Breaking News

Thursday round-up

Yesterday’s Court coverage focused on two decisions by lower courts interpreting the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in  Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and Freeman v. United States. At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick discusses the Montana Supreme Court’s decision (which Lyle also covered for this blog) rejecting a challenge to a statewide ban on direct spending by corporations on political candidates or committees. She concludes that the elected Montana Supreme Court, which “knows a bit about the corrupting influence of big money on judicial elections [is] running against the idea of big money corrupting elections.” Mike Sacks of the Huffington Post also has coverage of the Montana court’s decision, as do Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times and Charles S. Johnson of the Missoulian.

In its decision last year in Freeman, a closely divided Court held that a defendant who enters into a plea agreement that recommends a particular sentence as a condition of the plea may be eligible for a sentence reduction if the U.S. Sentencing Commission later lowers the sentencing range.  In a concurring opinion that is controlling, Justice Sonia Sotomayor held that only defendants who entered into plea bargains relying expressly on the sentencing guidelines should be eligible for sentence reductions.  Barbara Leonard of Courthouse News reports that, based on Justice Sotomayor’s concurring opinion, the First Circuit recently denied a reduced sentence to a New York inmate even though the Sentencing Commission had amended the guidelines for the crime to which he had pleaded guilty.

Commentary on the Chief Justice’s year-end report continues. At Concurring Opinions, Sherrilyn Ifill contends that “although Chief Justice Roberts’ State of the Judiciary is a welcome response to an important and controversial issue, it falls far short of an adequate response.” And at the Huffington Post, Nan Aron argues that as “public concern about some justices’ behavior is starting to penetrate the marble firewall around the Court . . . [t]he Chief Justice’s casual dismissal of the ethics issues as the consequence of ‘misconceptions’ will further erode the Court’s credibility.”

Finally, previews of Monday’s arguments in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency continue to roll in. Yesterday, Lyle Denniston previewed the case for this blog, while Debra Cassens Weiss of the ABA Journal and Samuel Omwenga of Technorati also have coverage.


  • At this blog, Amy Howe explains the Court’s December grants in plain English.
  • At the ABA Journal, Debra Cassens Weiss has a short preview of Florida v. Jardines, a cert. petition that she characterizes as asking the Court to review “whether a sniff by Franky the drug-detecting dog is a Fourth Amendment search requiring probable cause.”
  • Jess Bravin and Emily Maltby of the Wall Street Journal report that the plaintiffs in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius are seeking to add two additional plaintiffs after one of the individual plaintiffs, a small business owner, closed her business.
  • In an op-ed for the Boston Globe, Senator Scott Brown defends the Court and the federal judiciary from recent criticisms by Newt Gingrich.
  • At the National Law Journal (via, Clark Neily and Paul Sherman urge the Court to grant cert. in Locke v. Shore, a First Amendment case in which they serve as counsel to the petitioners.
  • Writing at the Volokh Conspiracy in the context of the Court’s Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule jurisprudence, Orin Kerr discusses whether and to what extent an originalist interpretation of the Constitution requires adopting the civil penalties against offending officers that were available at common law for search and seizure violations.

Recommended Citation: Kiran Bhat, Thursday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Jan. 5, 2012, 11:52 AM),