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Tuesday round-up

With only days to go before the oral arguments in the challenge to the Affordable Care Act, Court watchers have plenty of activity to capture their attention.

Yesterday, the Court granted certiorari in two death penalty cases, Ryan v. Gonzales and Tibbals v. Carter.  Lyle Denniston of this blog provides background in each case, and notes that the grants “bring the Court back to an exploration of the rights of individuals who have been sentenced to death in murder cases and then are found to be mentally incompetent.”  JURIST, Courthouse News Service, Reuters, and the Columbus Dispatch all have more coverage.

Cases in which the Court denied review also grabbed headlines.  Yesterday’s denials included a case challenging whether the First Amendment shields churches from lawsuits related to sexual abuse (coverage from Bloomberg and the Christian Science Monitor), Louisiana’s effort to force a recount of the 2010 U.S. census (coverage from the Associated Press), and a challenge to  the California State University system’s decision to fund only those on-campus groups that have a non-discriminatory policy of accepting all students (coverage from UPI).

The Court also heard oral argument in Astrue v. Capato and Southern Union Co. v. United States. In Astrue v. Capato, the Court considered whether a child conceived after a parent’s death is that parent’s child for the purpose of awarding Social Security survivor’s benefits. At the Washington Post, Dana Milbank notes that the case “shows the struggle of an 18th-century legal system to keep up with 21st-century technology”; Nina Totenberg of NPR, Robert Barnes of the Washington Post, Bill Mears of CNN, David Savage of the Los Angeles Times, and Jesse Holland of the Associated Press offer more coverage.

And in Southern Union Co. v. United States, the Justices considered what role a jury may play in setting fines against corporations found guilty of crimes. At the New York Times, Adam Liptak describes the “real issue” in the case as whether the Court would uphold its earlier ruling that “the Constitution sometimes bars judges from making factual findings that lead to increased punishments.” CBS, Associated Press, and Providence Journal all offer more coverage.

Today, the Court will hear oral argument in Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama, in which it will consider whether the Eighth Amendment precludes a life sentence without parole for juveniles convicted of murder. Ariane de Vogue of ABC News and Raju Chebium of USA Today preview the case, while at CNN, Laurence Steinberg argues that “we are simply not good enough at predicting the behavior of a 14-year-old, even one who has committed a grisly, violent offense, to say with any certainty that he is beyond redemption.” And Andrew Cohen of the Atlantic suggests that “if you want to follow just one Justice [during the oral argument], try the chief justice, John Roberts… It’ll be a quick way to gauge how he’s doing on that infamous pledge at his confirmation hearing about being an umpire.”

Finally, coverage continues to focus on the challenges to the Affordable Care Act. At the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin looks at public opinion polls and concludes that the Court “could well generate greater public anger if it upholds the mandate than if it strikes it down.” Elsewhere, commentators focus on the legal issues: Adam Liptak of the New York Times examines the relevance of the Court’s decision Wickard v. Filburn, at Reason, Damon Root looks at the libertarian-conservative divide on the Court, arguing that “the fate of the individual mandate depends on which side of that divide holds sway over the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc.”


  • Tonight at 6:00 the Peter Jennings Project will host a moot court of the health care arguments at the National Constitution Center. The blog’s Tom Goldstein will be presiding, and Lyle Denniston will be live blogging the event from the Peter Jennings Project moot court website.  Lyle has also posted on “what to listen for” in the health care cases at the Constitution Daily.
  • USA Today features an interactive video on four Court cases that will affect Americans this year.
  • At Time, Adam Cohen examines whether the Court should bar rent control.
  • Reuters presents a video interview with Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor.
  • And at the New York Times, Adam Liptak reports on a memo authored by Justice Rehnquist as a Court clerk.

Recommended Citation: Nabiha Syed, Tuesday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 20, 2012, 9:50 AM),