Editor's Note :

Editor's Note :

On Monday morning we expect orders at 9:30. On Tuesday at 10 a.m. we expect one or more opinions in argued cases; we will be live-blogging at this link at approximately 9:45.

Petition of the day

By on Mar 24, 2015 at 10:10 pm

The petition of the day is:

14-857

Issue: (1) Whether a case becomes moot, and thus beyond the judicial power of Article III, when the plaintiff receives an offer of complete relief on his claim; (2) whether the answer to the first question is any different when the plaintiff has asserted a class claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, but receives an offer of complete relief before any class is certified; and (3) whether the doctrine of derivative sovereign immunity recognized in Yearsley v. W.A. Ross Construction Co., for government contractors is restricted to claims arising out of property damage caused by public works projects.

After today’s oral argument in Bank of America v. Toledo-Cardona and Bank of America v. Caulkett, it was hard to say how the Court might ultimately rule on the question before it – whether the Bankruptcy Code allows courts to void a second mortgage when even the first mortgage is completely worthless.  What was clear, though, is that the Justices were (all things being relative) having a pretty good time – one lawyer who tracks laughs at the Court compared the scene to the famous comedy improv group Second City.  And why not?  No matter how the case turns out, there was a lot for them to like about it.  Even if the Justices were not always familiar with the intricacies of bankruptcy law and procedure, it nonetheless offered excellent advocates on both sides, weighty policy questions, and intellectually interesting questions about how the Court should deal with precedent that the Justices don’t like, but without the media spotlight and tension that often accompany higher-profile cases.    Continue reading »

 
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Shortly after 10 a.m. on Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hold ninety minutes of argument on the government’s regulation of mercury and other forms of pollution from electricity-generating power plants.  Four attorneys will divide the time in three consolidated cases; the lead case is Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency.  In order of appearance, the counsel will be Michigan’s solicitor general, Aaron D. Lindstrom, representing the twenty-one states challenging the EPA, with thirty minutes; F. William Brownell of the Washington, D.C., office of Hunton & Williams LLP, speaking for industry challengers and for coal-producing companies, with fifteen minutes; U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., arguing for the EPA, with thirty minutes; and Paul M. Smith of the Washington, D.C., office of Jenner & Block LLP, speaking for industrial firms and other groups that support the EPA’s approach, with fifteen minutes.

 Background

It is a simple fact that nearly sixty percent of the power plants that generate electricity in the U.S. by burning coal are more than forty years old.  That has made them an obvious target for the Environmental Protection Agency, which has blamed those older facilities using fossil fuels for much of the air pollution that the agency says threatens the nation’s health and its environment.

But those plants, and the coal-mining companies that supply them with fuel, have very strong allies in Congress — most notably, now, the Republican majority leader of the Senate, Kentucky’s Sen. Mitch McConnell.  He has regularly denounced the EPA, and the Obama administration, for waging what he calls a “war on coal,” and he recently wrote to all of the nation’s governors to urge them not to cooperate with the EPA in threatening the future of the older power plants.  This battle over coal and air pollution gets an airing this week in a legal format, at the Supreme Court.

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Today’s transcript

By on Mar 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm

The transcript in Bank of America v. Caulkett is here

Posted in Merits Cases
 
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The Supreme Court’s threat of discipline for a Washington lawyer based on a nearly unintelligible filing he had submitted has ended with no punishment, but with a lesson for advocates before the Court about their professional duties.  The Court, in a brief order Monday, indicated that it would not take action against that lawyer, Howard Neil Shipley.

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We are live-blogging this morning as opinions are issued in argued cases. Join us here.

Posted in Live
 
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Tuesday round-up

By on Mar 24, 2015 at 7:23 am

Yesterday was a busy day at the Court, as the Justices returned for the March sitting to hear oral arguments and issue orders from their March 20 Conference.  The first oral argument was in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, the challenge to Texas’s specialty license-plate scheme. Lyle Denniston covered the oral argument for this blog, with other coverage coming from NPR’s Nina Totenberg, Mark Walsh at Education Week’s School Law blog, Tony Mauro for the Supreme Court Brief (subscription required), and Jess Bravin of The Wall Street Journal.  Commentary comes from Ruthann Robson at Constitutional Law Prof Blog,

The second case was City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan, in which the Court will consider the duties that the Americans with Disabilities Act imposes on police officers when they deal with people with mental disabilities.  Lyle Denniston covered the oral arguments for this blog, with commentary coming from David Perry for Al Jazeera and Lisa Soronen in an interview on KPCC. And at ISCOTUSnow, Edward Lee predicts the winners in yesterday’s oral arguments based on the number of questions for each side.  Continue reading »

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This morning at 10 a.m., the Court will hear oral arguments in two cases that at first blush look like they present a fairly dry bankruptcy question.  But once unpacked and translated into less technical terms, Bank of America v. Caulkett and Bank of America v. Toledo-Cardona appear far more interesting and timely.  The two cases, which have been consolidated for one hour of oral argument, deal with an all-too-common scenario in the wake of the housing crisis:  a homeowner who files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy has two mortgages, but the value of the house is less than the primary mortgage.  Does the Bankruptcy Code allow courts to void the second mortgage, which is essentially worthless? The Supreme Court’s answer could (depending on which side is right) hurt the bottom line of banks that have issued second mortgages or, alternatively, reduce the flexibility of debtors and banks holding first mortgages to work together to stave off foreclosures and keep the homeowners in their houses.     Continue reading »

 
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Petition of the day

By on Mar 23, 2015 at 10:11 pm

The petition of the day is:

14-939

Issue: (1) Whether the Third Circuit erred in holding that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 authorizes the imposition of supervisory liability on state officials for a subordinate’s alleged constitutional violation; and (2) whether the Third Circuit erred in holding that there is a clearly established right under the Eighth Amendment to the “proper implementation of adequate suicide prevention protocols.”

The recurring issue of life sentences without the possibility of parole for individuals who commit murder when they were minors is back on the Supreme Court’s decision docket.  The Court granted review of a Louisiana case on that issue, but once more also added a question on whether it had the authority to decide the case.

The basic legal question in the case is whether a juvenile who received a life-without-parole sentence prior to June 2012 may take advantage of the ruling that day in Miller v. Alabama, limiting courts’ authority to impose that kind of sentence for juveniles.  The Court in December had agreed to decide that issue in Toca v. Louisiana, but that case ended in February when the individual involved was released from prison under a plea deal.  The newly granted case of Montgomery v. Louisiana involves Henry Montgomery, who shot and killed a deputy sheriff in 1963, when he was seventeen years old.

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Posted in Merits Cases
 
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