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Tuesday round-up

Yesterday the Supreme Court released decisions in three cases. In Ramos v. Louisiana, the court ruled 6-3 that the Constitution requires a unanimous jury verdict in state criminal trials. Amy Howe has this blog’s opinion analysis, which first appeared at Howe on the Court. At Subscript Law, Mariam Morshedi provides a graphic explainer for the decision. For The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Jess Bravin and Brent Kendall report that “the court’s fractured ruling has little significance for cases outside Louisiana and Oregon, the only states where a 10-2 or 11-1 jury can convict[; i]nstead, the justices’ remarks about precedent—an issue of increasing importance, as the abortion-rights decision Roe v. Wade and other liberal landmarks face challenges—may be the decision’s most significant legacy.” Nina Totenberg reports at NPR that the ruling “overturned a longstanding prior ruling from 1972, which had upheld such non-unanimous verdicts in state courts,” “[a]nd these days, any decision to overturn a longstanding precedent rings the alarm bells in the Supreme Court.” For the Los Angeles Times, David Savage reports that “[t]he court’s opinion by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch provides a striking example of how ‘originalism’ — a doctrine favored by conservatives — can sometimes yield rulings that produce liberal results.”

At the Constitutional Law Prof Blog, Ruthann Robson writes that “the Justices’ various opinions discussing stare decisis might be read to portend larger developments.” Kent Scheidegger at Crime & Consequences also finds the “divisions over precedent … more interesting than the divisions over jury trial.” At Take Care, Leah Litman explains why this decision “is a virtual treasure trove for Court watchers.”

In Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian, the court held 7-2 that federal Superfund laws do not necessarily bar state-law claims that would require companies to pay for clean-up beyond what EPA has already ordered, but landowners need to get EPA’s permission for additional clean-up. This blog’s argument analysis comes from Amy Howe; it was first published at Howe on the Court. At E&E News, Pamela King reports that the “complicated ruling … could let the owner of one of the oldest and largest cleanup sites in the country off the hook for extra remediation but leaves the door open for similar claims in the future.” At Bloomberg Law, Sylvia Carignan and Ellen Gilmer report that “[i]t’s a mixed result, Harvard Law School professor Richard J. Lazarus said, because the decision ‘keeps alive the potential for suits under state law in state courts related to Superfund cleanups in future cases,’ but with the ‘major catch’ that challengers must first get the EPA’s approval.” At the Pacific Legal Foundation blog, Jonathan Wood observes that “if the EPA ultimately denies these landowners’ right to have their properties restored, the dissent charts a blueprint for the next case challenging that decision on statutory and constitutional grounds.”

In Thryv v. Click-to-Call Technologies, LP, another 7-2 opinion, the justices ruled that federal patent law does not allow an appeal of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s decision to institute a procedure for challenging the validity of a patent after a finding that a one-year time bar does not apply. Dennis Crouch unpacks the opinion at PatentlyO.

The court also issued orders from last week’s conference, adding one case to its merits docket for next year: Van Buren v. United States, which asks whether someone who is authorized to access information on a computer for some purposes violates federal law when he accesses that information for an improper purpose. Amy Howe covers the order list for this blog, in a post that first appeared at Howe on the Court. At Crime & Consequences, Kent Scheidegger writes that Van Buren “involves a law enacted to prohibit computer hacking but which can be, and by some courts has been, interpreted to make a crime out of a mere breach of contract.” At Education Week’s School Law Blog, Mark Walsh reports that the justices “declined to hear the appeal of a school superintendent in New York state who alleges he was fired for reporting corruption in his new district to law enforcement as he was required to do” and “the case of an individual who was blocked from suing the U.S. Department of Education for alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” At the ImmigrationProf Blog, Nancy Morawetz points out that although today “the Supreme Court summarily reversed and remanded an immigration case noting that the Solicitor General had confessed error, thereby making remand appropriate,” “[f]or Court watchers with a special interest in immigration cases it is currently impossible to find out the nature of the Solicitor General’s confession.”


  • In an op-ed at The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Daniel Cotter remarks that “[n]ow that the court has agreed to telephonic arguments with livestreaming capabilities, we can expect that the push will increase for the court to livestream all hearings in the future.”

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Recommended Citation: Edith Roberts, Tuesday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Apr. 21, 2020, 6:59 AM),