Breaking News

Wednesday round-up

Two big stories generated substantial news coverage of the Supreme Court on Tuesday: the hospitalization of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the court’s 5-4 ruling allowing the federal government to begin reinstating the death penalty after a 17-year de facto moratorium on federal executions.

In a story for SCOTUSblog that was first published at Howe on the Court, Amy Howe reports that Ginsburg was admitted Tuesday morning to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore with a possible infection after she experienced fever and chills on Monday night. Joan Biskupic and Paul LeBlanc of CNN note that the hospitalization is “the latest development in Ginsburg’s lengthy history of medical issues while serving on the high court — though she’s proven adept at continuing her job without interruption.” Pete Williams and Dartunorro Clark of NBC write that while Ginsburg’s health issues “have put the liberal icon under scrutiny,” she “has remained an active justice during the court’s oral arguments.” Neil Vigdor of the New York Times writes that “Democrats have fretted over Justice Ginsburg’s health challenges and a potential retirement or vacancy on the court.”

At around 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning, after a series of emergency filings, the court released an unsigned opinion, along with two related orders, allowing the Department of Justice to resume the federal administration of the death penalty. Based on those rulings, the federal government carried out its first execution in 17 years when it put Daniel Lee to death at around 8 a.m. Tuesday. Howe explains (in a story first published at Howe on the Court) the complex legal wrangling that culminated in the court’s middle-of-the-night rulings. Other coverage comes from the Washington Post’s Mark Berman and Tim Elfrink, who report that the court’s five-justice majority, over dissents from the four liberal justices, “found that the prisoners on death row had ‘not made the showing required to justify last-minute intervention.’” Jordan Rubin of Bloomberg Law reports that Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent, which Ginsburg joined, “questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty generally,” as Breyer and Ginsburg have done in the past. Jess Bravin and Sadie Gurman of the Wall Street Journal report that attention now moves to two other scheduled federal executions this week — those of Wesley Purkey and Dustin Honken. In an opinion piece for the Brennan Center, Andrew Cohen argues that the Department of Justice has “no good reason to execute federal prisoners this week.”


  • For NPR, Nina Totenberg profiles Pamela Talkin, the court’s first female marshal, and Christine Fallon, the court’s first female reporter of decisions. Both Talkin and Fallon recently announced their retirements. Totenberg, along with Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred and Alyson Hurt, also break down opinion-writing patterns during the 2019-20 term and find that the conservative justices split among themselves more often than the liberal justices did.
  • In a Washington Post op-ed, Noah Rosenblum argues that the court’s recent decision in Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau relied on “bad history” and “enhanced the president’s already great power, taking another step toward enshrining a simplistic vision of American democracy with the president at its center.”
  • A new episode of “Reasonably Speaking,” an American Law Institute podcast, examines the implications of the court’s “faithless elector” rulings in Chiafalo v. Washington and Colorado Department of State v. Baca. The episode considers broader questions on the Electoral College system and what might occur in this year’s election.
  • A new episode of the “Opening Arguments” podcast discusses the court’s recent opinions in high-profile religion cases, including Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue and Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania.
  • In a blog post for the National Conference of State Legislatures, Lisa Soronen looks ahead to next term with a preview of Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, a case in which the court, Soronen writes, will decide “whether the government changing a policy after a lawsuit has been filed renders the case moot if the plaintiff has only asked for nominal damages.”
  • In the Texas Lawbook, Tony Mauro reports that Dallas-based Supreme Court specialist Dan Geyser has left his solo practice to lead the Supreme Court and appellate practice at the Texas appellate firm Alexander Dubose & Jefferson.

We rely on our readers to send us links for our round-up. If you have or know of a recent (published in the last two or three days) article, post, podcast or op-ed relating to the Supreme Court that you’d like us to consider for inclusion, please send it to roundup [at] Thank you!

Recommended Citation: James Romoser, Wednesday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Jul. 15, 2020, 6:00 AM),