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Friday round-up

Yesterday the Court issued six opinions in argued cases.  Mark Walsh provided us with a “view from the Courtroom,” while at Forbes Daniel Fisher looks at the big picture of yesterday’s decisions, focusing on “some surprising alignments” and “odd positions.”  And at his Election Law Blog, Rick Hasen discusses examples of signaling by the Justices in yesterday’s opinions.

In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court struck down a town’s sign code that imposed more stringent restrictions on signs that provided temporary directions to church services than other categories of signs.  Lyle Denniston covered the decision (as well as today’s decision in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans) for this blog, with other coverage coming from Nina Totenberg of NPR and Tony Mauro of the Supreme Court Brief (subscription required), both of whom also cover the decision in Walker. Commentary comes from Lisa Soronen, who at IMLA’s Appellate Practice Blog suggests that the decision may require changes to sign codes all over the country; from Ruthann Robson, who at the Constitutional Law Prof Blog observes that, once “the Court decided that the regulation was subject to strict scrutiny, there was little doubt that the town would not be able to satisfy the standard”; and from Deborah LaFetra, who at the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Liberty Blog argues that the decision “furthers individual liberty by striking down a government’s unjustified censorship of protected speech even where the government asserts benign motives.”   Howard Wasserman analyzes both Reed and Walker at PrawfsBlawg.

In Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Court (in an opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer), held that Texas could reject a proposed design for a specialty license plate that included a Confederate battle flag.  Commentary comes from Noah Feldman, who in his column for Bloomberg View contends that Justice Thomas’s vote in Texas’s favor “speaks volumes.  The court’s sole black justice was telling us that the Confederate battle flag still means something”; from Ruthann Robson, who at the Constitutional Law Prof Blog observes that the decision “could have wide-ranging effect”; from Ilya Shapiro, who at Cato at Liberty argues that the Court’s decision “has offended the freedom of speech” and that “now we know that the First Amendment is one thing that’s smaller in Texas”; from Leslie Gielow Jacobs, who at Hamilton and Griffin on Rights notes that the decision’s impact on other programs involving government and private speech is “less clear”; from Lyrissa Lidsky, who argues at PrawfsBlawg that the case “just points out the absurdity of having to choose inflexible doctrinal categories to get to a desired outcome”; in The Atlantic from Garrett Epps, who contends that, although Justice Clarence Thomas was the author of two majority opinions yesterday, “he spoke loudest” in Walker “without saying a word”; and from Steven Mazie, who at the The Economist’s Democracy in America Blog contends that, although the legal reasoning in the case “isn’t terrific,” “the practical benefits are hard to dispute.”

In Ohio v. Clark, the Court held that the use of a three-year-old boy’s statements to his teachers at the trial of the man accused of abusing him did not violate the Confrontation Clause.  Lyle Denniston covered the decision (along with the decision in Brumfield v. Cain) for this blog; other coverage comes from Mark Walsh at Education Week’s The School Law Blog and Marcia Coyle for the Supreme Court Brief (subscription required).  Commentary comes from Noah Feldman, who in his column for Bloomberg View observes that, although yesterday’s ruling “made it much easier to prosecute child accusers,” it “came at the expense of weakening the constitutional right to confront your accuser in court”; from Kent Scheidegger, who at Crime and Consequences contends that “we should also be aware of the importance” of yesterday’s decision “for real victims of real crimes”; and in the Stanford Lawyer from David Sklansky, who argues that “the most remarkable thing” about the Court’s decision was “how unified the Court seemed in its rapidly dwindling enthusiasm for one of its most celebrated recent precedents.”

Commentary on yesterday’s decision in Brumfield v. Cain comes from Hadir Aviram, who at PrawfsBlawg analyzes the case and posits whether it is “really worthwhile to continue tinkering with the machinery of death this way, rather than send convicted murderers . . . to long prison sentences”; and also at PrawfsBlawg from Richard Re, who looks at the connection between yesterday’s decision and Justice Ginsburg’s concurring opinion regarding the denial of certiorari in another case earlier this week.

Steve Vladeck covered yesterday’s decision in Davis v. Ayala for this blog; other coverage comes from the Supreme Court Brief (subscription required), where Marcia Coyle focuses on Justice Justice Anthony Kennedy’s “unusual concurrence” and Justice Clarence Thomas’s “unusually blunt and unsympathetic reply.”  Commentary comes from Kent Scheidegger, who analyzes the decision for Crime and Consequences; and from Hadir Aviram, who at PrawfsBlawg contends that Justice Kennedy’s concurrence “marks [him] as the guardian of dignity wherever prisons are concerned.”


  • In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Gabe Roth contends that the Justices should not have life tenure and instead argues that “[s]tandardized, 18-year, non-renewable terms for Supreme Court justices would be ideal.”
  • At PrawfsBlawg, Seth Davis weighs in on Kerry v. Din, in which a majority of the Court vacated the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that a U.S. citizen whose spouse’s application for a visa was denied has a right to judicial review of the denial, and what it might mean for the challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage.
  • In the Stanford Lawyer, Jim Sonne discusses the Court’s recent decision in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, describing it as not only “a blessing of particular importance to those of minority faiths,” but also “for anyone else interested in the exercise of religion or a pluralistic society.”
  • At Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Malvina Halberstam discusses the Court’s recent decision in Zivotofsky v. Kerry, the Jerusalem passport case, describing its ruling as “legally flawed and disappointing.”
  • In the National Journal, Sam Baker looks at what might happen if the Court were to uphold the state bans on same-sex marriage and observes that such a ruling “would open up a new front in one of the most polarizing culture wars of the last 20 years.”
  • In POLITICO, Adam Lerner reports on panels yesterday discussing the Chief Justice and judicial restraint, as well as the Court and technology.
  • In the Los Angeles Times, David Savage has an explainer anticipating the Court’s decision in King v. Burwell, the challenge to the availability of subsidies for individuals who purchase their health insurance on an exchange created by the federal government.

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Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Friday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 19, 2015, 8:12 AM),