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Tuesday round-up

The Supreme Court issued four opinions yesterday, bringing the total number of undecided cases down to 20. In Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, the court held 5-4 that Virginia legislators lack the legal right to appeal a lower-court ruling that requires 11 state legislative districts to be redrawn to correct racial gerrymandering. Amy Howe analyzes the opinion for this blog, in a post that first appeared at Howe on the Court. Kimberly Robinson reports for Bloomberg Law that the ruling “handed Virginia Republicans what could be a costly defeat ahead of the state’s off-year elections in November.” At AP, Jessica Gresko reports that the decision “was perhaps telegraphed by the fact that the justices previously allowed election planning to go forward with the new map.” Additional coverage comes from Richard Wolf at USA Today and from Robert Barnes and Laura Vozzella for The Washington Post. Commentary comes from Lisa Soronen at the Council of State Governments’ Knowledge Center blog and Ruthann Robson at the Constitutional Law Prof Blog.

In Gamble v. United States, the justices voted 7-2 to reaffirm the “separate sovereigns” exception to the Constitution’s double jeopardy clause, allowing federal and state governments to prosecute a defendant for the same conduct. Amy Howe has this blog’s opinion analysis, which first appeared at Howe on the Court. Richard Wolf reports for USA Today that the case “had appeared to be an opportunity for challengers to block second prosecutions,” “[b]ut during oral argument, it became clear that a majority of justices were wary of letting criminals go free, possibly including some of those previously sentenced.” At The Daily Caller, Kevin Daley reports that “[t]he case was one for unexpected ideological bedfellows.” Additional coverage comes from Robert Barnes for The Washington Post, Adam Liptak for The New York Times, and Lawrence Hurley at Reuters, who reports that the decision has “major implications for people like Paul Manafort convicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and facing state charges as well.” Lisa Soronen discusses the decision at the Council of State Governments’ Knowledge Center blog, as does Ellen Podgor at the White Collar Crime Prof Blog.

The court held 6-3 in Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren that a Virginia ban on uranium mining is not trumped by the federal Atomic Energy Act, which generally prohibits states from regulating issues relating to radiation safety governed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Emily Hammond analyzes the opinion for this blog, noting that the justices could not agree on “the proper role for state legislative purpose in a pre-emption analysis.” Andrew Chung reports at Reuters that the case “pitted the rights of states – specifically to control their natural resources and protect the environment – against federal law and the need to maintain access to raw materials critical for nuclear weapons and power plants.” Additional coverage comes from Jessica Gresko at AP, Richard Wolf for USA Today, and Ellen Gilmer and Dylan Brown at Greenwire (subscription required). Lisa Sorenen looks at the decision in a post on the Council of State Governments’ Knowledge Center blog. At Reason, Damon Root observes that although “[c]ommentators often refer to the U.S. Supreme Court in terms of its liberal and conservative blocs,” the “divided ruling in Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren is a reminder that such labels can sometimes obscure more than they reveal.”

And in Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, the court held 5-4 that a private nonprofit that runs a public-access TV channel is not a “state actor” and therefore cannot be sued for violating the First Amendment. Amy Howe has this blog’s opinion analysis, which first appeared at Howe on the Court. Tony Mauro reports for The National Law Journal (subscription or registration required) that “Facebook, Twitter and other tech firms could benefit” from the ruling. Daniel Ortner argues at the Pacific Legal Foundation blog that “[a]lthough the facts of this case focus narrowly on public access television networks, the Supreme Court’s decision has significant implications for all property owners, the internet, and social media more specifically.” At PrawfsBlawg, Howard Wasserman remarks that “[t]he opinions seemed to look at different facts triggering different analyses.” Additional commentary comes from Ruthann Robson at the Constitutional Law Prof Blog.

Mark Walsh has the play-by-play of yesterday’s opinion announcements for this blog. At Reason’s Volokh Conspiracy blog, Jonathan Adler writes that the “decisions were particularly interesting in that they split the Court in some unusual ways[:] These opinions suggest the potential emergence of a pragmatist bloc on the Court, and perhaps provided hints at the Court’s direction going forward.”

The justices also issued orders from last week’s conference; they did not add any cases to their merits docket, and they sent a case involving two bakery owners’ refusal on religious grounds to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding back for the lower court to reconsider in light of last term’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. This blog’s coverage comes from Amy Howe, in a post that first appeared at Howe on the Court. Mark Sherman reports at AP that the “case had been in Supreme Court limbo for months, sometimes signaling behind-the-scenes negotiation over what to do.” Additional coverage comes from Kimberly Robinson at Bloomberg Law, Lawrence Hurley at Reuters, and Kevin Daley at The Daily Caller, who reports that “[t]he decision keeps a contentious social dispute over the rights of religious dissenters and LGBT patrons off the high court’s docket in the near term.”


  • At Greenwire (subscription required), Ellen Gilmer reports that “[t]he Trump administration is urging the Supreme Court to keep an environmental petition involving the Clean Water Act on the back burner pending the outcome of another case” that the court has agreed to review next term, County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, which asks whether the Clean Water Act covers pollution that moves through groundwater before reaching a federal waterway.
  • At The Atlantic, Garrett Epps observes that “members of the new conservative majority have been in high dudgeon about death appeals,” arguing that “[c]apital punishment in the U.S. would go off smoothly if lawyers would just stop making up claims at the last minute”; he suggests, after “look[ing] at the record in these cases,” that their anger may “represent[] judicial pique more than sober legal critique.”

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Recommended Citation: Edith Roberts, Tuesday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 18, 2019, 7:15 AM),