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Wednesday round-up

Today the Justices will hear oral arguments in two cases.  Lyle Denniston previewed Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle, in which the Court will consider whether Puerto Rico and the federal government are separate sovereigns for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause, for this blog.  Other coverage comes from Ben Rosales and Thomas Nomura Kim for Cornell’s Legal Information Institute

In Bank Markazi v. Peterson, the Justices will consider whether the Constitution allows Congress to order a federal court to require the surrender of assets owned by Iran’s central bank to pay victims of terrorism.  Lyle Denniston previewed the case for this blog, with other coverage coming from Kelsey Ferguson and Samantha Ostrom of Cornell’s Legal Information Institute.

Yesterday the Court issued its decision in Hurst v. Florida, holding by a vote of eight to one that Florida’s capital-sentencing scheme – which gives a judge, rather than a jury, the power to make the final decision whether to impose the death penalty – is unconstitutional.  Lyle Denniston covered the decision for this blog, with other coverage coming from NPR’s Nina Totenberg, Tony Mauro in The National Law Journal (subscription or registration may be required), Greg Stohr of Bloomberg, Jess Bravin of The Wall Street Journal, and David Ovalle in the Miami Herald.  Commentary comes from Kent Scheidegger of Crime and Consequences.

The Court’s second decision came in Bruce v. Samuels, in which the Justices unanimously agreed that the Prison Litigation Reform Act requires an indigent litigant who files multiple cases or appeals to pay twenty percent of his income for the month for each case to cover the filing fees.  I covered the decision for this blog, with other coverage coming from Richard Wolf of USA Today.

Commentary on Monday’s oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the challenge to mandatory “fair share” fees for public employees who are represented by a union but decline to join that union, continues.  At Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Ruben Garcia focused on what he described as “several statements by lawyers and Justices that furthered misconceptions about public sector labor law, and that mostly inured to the benefit of the plaintiffs who challenged California’s agency fee statute as a violation of their speech rights under the First Amendment,” while at Huffington Post Bill Blum focuses on why Justice Antonin Scalia may be the unions’ “best chance for survival.” And at the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Liberty Blog, Deborah LaFetra argues that a “win for Rebecca Friedrichs is a win for good public policy as well as constitutional rights.”

At The Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh discusses an amicus brief filed in a First Amendment student rap case, while at The Conversation Clay Calvert urges the Court to grant review in the case, arguing that “public school students deserve the right to know, pre-posting and pre-texting, what their First Amendment rights are when they are away from campus.”

In Supreme Court Brief (subscription required), Tony Mauro discusses the president, the Court, and the State of the Union address.  After the speech, Mauro reports for The National Law Journal (subscription or registration may be required) that the president “sidestepped any direct discussion of the court,” although he “briefly mentioned contentious legal issues, including voting rights, campaign finance, and marriage equality.”


  • Also in Supreme Court Brief (subscription required), Mauro reports on the extensive and bipartisan amicus support for former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, whose petition for review is before the Court again this week.
  • The Cap Times discusses Wisconsin Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin’s contribution to this blog’s symposium on the upcoming challenge to Texas’s abortion regulations.
  • At Crime and Consequences, Kent Scheidegger responds to (and criticizes) a David Brooks column in The New York Times on Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and a case in which he was involved at the Court.
  • At the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Liberty Blog, Todd Gaziano urges the Court to grant review in the case of Matt Sissel, who argues that the tax imposed on individuals who fail to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional because it originated in the Senate in violation of the Origination Clause.

[Disclosure:  Goldstein & Russell, P.C., is among the counsel to the respondents in Heffernan and filed an amicus brief in support of the respondents in Friedrichs.  However, I am not affiliated with the firm.]

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Wednesday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Jan. 13, 2016, 6:40 AM),