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Wednesday round-up

Today the court hears oral argument in Coventry Health Care of Missouri, Inc. v. Nevils, which asks whether a federal statute governing federal employee health insurance benefits pre-empts Missouri’s anti-subrogation law. Ronald Mann previewed the case for this blog. Another preview comes from Kara Goad and Elizabeth Sullivan at Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute.

Yesterday the justices heard argument in Dean v. United States, in which the court will decide whether mandatory statutory gun-sentencing provisions limit a district court’s discretion under the advisory sentencing guidelines. Douglas Berman has this blog’s argument analysis.

 The court also heard argument on Monday in Packingham v. North Carolina, which asks whether a ban on social media use by sex offenders violates the First Amendment. In The National Law Journal (subscription or registration required), Tony Mauro reports that during the argument, the justices “discussed social media with the same respect usually reserved for colonial town criers and broadsheet newspapers that used to be the main source of news for Americans.” Additional coverage of the argument in Packingham comes from Chris Geidner at Buzz Feed, who notes that some justices appeared concerned “that accessing a web site like could trigger the criminal law because it allows people to create profiles in order to comment on and respond to articles,” Adam Liptak in The New York Times, Brent Kendall in The Wall Street Journal and Steven Mazie in The Economist.

Monday’s second argument was in Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions, in which the justices will decide whether a state-law conviction of “sexual abuse of a minor” constitutes an “aggravated felony” under federal immigration law that requires the removal of a lawful permanent resident. At Supreme Court Brief (subscription required), Tony Mauro reports that the argument featured extensive discussion of the Chevron doctrine, the Supreme Court rule requiring judges to defer to reasonable agency interpretations of ambiguous statutes, about which Judge Neil Gorsuch is notoriously skeptical; Mauro highlights several “interesting things” the justices had to say “about the Chevron doctrine, and the weight they give to it.” In The Economist, Steven Mazie remarks that these “glimmers of scepticism about the reach of Chevron—and hints that the justices may employ the ‘rule of lenity’ to give the benefit of the doubt to the defendantsuggest that Mr Esquivel-Quintana has a chance of avoiding deportation” and “hold open the possibility that once Mr Gorsuch takes his seat on the bench, the court may begin a move away from bowing to the discretion of the executive branch in close cases.”

At Reuters, Andrew Chung covers the court’s summary affirmance on Monday in Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission, of a lower court judgment that rejected a First Amendment challenge to an FEC donor-disclosure requirement, noting that this “was the latest in a decade-long series of cases brought by conservatives aiming to roll back federal campaign finance restrictions.” The Associated Press reports on the court’s decision on Monday to review “an appeal from a Georgia death row inmate who says lower courts failed to look at lengthy, detailed rulings in his case when turning away a challenge to his sentence.”


  • At Supreme Court Brief (subscription required), Tony Mauro reports that in-depth research by the legal team representing Texas death-row inmate Duane Buck into a court of appeals’ “track record in handling certificates of appealability” may well have contributed to the court’s recent ruling in Buck’s favor, noting that although the “February 22 opinion does not cite the research directly,” one of the law-student researchers states that “‘it definitely was a factor’ in making the court skeptical about the Fifth Circuit’s practices.”
  • At, Tony Mauro reports that in “the ongoing drama over who will be the next U.S. solicitor general, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Miguel Estrada is the latest in a series of lawyers who have seemed on the verge of grabbing the brass ring.”

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Recommended Citation: Edith Roberts, Wednesday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 1, 2017, 7:25 AM),