Breaking News

Wednesday round-up

Yesterday the Court heard oral argument in three cases, and today it will hear argument in two more, including Snyder v. Phelps, the much-anticipated case regarding the First Amendment rights of funeral protesters. (Anticipated, indeed: Mike Sacks of First One @ One First reports that the line for the Snyder argument began forming Monday evening.) But before offering previews of today’s cases, this round-up will summarize the post-argument recaps of yesterday’s cases.

Of the three cases argued yesterday—NASA v. Nelson, Michigan v. Bryant, and Los Angeles County v. Humphries—NASA v. Nelson, a constitutional case about informational privacy, attracted the most attention from bloggers and media organizations. The NASA argument earned headlines in all of today’s major newspapers, including the New York Times (“Challenge to Background Checks Falters”), the Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the National Law Journal (also here), and the Associated Press (via the Washington Post). Those reports agree that the Court generally seemed skeptical of the scientists’ privacy challenge to the government’s background check procedures. Further reports, recaps, and analyses of the argument in NASA are available from SCOTUSblog, First One @ One First, the WSJ Law Blog, the Pasadena Star-News, and Courthouse News Service. The Los Angeles Times also has coverage of yesterday’s argument in Humphries, and JURIST covers all three arguments briefly.

SCOTUSblog’s own Lyle Denniston offers an extensive preview of today’s argument in Snyder v. Phelps in which he suggests that Snyder may be “a case in which the quality of legal advocacy, during oral argument, could make a difference.” At Balkinization, Jason Mazzone writes that even though the respondent, Fred Phelps, is “the least likeable party in all of First Amendment jurisprudence,” Phelps “will [probably] win because even if the Court is inclined to apply lesser First Amendment protections to funeral protests, this is the wrong case for the Court to do it.” The editorial boards of the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal all argue that Phelps should in fact prevail. In a column for the Los Angeles Times, Tim Rutton agrees that Phelps has the better argument, but Rutton is ultimately more concerned by how the news media will treat future protests by Phelps’s church. Doug Gansler, the attorney general of Maryland, disagrees, however; in an op-ed for the Washington Post, Gansler argues that the case “is fundamentally about wrongs and the law’s imperfect ability to redress them.” Meanwhile, the Associated Press (via the Washington Post) profiles Phelps’s daughter Margie—who will argue on her father’s behalf today—as a “study in contradictions.” NPR,, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, Scott Swenson at the Huffington Post, and CBS News have further coverage and analysis of Snyder.

The Court has paired the Snyder argument with the argument in another high-profile case, the prosecutorial misconduct case Connick v. Thompson. (Jessica Fitts previewed Connick for SCOTUSblog on Monday.) John Hollway has a lengthy article in Slate that tells the background story of the dispute, beginning with a wrongful murder conviction twenty-two years ago. Hollway is the coauthor of a book about the case, Killing Time: An 18-Year Odyssey from Death Row to Freedom. Tony Mauro has an article for the National Law Journal (subscription required) in which he interviews Hollway about the case’s improbable path to the Supreme Court today. 


  • In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Erwin Chemerinsky argues that the current Supreme Court is “the most conservative court since the mid-1930s” and that “it is likely to stay that way for years to come.” (Damon Root of Reason counters that describing the Court as “conservative” is overly broad.) Chemerinsky is the author of a forthcoming book, The Conservative Assault on the Constitution, which Tim Rutten reviews in the Los Angeles Times today.  Rutten concludes that “Chemerinsky’s book is a welcome dose of real history, clear thought and genuine respect for the rule of law as a humane covenant.”
  • In an article for the Daily Journal, Lawrence Hurley points out that one-third of the cases on the Supreme Court’s docket (eighteen of fifty-four) came to the Court as petitions from the Ninth Circuit. (Thanks to Howard Bashman of How Appealing for the link.) Jonathan Adler at the Volokh Conspiracy, Ed Whelan at Bench Memos, and Kent Scheidegger at Crime & Consequences all take note of Hurley’s story and the overrepresentation of the Ninth Circuit on the Supreme Court’s docket.
  • In today’s Washington Post, Ruth Marcus devotes her column to the new biography of Justice Brennan, Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion. Meanwhile, at Concurring Opinions, Gerard Magliocca reports that he “just finished the new biography of Justice Brennan, and I was very impressed.” (Be sure to join SCOTUSblog tomorrow at 3 p.m. for a live chat with the biography’s authors.)
  • In an article for the National Law Journal, Tony Mauro discusses his interview with Justice Breyer on Monday, which focused on Justice Breyer’s new book Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge’s View.
  • The Los Angeles Times website hosts an Associated Press video about Supreme Court Justice bobblehead dolls.
  • UVa Today, The Cavalier Daily, and the National Law Journal report on the role played by the University of Virginia’s Supreme Court clinic in representing the petitioner in Abbott v. United States, a sentencing case that was argued on Monday.
  • Three web video features offer coverage of the new Court Term generally. C-SPAN has a 42-minute interview with New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Adam Liptak; the Blog of LegalTimes offers video of a panel including Paul Butler, Paul Clement, and Marcia Coyle; and the Blog of LegalTimes also links to a C-SPAN interview with Tony Mauro.
  • Constitutional Law Prof Blog takes note of a new book on Morse v. Frederick, the “BONG HiTS 4 JESUS” case from 2007. Constitutional Law Prof Blog also announces a new website, Petition to Decision, that catalogs “all the available papers of the Supreme Court Justices dealing with selected civil rights cases.”