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Wednesday round-up

On a morning that featured two new decisions and a dismissal, it was the oral argument in the class-action case Wal-Mart v. Dukes that stole the spotlight. The argument received the national news media’s full attention, and — to an unusual degree – many journalists and commentators made predictions about its outcome based on the exchanges during the argument.

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, James Oliphant and David Savage report that the Court, “sharply divided along gender lines, appeared poised to reject [the] nationwide class-action suit.” (In the words of Nina Totenberg of NPR, the case “ran into a wall of doubt” at the Court yesterday.) More specifically, Oliphant and Savage explain that “[a]lthough the more conservative-leaning justices on the high court seemed to be the most hostile to the case, nearly all of its members appeared troubled by aspects of the litigation.” USA Today, CNN (also here), the National Law Journal, Reuters, Bloomberg, the San Francisco Chronicle, Forbes, the Associated Press (via the Chicago Tribune), the Wall Street Journal (also here, on the opinion page), and SCOTUSblog offer similar bottom-line assessments. Adam Liptak of the New York Times reports that the Court “appeared closely divided,” but he too notes that “[e]ven some justices who seemed sympathetic to the plaintiffs expressed qualms about how to administer [the] lawsuit” – an assessment echoed by Robert Barnes of the Washington Post. The WSJ Law Blog summarizes coverage of the case as follows: “Nearly all of the accounts flowing out of the high court on Tuesday indicate that the justices seemed skeptical of the suit, hinting that it was unfair to Wal-Mart.” The Christian Science Monitor (also here), the ABA Journal, JURIST, PBS NewsHour, and BBC News all have further coverage of the argument. Finally, the editorial board of the Washington Post also weighs in, recommending that if the Court “decide[s] that the class as currently structured is not workable,” then it should “give the women a chance to more narrowly tailor the class.”

Of the two cases decided yesterday, Connick v. Thompson attracted the lion’s share of coverage. In Connick, the Court held, by a five-to-four vote, that a district attorney’s office cannot be held liable under Section 1983 for failing to train its prosecutors based on one example of misconduct. Bob Barnes of the Washington Post reports that Connick is “the first decision of the court term that split the justices into ideological camps, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg emphasized her disagreement by reading a summary of her dissent from the bench.” Barnes adds that the decision “marks the apparent end of a decades-long trip through the legal process for Thompson, whose experience has produced a book, a potential movie deal and a dying confession from the prosecutor who withheld the evidence.” The New York Times, USA Today, Constitutional Law Prof Blog, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, JURIST, Crime & Consequences, Courthouse News Service, and ABA Journal have additional coverage.

In the second case decided yesterday, Astra USA, Inc. v. Santa Clara County, the Court held that operators of public hospitals, private clinics, and community health centers cannot sue drug companies for alleged overpricing of drugs. The Wall Street Journal, Courthouse News Service, ABA Journal, JURIST, and the Associated Press (via the Washington Post) all have coverage of the unanimous decision.

In addition to issuing those decisions, the Court also dismissed (as improvidently granted) Tolentino v. New York, an exclusionary rule case that was argued last week. The Court did not offer an explanation for its action, but at Crime & Consequences, Kent Scheidegger offers his “best guess,” which Orin Kerr (at the Volokh Conspiracy) considers a “pretty good guess.” Courthouse News Service also has coverage.

Monday’s argument in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, consolidated with McComish v. Bennett, is generating commentary for a second day.  In that case, the Court is considering the constitutionality of Arizona’s publicly funded campaign scheme under the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act. At Election Law Blog, Rick Hasen considers whether a ruling that the matching funds provision of Arizona’s law is unconstitutional will “doom future viable public financing plans.” At Concurring Opinions, Deborah Hellman argues that such a ruling would not be justified because the matching funds provision “does not violate the First Amendment rights of anyone.” The WSJ Law Blog, the Corner at National Review Online, and ABA Journal have coverage of the argument, in addition to that included in yesterday’s round-up.

In other Court-related news, yesterday – on his way to the Wal-Mart v. Dukes argument – Justice Scalia was involved in a four-car traffic accident on the George Washington Parkway outside Washington, DC. He was issued a $70 fine by U.S. Park Police for following too closely. No one was injured. The Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post’s Reliable Source blog, and the Associated Press (via CBS News) all report the story.

Recommended Citation: Adam Chandler, Wednesday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 30, 2011, 8:27 AM),