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Tuesday round-up

By on Jun 18, 2019 at 7:15 am

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.

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The Supreme Court has concluded that Virginia’s decades-old moratorium on uranium mining is not pre-empted by the Atomic Energy Act. But there is no clear answer to the question that pervaded the briefing and oral argument: What is the proper role for state legislative purpose in a pre-emption analysis?

Today’s judgment was accompanied by three opinions: a lead opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch and joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh; a concurring opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan; and a dissenting opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito. The Gorsuch opinion stated that state legislative purpose has no place in pre-emption analyses, whereas the Ginsburg opinion expressed discomfort at such a hard-line stance. Roberts’ dissent would have used evidence of state legislative purpose to find that Virginia’s ban was pre-empted. Overall, today’s opinions likely presage important battles to come on the matter of legislative purpose as the court’s composition shifts — battles that will take place across a wide variety of subjects and doctrinal fields.

Justice Gorsuch with opinion in Virginia Uranium Inc. v. Warren (Art Lien)

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Just over a year ago, the justices issued a narrow ruling in the case of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker and devout Christian who refused to create a custom cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding festivities. The Supreme Court’s decision for Phillips rested primarily on the rationale that the Colorado administrative agency that ruled against Phillips treated him unfairly, because it was too hostile to his religious faith. Today the court declined to take up a question that it left open in Phillips’ case: Can sincerely held religious beliefs trump neutral laws that apply to everyone? Instead, the justices sent the case of an Oregon couple who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding celebration back to the state court for another look in light of Phillips’ case.

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The First Amendment bars the government from restricting freedom of speech, but it does not generally apply to private actors, like corporations. However, private actors can be held liable for violating the First Amendment when they are acting on behalf of the government or doing something that the government would normally do – a doctrine known as the “state action” doctrine. Today the Supreme Court ruled that a private nonprofit corporation that runs a public-access TV channel is not a state actor and therefore cannot be sued for violating the First Amendment.

Justice Kavanaugh with opinion in Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck (Art Lien)

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The Constitution’s double jeopardy clause guarantees that no one shall “be twice put in jeopardy” “for the same offence.” Today the Supreme Court upheld a longstanding interpretation of that clause, known as the “separate sovereigns” doctrine. By a vote of 7-2, the justices rejected a challenge to the doctrine by an Alabama man who argued that he could not be prosecuted for both federal and state gun charges arising from the same traffic stop.

Justice Alito with opinion in Gamble v. U.S. (Art Lien)

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The end of the term is in sight, though with 24 decisions in argued cases remaining this morning, much work is left to do.

Yet there is still time for short seasonal diversions for those who work in the court building and those who cover the court. Last Wednesday, according to the court’s newsletter, was the annual employee awards ceremony, followed by a cookout. (The grilling occurs in one of the court building’s interior courtyards.) And this coming Thursday, the annual end-of-term party, when the justices’ law clerks typically put on satirical skits, will be held in the East and West Conference Rooms.

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Last week Virginia held its primary election for the state’s House of Delegates. It used a new map, which had been drawn with the help of a court-appointed expert after a federal court threw out the old one. The lower court ruled that 11 districts were the product of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering – that is, the legislators who drew the districts relied too heavily on race. Today a divided Supreme Court left that decision in place, ruling that the state’s legislature did not have a legal right – known as “standing” – to appeal the district court’s decision to the Supreme Court. The decision means that the state’s general election in November will likely go forward using the same new map.

Justice Ginsburg announces opinion in Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill (Art Lien)

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We live-blogged as the Supreme Court released orders from the June 13 conference and opinions in four argued cases: Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, Virginia Uranium Inc. v. Warren, Gamble v. United States and Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill. The transcript is available below and at this link. SCOTUSblog is sponsored by Casetext: A more intelligent way to search the law.

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Monday round-up

By on Jun 17, 2019 at 6:35 am

Jacqueline Thomsen reports at The Hill that, “[w]ith just two weeks left in the month of June, the justices have yet to issue rulings in 24 cases, including high-profile decisions that will affect the census citizenship question and partisan gerrymandering.” For The Washington Post, Robert Barnes reports that after “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. began the Supreme Court’s term last fall seeking to assure the American public that his court does not ‘serve one party or one interest,’” “[h]e will end it playing a pivotal role in two of the most politically consequential decisions the court has made in years.”

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This week at the court

By on Jun 16, 2019 at 12:00 pm

The Supreme Court released orders from the June 13 conference on Monday; the justices granted, vacated and remanded Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.

Also on Monday, the justices released their opinions in four argued cases: Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. HalleckVirginia Uranium Inc. v. WarrenGamble v. United States and Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill.

On Thursday, the justices released their opinions in four argued cases: Gundy v. United StatesMcDonough v. SmithThe American Legion v. American Humanist Association and PDR Network, LLC v. Carlton & Harris Chiropractic Inc.

Also on Thursday, the justices met for their June 20 conference; John Elwood’s “Relist Watch” compiles the petitions that were relisted for this conference.

On Friday, the Supreme Court will release opinions in one or more argued cases at 10 a.m.

 
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