Solicitor General introduces the new US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch.

Solicitor General introduces the new US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch.

The Court is back in session today after its last extended (two-week) recess of the Term. So from now until the end (whenever that is), there will almost certainly be orders and opinions every Monday. (Except for next week, which is Memorial Day, so the Court will convene on Tuesday.) And if past practice is a guide, by mid-June the Court will add more opinion days in addition to Mondays.

This is also a time of year when some of the Justices are out of town on opinion days, attending circuit conferences, commencement ceremonies, and the like. Justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor are absent today.

With arguments completed last month, there are thirty-four pending cases going into today. The Court will make a significant dent in that number before the day is out. But first, there is some ceremonial business. Continue reading »


Amid an emotional national debate over claims that police are too quick to use excessive force, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that officers have some leeway to fire their guns to subdue a mentally disturbed person who is violently threatening them.  The Court did so in a narrow ruling giving some protection to two San Francisco police officers who forced their way into a woman’s room at a group home for the mentally ill and shot her multiple times, because she was armed with a knife and was making death threats.

The Court had taken the case of City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan to decide two important questions dealing with police reaction to emergency situations involving a violent mentally disabled person, but it wound up deciding neither of those issues.  Instead, it said the law on both is still an open question, even while sparing the two San Francisco officers from a constitutional claim.

J. Alito announces the pinion in San Francisco v. Sheehan. (Art Lien)

J. Alito announces the opinion in San Francisco v. Sheehan. (Art Lien)

Continue reading »

After oral argument, the outcome in Henderson v. United States wasn’t really in doubt. The entire Court had expressed skepticism of the idea that a firearm owner convicted of a felony couldn’t lawfully sell his weapons on the open market, or transfer them to an independent third party. Today, in a crisp eight-pager by Justice Elena Kagan, the Court unanimously ruled in favor of the firearm owner. Along the way, the Court ironed out some significant legal wrinkles. Of special note, the Court clarified that felons can be entitled to the benefits of equity in federal court. Continue reading »


We are live-blogging this morning as orders and opinions are issued. Join us.

Posted in Live

Monday round-up

By on May 18, 2015 at 8:48 am

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens spoke last week at an annual sports law conference; coverage comes from the Sports Law Blog, which reports that the ninety-five-year-old “regaled the group with stories about baseball’s antitrust exemption, noting where the court erred in relying on stare decisis in the noted ‘baseball trilogy cases.’” Continue reading »

Posted in Round-up

This week at the Court

By on May 17, 2015 at 12:01 am

On Monday the Court issued orders, which Lyle reported on, and six opinions: Henderson v. United StatesCity and County of San Francisco v. SheehanComptroller of Treasury of Md. v. WynneColeman v. TollefsonTibble v. Edison InternationalHarris v. Viegelahn.

On Thursday the Justices will meet for their May 21 Conference.


Petition of the day

By on May 15, 2015 at 10:15 pm

The petition of the day is:


Issue: Whether Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community requires the dismissal of a state’s suit to prevent tribal officers from conducting gaming that would be unlawful under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and a state-tribal compact when (1) the suit for declaratory and injunctive relief has been brought against tribal officials - not the tribe; (2) the gaming will occur in Indian country, on the land of another tribe; and (3) the state-tribal compact's arbitration provision does not require arbitration before filing suit.

A Virginia-based non-profit group asked the Supreme Court on Friday to bar state officials in California from gaining access to the lists of people who donate money or services to it.  The Center for Competitive Politics, a vigorous supporter of political free-speech rights that does not get involved in election campaigns, asked for the protection until it can file a formal appeal to the Court on the constitutional dispute.

The Center’s plea (application 14A1179), along with the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and other Circuit Court orders, can be read here.  It was filed with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who handles emergency matters from that geographic region.  He can act on his own or share the issue with his colleagues. Continue reading »

Justice Bradley

Justice Bradley

On Wednesday evening, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hosted the second lecture in the 2015 Leon Silverman Lecture Series, which focuses on the Supreme Court and Reconstruction. In her lecture at the Court, Pamela Brandwein of the University of Michigan sought to unravel the conventional wisdom, which originated with historian C. Vann Woodward, that the Court killed Reconstruction.

According to the conventional view, after Lincoln’s death, his wobbly “new birth” for the nation plowed into the Court’s state action doctrine and promptly received the kiss of death from the Compromise of 1877. At that point, Democrats took control over Reconstruction policy; Republicans did the same for economic policy, leading them to abandon their black constituents. In the conventional story, Justice Joseph P. Bradley is portrayed as a key antagonist in the plot against Reconstruction, and as the progenitor of a jurisprudence that crippled the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

In keeping with the revisionist theme of this year’s lecture series, which has also, at least thus far, sought to partially redeem Reconstruction-era Justices, Brandwein’s point of departure for the evening was that the conventional wisdom is largely a myth. Continue reading »

Posted in Featured

Friday round-up

By on May 15, 2015 at 10:43 am

Next Term’s Spokeo v. Robins, in which the Court will consider whether Congress can confer standing on a plaintiff who has not suffered any concrete injury by authorizing a private right of action for a violation of a federal statute, has prompted two different commentators to weigh in. In an op-ed for The New York Times, William Baude suggests that the Court’s decision to grant review in the case “may have the surprising effect of causing the court to postpone its ruling in Zivotofsky v. Kerry, a major case about separation of powers and foreign affairs that the court is expected to decide any day now.” And at the International Municipal Lawyers Association’s Appellate Practice Blog, Lisa Soronen suggests that, even if the Court were to rule that Congress cannot confer standing, Robins “may still have recourse against Spokeo” in state court, where “standing rules tend to be more permissive.” Continue reading »

Posted in Round-up
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