Editor's Note :

Editor's Note :

On Monday we expect the Court to issue orders from its April 29 Conference at 9:30 a.m. and opinions in one or more argued cases at 10 a.m. We will begin live-blogging at 9:25 a.m.

Petition of the day

By on Apr 19, 2016 at 11:00 pm

The petition of the day is:

15-1200

Issue: (1) Whether a regulation of abortion doctors is subject to a facial challenge under Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Gonzales v. Carhart, when a majority of abortion doctors have already satisfied the requirement, and where the only doctors not already in compliance failed to make diligent efforts; and (2) whether a challenge to a regulation of abortion doctors under the Due Process Clause falls within the “very limited and well-defined class of cases,” City of Columbia v. Omni Outdoor Advertising, Inc., in which inquiry into the legislature’s subjective motives is permissible.

 
Share:

In its Conference of April 22, 2016, the Court will consider petitions involving issues such as whether a change in state law reducing a prisoner’s ability to earn future good-time credits based on new or continuing prison misconduct violates the Ex Post Facto Clause as applied to a prisoner who committed his underlying crime before the change in law; the appropriate test to determine when a feature of a useful article is protectable under Section 101 of the Copyright Act; and whether the Court should reconsider, and then overrule or modify, the portion of Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City barring property owners from filing a federal takings claim in federal court until they exhaust state court remedies.

Continue reading »

 
Share:

The Supreme Court is often described as a “hot bench” – a place where the questions fly fast and furious.  But when the Court heard oral arguments today in the case of Michael Bryant, it was more like a lukewarm bench:  three of the eight Justices – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Elena Kagan – did not ask any questions at all, and the five Justices who did ask questions had far fewer than we would normally expect.  What was scheduled as a sixty-minute argument took only forty-four, with lawyers for both sides sitting down before their time was up.  Although the relative dearth of questions in the case makes it harder to make predictions about the outcome of the case with any confidence, it seems likely that the Court will reject Bryant’s challenge, and the government will prevail.     Continue reading »

 
Share:

On Tuesday, April 26, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Mathis v. United States, likely to be the Term’s most important federal sentencing case, and its second-most important immigration case after United States v. Texas. It involves the surprisingly complicated question of how to determine which state convictions qualify for federal mandatory minimum sentences and for removal under immigration law. To understand why the case is so important, and why the issue of which convictions qualify is so bewildering, some investment in the background is essential.

640px-Modern_Hunting_Rifle

Back in the 1980s, when the federal government seriously got in the business of meting out long sentencing enhancements based on prior state convictions for “violent felonies,” and deporting green-card holders for a fast-growing list of “aggravated felonies,” it all seemed so simple. A burglary, for example, was explicitly listed as a violent felony for sentencing purposes, and as an aggravated felony under immigration law. Why would there ever be an issue as to whether any given burglary would qualify in either context?

Continue reading »

 
Share:

It’s odd to walk into the Supreme Court and see lawyers in the bar section holding iPhones, iPads, and other electronic devices during a court session. But that was the case on Tuesday as twelve members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association were being sworn in to the Supreme Court Bar.

The group was founded in 2013, and the Supreme Court agreed to make accommodations for the group to participate in the ritual of its in-courtroom swearing-in ceremony. That included the provision of sign-language interpreters as well as a limited wi-fi signal allowing the lawyers to receive real-time translation on their electronic devices.

A composite with sign language interpreter and use of electronics during admissions to the bar and arguments.

A composite with sign language interpreter and use of electronics during admissions to the bar and arguments (Art Lien)

Continue reading »

 
Share:

Analysis

Reminding the states that the Constitution requires them to be good neighbors to each other, the Supreme Court on Tuesday told Nevada not to give its own citizens special protection against the actions of another state, when it would not provide the same shield for them against its own actions.   The result in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt appeared to have cut down from $1 million to about $50,000 a damages verdict that a Nevada man had won from a jury in his own state courts against the taxing authorities in California, where he formerly lived.

But the ruling did not go as far as California and forty other states had wanted.  They asked the Court to declare that one state cannot be haled into the courts of another state to answer for its official actions back home.  The Court could have done that by overruling its 1979 decision in Nevada v. Hall.  But the Court split four to four on that issue, which means that the precedent stands — at least until the Court might reconsider in a later case after it has a ninth Justice.  (This marked the third time since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February that the Court has wound up in a tie on a case.)

Continue reading »

Argument transcripts

By on Apr 19, 2016 at 2:15 pm

The transcript in United States v. Bryant is here; the transcript in Universal Health Services v. United States ex rel. Escobar is here.

Posted in Merits Cases
 
Share:

Analysis

For the second time in recent months, the Supreme Court on Tuesday reinforced the authority of the federal government’s energy regulators in the ongoing national-state competition to manage the markets for electricity.  The Federal Power Act assures roles for both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and for the states, but major shifts in the energy markets are tending to favor FERC over the states.

That happened again as the Court decided the combined cases titled Hughes v. Talen Energy Marketing, curbing initiatives taken by Maryland and New Jersey when they were frustrated that federally regulated wholesale markets were not creating sufficient incentives to increase electricity generation.  Those efforts, the Court declared by an eight-to-zero vote (with some disagreement among the Justices), have had an illegal influence over the prices at which power is sold at wholesale.

Continue reading »

Yesterday’s opinion in Welch v. United States was not, after oral argument, much of a surprise.  The Court decided, by a vote of seven to one, that last Term’s decision in Johnson v. United States, which struck down as unconstitutionally vague a part of a federal sentencing enhancement statute, should apply “retroactively” even to cases that were final before Johnson was decided.  And by expediting the decision – issuing the opinion only eighteen days after oral argument and ignoring procedural twists described (in what dissenting Justice Clarence Thomas described as a “considerable understatement”) as “somewhat unusual” – the Court ensured that even federal prisoners who have already filed and lost a prior habeas corpus claim can still seek relief under Johnson if they file a “successive” habeas petition within the one-year statutory habeas deadline (that is, many people think, by June 25, 2016, a year after the Court issued its Johnson decision).

Continue reading »

 
Share:
Photograph by Amanda Munoz.

Photograph by Amanda Munoz.

For the third time in as many years, and the second time this Term, the Justices will spend an hour next week considering how district courts should decide whether to enhance compensatory awards in intellectual property cases. Two years ago, the twin cases of Highmark Inc. v. Allcare Health Management Systems, Inc. and Octane Fitness v. Icon Health and Fitness considered the standard for identifying patent cases sufficiently “exceptional” to warrant fee awards. Last fall, the arguments in Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc. and Stryker Corp. v. Zimmer, Inc. examined when patent litigation was sufficiently egregious to warrant enhanced damages. Next week, the argument in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons will examine the standard for awarding attorney’s fees to the prevailing party in a copyright case.

Continue reading »

More Posts: More Recent PostsOlder Posts
Term Snapshot
Awards