Briefly Mentioned :

Briefly Noted :

On Tuesday, the justices released orders from their May 21 conference, adding no new cases to their merits docket for next term.

Today the Supreme Court denied a request by the federal government to put a temporary hold on an order by a federal court that could lead to the release or transfer of over 800 inmates from a federal prison where nine inmates have died from COVID-19. The inmates’ victory, however, appeared to be mostly procedural and likely fleeting: The court explained that the government had not asked them to block the district court’s most recent order, and it indicated that the government could return to the Supreme Court to “seek a new stay if circumstances warrant.” Moreover, three justices – Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch – indicated that they would have granted the government’s request.

Today’s order came in a case filed last month by inmates at a low-security federal prison in Elkton, Ohio. The inmates argued that they face a disproportionately high risk of contracting COVID-19 because they are in such close proximity to other inmates and correctional staff that social distancing is virtually impossible. In an order issued on April 22, the district court instructed officials at the Bureau of Prisons to evaluate elderly and high-risk prisoners for transfer out of the Elkton facility, either through some form of early release (such as home confinement, compassionate release, parole or community supervision) or by moving them to another facility. Continue reading »

No new grants today

By on May 26, 2020 at 10:41 am

This morning the Supreme Court issued orders from the justices’ private conference last week. The justices did not add any cases to their merits docket for next term, nor did they seek the views of the federal government in any new cases. And perhaps most notably, the justices did not act on any of the Second Amendment cases that they have now considered at three consecutive conferences; somewhat unusually, the electronic dockets for those cases (see, for example, here) all indicated late last week – that is, before today’s order list was even released – that the cases had been relisted for the upcoming conference on Thursday, May 28.

The court also granted a motion to substitute Donna Stephens, the wife of Aimee Stephens, as the respondent in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, in which the justices are considering whether federal employment-discrimination laws protect transgender employees. Aimee Stephens died earlier this month of complications from kidney disease.

This post was originally published at Howe on the Court.


Tuesday round-up

By on May 26, 2020 at 6:38 am

At AP, Mark Sherman reports that “Chief Justice John Roberts told graduating seniors at his son’s high school that the coronavirus has ‘pierced our illusion of certainty and control’ and he counseled the students to make their way with humility, compassion and courage in a world turned upside down.” At The National Law Journal, Tony Mauro reports that in a video posted on the school’s website on Saturday, Roberts called the crisis “‘the world’s way of saying to mankind, “you’re not in charge.”’” According to Mark Walsh at Education Week’s School Law Blog, Roberts expressed regret that the pandemic “has forced the justices to dispense with their tradition of shaking each others’ hands before each session.”

Continue reading »

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This week at the court

By on May 24, 2020 at 12:00 pm

On Monday, the court was closed for Memorial Day.

On Tuesday, the court released orders from the May 21 conference. The justices granted no new cases for argument next term.

On Thursday, the justices will hold their May 28 conference.


Editor’s note: This is the second post in a series analyzing the Supreme Court’s telephonic oral arguments with live audio instituted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Data for this project was provided by Oyez, a free law project by Justia and the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School. Kalvis Golde and Katie Bart both provided invaluable assistance in aggregating data for this post.

We recently witnessed what was likely the biggest experiment in the history of Supreme Court oral arguments. As former Chief Justice William Rehnquist described in his essay looking at  shifts in the focus of Supreme Court advocacy from oral arguments to the briefs, the biggest changes in the structure of oral arguments historically had to do with the time allotted to individual arguments. Now, even though potentially ephemeral, the new structure implemented in May included unprecedented changes to the argument format. The three main alterations were that the arguments occurred remotely, so for the first time during arguments the justices were not in the same room with the advocates and one another; that the court used an ordering mechanism whereby the justices asked questions individually and in order of seniority; and, critically, that the justices were limited in the time they could question. Continue reading »


Friday round-up

By on May 22, 2020 at 6:43 am


  • Mark Sherman reports for AP that “President Donald Trump won at least a temporary reprieve from the Supreme Court earlier this week in keeping secret grand jury materials from the Russia investigation away from Democratic lawmakers”; “[t]he president and his administration are counting on the justices for more help to stymie other investigations and lawsuits.”
  • For The New York Times, Adam Liptak reports that “[t]he Supreme Court on Thursday turned down a request from Idaho prison officials to block court-ordered sex reassignment surgery for a transgender prisoner.”
  • Ellen Gilmer reports at Bloomberg Law that “[t]he Trump administration is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to steer clear of green groups’ complaints about environmental waivers for the U.S.-Mexico border wall.”
  • In a new episode of SCOTUStalk, Amy Howe and Tom Goldstein discuss the May telephonic arguments, including “whether the court should adopt any of the changes made for this session when it returns to the physical bench.”

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 in the round-up, please send it to roundup [at] Thank you!

Posted in Round-up

When the Supreme Court building closed due to the coronavirus, some of the remaining arguments for the term were rescheduled for a special May session via telephone. For the first time, live audio of oral arguments was made available to the public. SCOTUSblog’s co-founders, Tom Goldstein and Amy Howe, talk about the toilet flush heard around the world, the unusually active participation of Justice Clarence Thomas and whether the court should adopt any of the changes made for this session when it returns to the physical bench.

Listen on Acast

Posted in Featured, SCOTUStalk

In May, for the first time in its history, the Supreme Court provided live audio of its oral arguments to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That move appears to enjoy broad support.

According to two polls released before and after the May arguments, a significant majority of Americans across the ideological spectrum believe the public should have live access to judicial proceedings. Both survey samples were similar in make-up, polling between 1,000-1,500 participants with a wide variance in geographic location, racial composition, education level, age and political leaning. Continue reading »


Thursday round-up

By on May 21, 2020 at 7:07 am

Yesterday the Supreme Court granted the Justice Department’s request to block temporarily a lower court order requiring disclosure to the House Judiciary Committee of grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Amy Howe has this blog’s coverage, in a post that first appeared at Howe on the Court. At Reuters, Lawrence Hurley reports that the lower court “agreed with a judge’s decision that the House, in its impeachment investigation, was engaged in a judicial proceeding exempt from secrecy rules that typically shield grand jury material from disclosure.” For The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Brent Kendall reports that “[t]he high court’s action increases the chances that the information will remain shielded through the 2020 election.” Nina Totenberg reports at NPR that “[t]he Supreme Court ordered the Trump administration to file a formal appeal by June 1,” which “could give the court time to grant review by July when it likely will recess for the summer,” but that the court “almost certainly would not [hear the case] until October at the earliest.” Additional coverage comes from Kevin Daley at The Washington Free Beacon.

Continue reading »

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