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Monday round-up

Today the court hears oral argument in two cases. The first is McWilliams v. Dunn, which asks whether an Alabama defendant in a capital case whose mental health was at issue was entitled to assistance from a psychiatrist independent of the prosecution. Amy Howe previewed the case for this blog. Emily Rector and Kimberly Petrick provide a preview for Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute. At NPR, Nina Totenberg and Lauren Russell report on the case, noting that the argument comes at “a time of high drama over executions in Arkansas.” The second argument today is in Davila v. Davis, another capital case, in which the justices will decide whether ineffective assistance of counsel in a state habeas proceeding excuses a defendant’s failure to raise an underlying claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. Steve Vladeck had this blog’s preview. Liza Carens and Scott Cohen preview the case for Cornell.

In The Washington Post, Robert Barnes reports that “Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch cast his first consequential vote Thursday night, siding with the court’s other four conservatives in denying a stay request from Arkansas death row inmates facing execution.” In USA Today, Richard Wolf reports that Arkansas’ “macabre timetable,” in which the state attempted to “execute eight convicted murderers in 11 days,” has “greeted the newest justice … with a dose of reality: The nation’s high court, deeply divided over the death penalty, isn’t likely to escape the controversial issue anytime soon.” German Lopez remarks on Gorsuch’s “first major decision” at Vox, as does Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress. At Crime and Consequences, Kent Scheidegger takes issue with the dissents from the decision to deny the stay by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor here and here, respectively.

Constitution Daily’s We the People podcast features a discussion of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, a constitutional challenge to Missouri’s exclusion of a church-run preschool from a state program that provides grants to nonprofits to resurface playgrounds. In a column for Bloomberg View, Noah Feldman weighs in on the case, arguing that “there’s no burden on the religious exercise of the church when it can’t get a direct government grant for its playground.” In an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, James Gottry argues that “Trinity Lutheran and other nonprofits seek parity, not preference.” In The Atlantic, Garrett Epps points out that although a recent policy change by the Missouri governor may not have rendered the case moot, the court could “dismiss the writ of certiorari as ‘improvidently granted,’” a course Epps deems advisable because the “unspoken claim that Missouri is a bastion of anti-religious bigotry” may be “an imaginary dragon, conjured for the purposes of litigation,” and “[p]rudent justices might choose not to slay it.”

In The Wall Street Journal, Jess Bravin reports that Justice Samuel Alito suggested last week in remarks at a judicial conference that “[m]ore sweeping decisions and less compromise with liberals may be in store for the Supreme Court’s restored conservative majority.” In another Wall Street Journal report on Alito’s remarks at the conference, Bravin notes that the justice also “put the kibosh on the notion of televising Supreme Court arguments,” “citing an advertisement the Republican National Committee produced using courtroom audio as ‘Exhibit A’ for the way he said political groups and broadcast media would twist snippets misleadingly.”


  • In The New York Times, Michael Wines reports that a partisan-gerrymandering case that the state of Wisconsin has appealed to the Supreme Court “could transform political maps from City Hall to Congress — often to Democrats’ benefit.”
  • At Free-cology, Jonathan Wood urges the court to review “a challenge to California’s suction dredge mining ban,” maintaining that although “the case challenges the state ban as preempted by federal law, it will protect the states’ proper role in environmental federalism in the long run.”
  • At The Hill, Lydia Wheeler reports that “[t]alk is already heating up that President Trump could have a chance to appoint a second person to the Supreme Court”; she surveys possible candidates for a nomination.

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Recommended Citation: Edith Roberts, Monday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Apr. 24, 2017, 7:03 AM),