Petition of the day

By on Aug 21, 2014 at 10:21 pm

The petition of the day is:

Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, Inc.
14-15

Issue: (1) Whether the Supremacy Clause gives Medicaid providers a private right of action to enforce 42 § 1396a(a)(30)(A) against a state where Congress chose not to create enforceable rights under that statute; and (2) whether, if Medicaid providers have a private right of action, a state’s Medicaid provider reimbursement rates are preempted by 42 § 1396a(a)(30)(A) where they do not bear a reasonable relationship to provider costs and remain in place for budgetary reasons.

Ruling that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage “stems entirely, or almost entirely, from moral disapproval of the practice,” a federal trial judge in Tallahassee on Thursday ruled that the prohibition is unconstitutional.  In a thirty-three-page decision, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled against the ban, but put his decision on hold to allow for an appeal.

The new ruling made Judge Hinkle’s court the twentieth federal court in a row, over the past fourteen months, to rule as he did, and it followed similar decisions by four separate state court judges in Florida.  State officials have appealed the other decisions in state court; an appeal in this case would go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

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With six federal appeals courts already drawn deeply into the same-sex marriage controversy, a seventh — the specialized U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit — has just become involved.  An advocacy group for military veterans who are legally married to same-sex partners has filed a new appeal seeking to close a gap in those couples’ eligibility for benefits, ranging from home loan guarantees to burial rights.

After the Supreme Court’s decision fourteen months ago in United States v. Windsor, assuring equal access to federal marital benefits for same-sex couples, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) went part of the way to provide that access to veterans and their spouses.  But there remains a sizable gap, according to the petition filed by the American Military Partner Association, an advocacy group with 28,000 members.  (The appeal, filed Monday, does not yet have a docket number assigned.  Under that court’s rules, it will be formally docketed when assigned to a case manager.)

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Event announcements

By on Aug 21, 2014 at 10:39 am

Two upcoming events focus on the Court and energy and environmental issues.  Today from 1 to 2:30 p.m., the State and Local Legal Center will host a webinar on last Term’s Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA.  Former EPA general counsel Roger Martella will discuss the implications of the case for state and local governments and future regulation of greenhouse gases by the EPA.  More information is available here.

On September 18, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the National Press Club, the Law & Economics Center at George Mason University School of Law will host an event previewing cases in the Court’s upcoming term that have significant implications for energy and environmental concerns, as well as similar cases that could come before the Court soon. More information is available here.

 

 
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Thursday round-up

By on Aug 21, 2014 at 8:46 am

Yesterday the Court blocked the order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit striking down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.  Although Virginia officials and the county clerk who had requested the stay urged the Court to treat the clerk’s stay application as a petition for review, the Justices instead stayed the lower court’s ruling pending the filing and disposition of a formal petition for certiorari.  I covered the order for this blog; other coverage comes from NPR’s Nina Totenberg, Robert Barnes of The Washington Post, Timothy Phelps of the Los Angeles Times, and Lawrence Hurley of Reuters.  In an article published before the Court issued the stay, Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed reported on the “tightrope walk” of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who has declined to defend his state’s ban but nonetheless agreed with the county clerk that the Fourth Circuit’s ruling should be stayed.  And in an op-ed for the Supreme Court Brief (subscription required), Alan Morrison has some “early advice” for the Justices on the same-sex marriage issue; among other things, he tells the Court that, “[n]ow that there are so many cases in the courts of appeals, and so little that lower-court judges have not yet said, you might as well take one case now, swallow hard, and decide the merits.” Continue reading »

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Petition of the day

By on Aug 20, 2014 at 10:12 pm

The petition of the day is:

Estate of Barabin v. AstenJohnson, Inc.
13-1252

Issue: Whether, in a federal jury case, a district judge’s procedural failure to make detailed findings under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals regarding important expert testimony requires the appellate court to order a new trial, regardless of whether there was actually any substantive error in the expert testimony heard or not heard by the jury.

Just as it did when a federal trial judge in Utah struck down that state’s ban on same-sex marriage, this afternoon the Supreme Court put on hold a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which had held that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Michele McQuigg, the county clerk for Prince William County, Virginia, had asked the Court to step in to stay the Fourth Circuit’s decision, which otherwise would have gone into effect tomorrow.  The application for a stay went to Chief Justice John Roberts, who handles such requests from the geographic area that includes Virginia.  Roberts then referred the application to the full Court; there were no recorded dissents from today’s order.

McQuigg’s request had the support of state officials in Virginia, who have told courts that they believe the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional but have nonetheless continued to enforce it.  Those officials urged the Court earlier this week “to decide the constitutionality of Virginia’s ban as quickly as possible.”  They suggested, and McQuigg agreed, that the Court should convert McQuigg’s stay application into a formal petition for the Court’s review (as opposed to merely a request to block the lower court’s decision).  But the Justices apparently declined to do so:  the order indicates that the Fourth Circuit’s ruling is “stayed pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari.”  Continue reading »

 
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The Supreme Court labored over some major rulings at its last Term, but perhaps no harder on any one of them than on a case it did not actually decide.  For twenty-three straight private sessions, from before the Term opened to shortly before it ended, the Court had before it the Arizona murder case of Ryan v. Hurles.  Dismissed then for a procedural reason, it has returned — in an expanded form.

No one outside the Court has any idea what had stymied the Court — if, indeed, it was stymied by this case — throughout the Term.  The case then turned on the single issue of whether a state court conviction could be open to a challenge in a federal court solely because the state court had not held a hearing to weigh evidence on a key legal point.  In the new version, state lawyers have added a second issue, on the performance of a defense lawyer during a state court appeal.

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Petition of the day

By on Aug 19, 2014 at 10:10 pm

The petition of the day is:

Lopez v. Smith
13-946

Issue: Whether the Ninth Circuit failed to apply the deferential standard of review required by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) when it granted federal habeas relief from a state murder conviction on the ground that the prosecutor’s request for an aiding-and-abetting instruction at the jury-instruction conference violated a putative constitutional right to prior notice of the government’s theory of prosecution – a right that has been recognized in the court of appeals’ own precedents, but not established by any holding of this Court.

 
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Tuesday round-up

By on Aug 19, 2014 at 6:57 am

Yesterday supporters of same-sex marriage urged the Court not to delay the implementation of a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, striking down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage; in his own filing, the Virginia attorney general asked the Court to stay the lower court’s ruling but – like same-sex marriage supporters – asked it to move to decide the issue as soon as possible.  Lyle Denniston covered the developments for this blog; other coverage comes from Lawrence Hurley of Reuters.  In The Washington Post, Robert Barnes focuses on the Court’s 1972 order in Baker v. Nelson, a challenge to Minnesota’s denial of a marriage license to a same-sex couple, and what it might mean for the current challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage.  Continue reading »

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