Today the court hears argument in two cases. The first is 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. Amy Howe previewed the case for this blog. Cassandra Desjourdy and Weiru Fang provide a preview for Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute. More coverage of Trinity Lutheran comes from Steven Mazie in The Economist, Nina Totenberg at NPR, and Mark Walsh in Education Week, who notes that the court’s decision “could weaken or eliminate one of the last legal barriers to vouchers and tax credits for use at private religious schools: state constitutional provisions that strictly bar government aid to religion.”

Last week Missouri’s governor reversed course on the policy at the center of the case, announcing that from now on religious groups will be eligible for grants similar to the one at issue in this case. At the court’s invitation, the parties filed letter briefs yesterday explaining how the governor’s announcement affects the case. Amy Howe focused on this development for this blog, noting that “the state and the church agreed that the case should go forward.” Additional coverage comes from Lyle Denniston at his eponymous blog, who reports that the “court has made no announcement of a change in the previously released calendar for the day,” so the oral argument “will go forward at 10 a.m. Wednesday, but at least part of the focus of the discussion will be on whether it will proceed to a decision on the church’s claim, lawyers involved said,” and from Mark Walsh in Education Week. At Balkinization, Marty Lederman explains why he is “doubtful” about “the merits of the letters’ argument that the case is not moot.”

At the Lock Law Blog, Ryan Lockman weighs in on the case, observing that it “essentially presents two favorite conservative causes, state’s rights and religious liberty, and puts them at odds with one another.” Additional commentary comes from Alan Sears at Fox News, who argues that the case “brings to the forefront … government hostility disguised as neutrality,” James Gottry at CNSNews.com, who decries “the heavy-handed discrimination Missouri displayed toward religion and religious entities,” Christiana Holcomb at The Hill, who argues that the “religious should not be forced to choose between their religious identity and equal participation in public life,” and Nathaniel Bruno at Public Discourse.

Today’s second argument is in Weaver v. Massachusetts, which asks whether a criminal defendant must show prejudice when his counsel’s deficient performance leads to “structural error” in his trial.  Rory Little had this blog’s preview. Ally Khodykina and Rachael Hancock preview the case for Cornell.

Yesterday the court heard argument in Kokesh v. Securities and Exchange Commission, which asks whether a federal statute of limitations on civil penalties and forfeitures applies to disgorgements. At Bloomberg, Greg Stohr reports that justices “from across the court’s ideological spectrum” “signaled they will scale back the power of the Securities and Exchange Commission to recoup money taken years earlier in violation of federal law.” In The National Law Journal (subscription or registration required), Tony Mauro agrees that a “key U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement tool may soon be reined in by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The justices also issued two opinions yesterday. In Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Haeger, they ruled unanimously that a court’s award of attorney’s fees as a sanction for bad-faith discovery misconduct must be limited to the fees incurred solely as a result of the misconduct. Howard Wasserman analyzes the opinion for this blog. The second opinion, also unanimous, came in Coventry Health Care of Missouri v. Nevils; the court held that a federal law governing employee benefits pre-empts state laws barring subrogation and reimbursement. Ronald Mann has this blog’s opinion analysis.

On Monday, the justices heard oral argument in Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates, Inc., which asks whether intervenors in a lawsuit must have standing. Howard Wasserman analyzes the argument for this blog. Another Monday argument was in California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. ANZ Securities, Inc., which involves the rules for timely filing of securities class actions. Ronald Mann has this blog’s argument analysis. [Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is among the counsel to the petitioner in this case.] At Mayer Brown’s Class Defense Blog, Joshua Yount observes that the argument “suggested the Court, too, may be divided about how to resolve this debate.” At Law.com (subscription or registration required), Tony Mauro reports that the case prompted “Justice Neil Gorsuch’s first foray into securities class action law on the U.S. Supreme Court” and that though “he did not tip his hand explicitly, he showed less sympathy for plaintiffs than for defendants.”

This argument session marks Justice Neil Gorsuch’s debut on the Supreme Court bench. In The Wall Street Journal, Jess Bravin and Brent Kendall observe that while “the arrival of a new justice is a historic event, Monday’s arguments were a reminder that not every case before the Supreme Court is a landmark.”

In The Guardian, Ed Pilkington reports on the Supreme Court’s decision Monday night to decline “to lift a stay on the execution of Don Davis, 54, imposed earlier in the day by the supreme court of Arkansas,” noting that the “ruling brought to three the number of condemned prisoners who have now been spared the audacious execution schedule set by Republican governor Asa Hutchinson in a rush to use a batch of the lethal injection drug midazolam before it expires at the end of the month.” Additional coverage comes from Alan Blinder in The New York Times, who reports that the “canceled execution of a condemned prisoner … was a significant setback for the state.” At the Associated Press, Sean Murphy and Kelly Kissel report that “Arkansas officials are vowing to press ahead despite the setback to plans to resume capital punishment after a 12-year hiatus.”

 

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Recommended Citation: Edith Roberts, Wednesday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Apr. 19, 2017, 7:38 AM), https://www.scotusblog.com/2017/04/wednesday-round-up-368/