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On Monday at 9:30 a.m., the court is expected to release orders from the February 21 conference. At 10:00 a.m., the justices will hear oral argument in U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association. Click to read our preview from Noah Sachs.
On Monday at 11:00 a.m., the justices will hear oral argument in Opati v. Sudan. Click to read our preview from Amy Howe.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, there is a possibility of opinions at 10:00 a.m.

This week at the court

By on Feb 23, 2020 at 12:00 pm

On Monday, the court is expected to release orders from the February 21 conference at 9:30 a.m. At 10:00 a.m., the justices will hear oral argument in U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association and Opati v. Sudan.

On Tuesday, there is a possibility of opinions at 10:00 a.m. The justices will then hear oral argument in United States v. Sineneng-Smith.

On Wednesday, there is a possibility of opinions at 10:00 a.m. The justices will then hear oral argument in Lomax v. Ortiz-Marquez.

On Friday, the justices will meet for their February 28 conference.


Last month the Supreme Court granted the federal government’s request for permission to enforce a rule known as the “public charge” rule, which prohibits noncitizens from receiving a green card if the government believes that they are likely to rely on public assistance. That ruling put on hold a pair of orders by a federal district court in New York, which had blocked the government from enforcing the rule anywhere in the nation. Tonight the justices, by a vote of 5-4, allowed the government to enforce the rule in Illinois while it appeals an order by a district court there that prohibited the government from enforcing the rule in that state.

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Adam Bonica is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Stanford University. Adam Chilton is a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Maya Sen is a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Each year, the Supreme Court justices and their clerks pore over thousands of certiorari petitions, but they only grant about 70 of those petitions for oral argument. Not only do the petitions that are granted go on to shape national discourse, but they also address some of the country’s most pressing legal and partisan controversies. This makes understanding what drives the decisions about which cert petitions to grant a subject of frequent debate among advocates and academics.

So what does explain which petitions are granted? Some scholars argue that the court operates as a kind of “principal” overseeing its many “agents” (the lower courts). When lower courts go too far afield, these scholars argue, the Supreme Court steps in to gently (or not so gently) “correct” the lower courts. Other scholars argue that the court uses the cert process as a way to identify and explore cases that are of high legal importance—that is, the justices want to devote their energy to cases that they think will influence jurisprudential development. Continue reading »


Court releases April calendar

By on Feb 21, 2020 at 3:12 pm

Today the Supreme Court released the calendar for its April argument session, the final argument session scheduled for this term. During the April session, which begins on April 20 and ends on April 29, the justices will hear eight hours of oral argument over six days. The session will include several high-profile cases, including a return to the dispute over the status of land set up as a reservation in eastern Oklahoma for the Creek Nation in the 19th century, two challenges to “faithless elector” laws and a challenge to the Trump administration’s expansion of the conscience exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control mandate.

A full list of the cases scheduled for oral argument in April, along with a brief summary of the issues presented in each case, follows below the jump. Continue reading »

On Thursday, February 20, Casetext and SCOTUSblog hosted the second webinar in a two-part series previewing the biggest decisions expected this term at the Supreme Court. Tom Goldstein and Kevin Russell covered President Donald Trump’s tax returns, religious school funding, the future of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and faithless electors in the 2020 presidential race. The webinar was co-sponsored by the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society.

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Friday round-up

By on Feb 21, 2020 at 6:45 am

As the justices reconvene today for their first private conference in several weeks, Kimberly Robinson reports at Bloomberg Law that “[t]he second half of the Supreme Court’s current term will be chock-full of high-profile arguments and blockbuster opinions, and court watchers say it’s going to be explosive.” Mark Sherman reports at AP (via How Appealing) that “[t]he court is poised to issue campaign-season decisions in the full bloom of spring in cases dealing with President Donald Trump’s tax and other financial records, abortion, LGBT rights, immigration, guns, church-state relations and the environment,” testing “Chief Justice John Roberts’ insistence that the public should not view the court as just another political institution.”

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Tonight the Supreme Court refused to block the execution of Tennessee inmate Nicholas Sutton, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST. Sutton was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the 1985 stabbing death of Carl Estep, an inmate at the prison where Sutton was serving a life sentence for the murder of his grandmother. Sutton had asked the justices to put his execution on hold so that they could consider whether one of the aggravating circumstances on which the jury relied to sentence him to death was unconstitutional; Sutton argued that the language of the aggravating circumstance was “materially identical” to a federal law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2015 because it was too vague. There were no recorded dissents.

Petitions of the week

By on Feb 20, 2020 at 3:13 pm

This week we highlight petitions pending before the Supreme Court that address, among other things, whether the constitutional right to counsel of choice extends to cases in which a criminal defendant’s assets are frozen as part of a parallel civil enforcement action; whether, under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, virtual contacts can establish specific personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant; and whether Section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes district courts to enter an injunction that orders the return of unlawfully obtained funds.

The petitions of the week are below the jump:

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Thursday round-up

By on Feb 20, 2020 at 6:50 am

Court-watchers continue to focus on June Medical Services v. Russo, a high-profile abortion case to be argued on March 4. At Vox, Anna North writes that a visit to “Hope Medical Group for Women, one of the last abortion clinics in Louisiana,” the state whose admitting-privileges requirement for abortion providers is at issue in the case, “is a reminder that in many parts of the country, all that stands between pregnant people and the end of Roe v. Wade is a handful of clinics — most of them small, isolated, and racing to keep up with an increasing number of restrictions that, staff say, have nothing to do with patient care.” At Quartz, Ephrat Livni discusses the debate over precedent joined by “friends of the court” on both sides of the case.

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In 1996, Congress passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which tightened up prisoners’ access to federal civil litigation in many ways. The statute was written hurriedly, and rarely does a year go by without a Supreme Court decision addressing some issue of its interpretation. This term’s case is about the PLRA’s “three strikes” provision, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Absent “imminent danger of serious physical injury,” the provision prevents prisoners from filing or appealing a federal civil action in forma pauperis if they have had three or more federal civil actions or appeals dismissed as “frivolous, malicious, or fail[ing] to state a claim.” (For prisoners, IFP status does not waive the filing fee, but rather allows them to pay fees over time, after filing.)

The question in Lomax v. Ortiz-Marquez, to be argued February 26, is what counts as a strike. The lawsuit is the fourth federal action brought by Arthur Lomax, a Colorado prisoner. He lost each of the prior three; the issue now is whether he will be allowed to pursue this one (which alleges that he was unlawfully expelled from a sex-offender treatment program) without prepaying a $400 district court filing fee he cannot afford. Continue reading »

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