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Since October, SCOTUSblog has been outside the Supreme Court collecting data and stories from people who traveled to see oral arguments in person during the 2019 term. Click to follow along with the month-long release of our Courtroom Access project.

They are the legal version of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket: the cards (in colors that change from day to day) distributed in front of the Supreme Court that give the people holding them access to one of the seats set aside for the public at that morning’s oral arguments. With only 50 seats guaranteed for members of the public, the tickets are hard to come by, generally requiring a predawn arrival at the court. But snagging a public seat at some of the high-profile arguments on the court’s docket this term – for example, the October 8 cases involving whether federal employment discrimination laws protect LGBT employees and the November 12 challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA – would have meant either spending at least one full day and night on the sidewalk in front of the court or paying a service $40 per hour to have someone else stand in line for you.

Early risers on December 3, 2019 | Waiting in the rain on February 25, 2020

Today SCOTUSblog begins a month-long series that looks at exactly how hard it is for the general public to attend oral argument. Over the course of the now-truncated term, we interviewed people who waited in line – and usually, although not always, got in – about their experiences. (Spoiler alert: It can get cold at night, the closest bathroom is a few blocks away and the line runs largely on the honor system.) But recognizing that the plural of anecdote is not data, we also have data: For each argument session from October through February, we determined the time at which someone would have had to arrive to obtain one of the 50 public tickets handed out shortly before 7:30, as well as the total number of public seats that were made available at that argument. We also tracked other data that showed how the roughly 450 seats in the courtroom are distributed – for example, lawyers who are being admitted to the Supreme Court bar are seated in the section reserved for lawyers, but each newly admitted bar member is allowed to bring a guest, who sits in the public section of the courtroom.

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SCOTUSblog is looking for a new editor, to start work in July 2020. The editor’s responsibilities will include editing every post that is published on the blog, writing a daily round-up of news and commentary related to the Supreme Court, organizing and supervising special projects, and working with the blog manager to identify authors for case coverage and symposia, as well as topics for symposia and other features.

The ideal candidate will have strong writing and editing skills, a close attention to detail and a background in legal journalism and/or the Supreme Court. The position is full-time. The workload generally follows the Supreme Court’s schedule – that is, very busy on argument and opinion days, but with fewer time-sensitive posts and more flexibility at other times of the year. The job is based at the blog’s office in Bethesda, Maryland, but working remotely may sometimes be an option depending on the court’s schedule.

Please submit a cover letter and current resume to Edith Roberts by Friday, April 17, via either e-mail (eroberts@scotusblog.com) or snail mail:

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Posted in Featured

Tuesday round-up

By on Mar 31, 2020 at 6:47 am

Yesterday, for the second time since its building closed to the public, the Supreme Court issued opinions via its website rather than from the bench, along with orders from last week’s conference. The justices added one case to their merits docket next term: Brownback v. King, in which they will decide whether a ruling for the government in a Federal Tort Claims Act case bars a lawsuit under Bivens against the employees involved. Amy Howe covers the order list for this blog, in a post that first appeared at Howe on the Court. Robert Barnes reports for The Washington Post (subscription required) that King involves “the complicated legal rules that come into play when someone seeks compensation for alleged unconstitutional behavior by law enforcement.”

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Posted in Round-up

In a 7-2 decision announced today, the Supreme Court held that a safe berth clause in a particular maritime charter party agreement constituted a warranty of safety, making the charterer, who designated the unloading berth, liable for costs to clean up an oil spill. In concluding that the charter party agreement allocated such a risk to the charterer (collectively referred to as CARCO), the court umpired a dispute involving more than $130 million dollars between the parties, resolved a circuit split between the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 2nd and 3rd Circuits on one side and the 5th Circuit on the other, and announced a default rule regarding the form contract at issue in the case.

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Justices grant one new petition

By on Mar 30, 2020 at 11:42 am

This morning the Supreme Court continued its virtual operations, releasing orders from the justices’ private conference last week. Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for COVID-19, and in a departure from tradition, only Chief Justice John Roberts was in the justices’ conference room again last week, with the rest of the justices participating remotely by telephone. The justices added only one new case to their merits docket for next term. They did not act on the federal government’s challenge to California’s “sanctuary state” laws, which prohibit state and local law enforcement officials from cooperating with federal immigration officials – for example, by providing information about individuals in custody or transferring inmates in their custody to federal immigration authorities.

The justices agreed to take up an appeal filed by the federal government on behalf of law enforcement officials who were sued by a Michigan man whom they had tried to arrest when they mistakenly believed that he was a fugitive they were seeking. Continue reading »

We live-blogged on Monday, March 30, as the Supreme Court released orders from the March 27 conference and its opinion in CITGO Asphalt Refining Co. v. Frescati Shipping Co. SCOTUSblog is sponsored by Casetext, the most intelligent way to search the law.

Posted in Live

Monday round-up

By on Mar 30, 2020 at 6:52 am

Ariane de Vogue reports at CNN that “[u]ndocumented immigrants who work as health care providers are asking for their efforts fighting the coronavirus to be taken into consideration as the Supreme Court considers the Trump administration’s bid to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program,” in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California. For The New York Times, Adam Liptak reports that in a letter filed with the court on Friday, attorneys for a group of DACA recipients told the court that there are “about 27,000 young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers who work in health care, many of them on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.” For USA Today, Richard Wolf talks to “DACA recipients working in the health care field in California, Florida, Texas and in the suburbs of New York City, where the coronavirus has hit hardest.” Marcia Coyle reports for The National Law Journal that “[i]t’s rare that the justices are asked to address issues that come up after arguments,” but “[t]he letter from the DACA lawyers is not the first time that new events have made their way to the justices’ attention in a pending case.” Commentary comes from the editorial board of The Boston Globe.

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Posted in Round-up

This week at the court

By on Mar 29, 2020 at 12:00 pm

On Monday, the court released orders from the March 27 conference, adding one new case, Brownback v. King, to next term’s merits docket. The justices released their opinion in CITGO Asphalt Refining Co. v. Frescati Shipping Co.

On Friday, the justices will hold their April 3 conference.


Friday round-up

By on Mar 27, 2020 at 7:08 am


  • At Bloomberg Environment (subscription required), Ellen Gilmer reports that “[e]nvironmentalists and tribal advocates are pushing the Supreme Court to get involved in a long-running dispute over a New Mexico power plant and adjacent coal mine.” [Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is among counsel to the petitioners in this case.]
  • Sarah Tincher reports at The National Law Journal that “some fear [U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, involving the power of the Forest Service to grant rights of way through lands traversed by the Appalachian Trail,] could have vast implications on pipeline infrastructure and the country’s National Park System stretching far beyond the Appalachian Trail.” [Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is counsel on an amicus brief in support of the respondents in this case.]
  • At Subscript Law, Mariam Morshedi “highlight[s] a number of arguments presented in the amici briefs” in Google v. Oracle America, a dispute over the copyright status of application programming interfaces. [Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is among the counsel to the petitioner in this case.]

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Posted in Round-up

Petitions of the week

By on Mar 26, 2020 at 10:00 am

This week we highlight petitions pending before the Supreme Court that address, among other things, whether the First Amendment prohibits a state from criminalizing threats to commit violence communicated in reckless disregard of the risk of placing another in fear, whether a guilty plea waives a challenge on appeal to the denial of a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to represent himself and whether federal law preempts the application of state and local labor laws to the terms and conditions of participation in the federal au pair program.

The petitions of the week are below the jump:

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