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Details on today’s opinions

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting. The Court held that the provision of the Legal Arizona Workers Act that provides for the suspension and/or revocation of the business licenses of Arizona employers who knowingly or intentionally employ unauthorized aliens is not expressly preempted by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act, which prohibits the knowing hiring of unauthorized immigrants and preempts state laws imposing sanctions on those who hire unauthorized immigrants; the Arizona law falls within the IRCA’s exception that preserves state authority to impose sanctions through “licensing and similar laws.”  The Court also held that Arizona’s requirement that employers use the federal “E-Verify” system to confirm eligibility for employment is not impliedly preempted, as it does not conflict with the federal scheme and the federal statute establishing E-Verify does not constrain state action.  The vote was five to three:   Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Alito joined the Chief Justice’s opinion in full: Justice Thomas joined the opinion in part and concurred in part and concurred in the judgment.   Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Ginsburg. Justice Sotomayor filed her own dissenting opinion. Justice Kagan was recused. Lyle’s post on the decision is here.


Justice Breyer announced two opinions for the Court today. In its opinion in United States v. Tinklenberg, the Court held that, for purposes of the Speedy Trial Act, which excludes “delay resulting from any pretrial motion” from the Act’s requirement that a trial begin within seventy days of the arraignment, there is no requirement that the filing of a pretrial motion actually cause, or be expected to cause, a delay of the trial.  Instead, the Speedy Trial clock stops running whenever a pretrial motion is filed, regardless whether the motion has any effect on when the trial begins.  Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Alito, and Sotomayor joined the opinion in full. The Chief Justice and Justices Scalia and Thomas joined the opinion in part. Justice Scalia wrote an opinion in which he concurred in part and concurred in the judgment; the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia and Thomas joined that opinion as well.  Justice Kagan was recused.

In Justice Breyer’s second opinion, Fowler v. United States, the Court held that to establish a violation of Section 1512(a)(1)(C), which makes it a crime to “kill another person, with intent . . . to prevent the communication by any person to a [federal] law enforcement officer” of “information relating to the . . . possible commission of a Federal offense,” the government must show that there was a reasonable likelihood that a relevant communication would have been made to a federal officer.  By a vote of seven to two, the Court vacated the decision below and remanded the case to the Eleventh Circuit.  Justice Scalia concurred in the judgment.  Justice Alito wrote a dissenting opinion, which Justice Ginsburg joined.


In Camreta v. Greene, which was consolidated with Alford v. Greene, the Court held that although it may generally review a lower court’s constitutional ruling at the behest of governmental officials who won a final judgment on constitutional grounds, here the case is moot because the respondent (the plaintiff below) no longer has a stake in preserving the court’s holding because she no longer needs protection from the practice at issue.  By a vote of seven to two, the Court thus ruled to vacate in part, and remand, the Ninth Circuit’s decision. The opinion for the Court was written by Justice Kagan and was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia, Ginsburg, and Alito; Justice Scalia filed a concurring opinion. Justice Sotomayor concurred in the judgment, in an opinion that was joined by Justice Breyer. Justice Kennedy filed a dissenting opinion that was joined by Justice Thomas.

Recommended Citation: Kali Borkoski, Details on today’s opinions, SCOTUSblog (May. 26, 2011, 6:16 PM),