a federal trial judge in Colorado refused on Wednesday to interpret the Justices’ recent actions on same-sex marriage as binding on lower courts.  U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore of Denver spoke out as he issued a ruling striking down Colorado’s ban on such marriages.  Refusing a formal plea by the state to put his ruling on hold, the judge nevertheless gave the state attorney general a month to ask a higher court to do that.

The Supreme Court has twice ordered delays in lower court decisions striking down state bans on same-sex marriage, but has never given reasons for doing so.  Several lower court judges, however, have interpreted those orders to mean that the Court does not want same-sex marriages to go forward while appeals are pending.  Not so Judge Moore.

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