The Supreme Court’s December sitting began this week with oral arguments in six cases. One of those cases concerns the first Second Amendment challenge to reach the Court in ten years. However, much of the discussion at oral argument pertained to mootness—that is, whether the case should be dismissed since it’s no longer really a live case. The Court also denied a stay of execution, added to its docket an intriguing First Amendment case out of Delaware, and declined to grant the Trump administration’s request to resume executing federal prisoners. Finally, Justice Ginsburg entered a one-week administrative stay in one of President Trump’s tax returns cases—the third one to reach the Supreme Court. Here’s your recap of what happened at the Supreme Court this past week.
Thanksgiving came early this week at the Supreme Court. The Justices issued their first decision of the term, a per curiam opinion in a campaign finance case. We also saw three opinions relating to Monday’s orders list: Justice Alito dissented from a denial of cert in a First Amendment defamation case, Justice Kavanaugh called for a revisitation of the Court’s nondelegation doctrine, and Justice Sotomayor seemed unnerved by a bizarre case of judicial bias out of Arkansas. The Justices also issued a temporary stay in one of President Trump’s tax returns cases. All this to start off the week of the best meal of the year—perhaps the Justices wanted to get their official work done in order to focus on food prep. At any rate, here’s a recap of what happened at the Supreme Court this week.
Over the past few months, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Manhattan District Attorney have issued subpoenas for President Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns. Trump has fought the subpoenas vigourously, filing lawsuits to block the release of his tax returns and arguing that the subpoenas are unconstitutional. Those lawsuits have percolated through the federal courts; the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the congressional subpoena, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the District Attorney’s subpoena. Now Trump has appealed both decisions. Both lawsuits now sit before the Supreme Court and await action from the nine Justices. This article gives a comprehensive overview of both of Trump’s tax returns cases. I analyze the D.C. Circuit and Second Circuit’s opinions, issued before Trump’s appeal to the Supreme Court. I assess each parties’ arguments as they are now laid out in briefs filed with the Supreme Court. I lay out timelines for both cases and explain what the Supreme Court might do and when. Finally, I give my own thoughts on some of the critical legal questions the cases present.
With no cases scheduled for oral argument this week and no decisions yet, I almost expected the Court’s week to be relatively placid. Wrong prediction. President Trump has now steered both of his tax returns cases to the Supreme Court. (I’ll be writing a little post about these cases in the next few days.) Chief Justice Roberts temporarily stayed a mandate from the D.C. Circuit—which had directed Mazars, LLP to turn over Trump’s tax documents to two committees of the U.S. House of Representatives—to allow the full Court time to read both parties’ briefs and consider ways to deal with the tax return cases. In addition, we saw an opinion from Justice Sotomayor dissenting from a denial of cert, a cert grant for a lawsuit between three Muslim men and a number of FBI agents, and a press release about Justice Ginsburg’s health. Here’s your brief for the week of November 18.
The last week of oral arguments for the November sitting was one that certainly should grab your attention. The Justices heard arguments about the Trump administration’s push to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program; a case involving a U.S. Border Patrol agent who shot and killed a Mexican teenager across the U.S.–Mexico border; a civil rights case between Comcast and an African-American who owns Entertainment Studios Network; and a case that could have significant ramifications in the world of bankruptcy law. In addition, the Court added three cases to its docket, including a blockbuster copyright dispute between Google and Oracle; declined a petition for a stay of execution; saw its newest Justice (Brett Kavanaugh) give his first public speech since a disputatious confirmation process; and received an appeal from President Trump concerning a subpoena for his personal tax returns. With all that, here’s your brief for the week of November 11.
The Justices heard arguments in six cases this week: a wildly complicated case that blends statutory interpretation with federal immigration law; a Fourth Amendment search and seizure case about traffic stops; two maritime cases, one of which actually concerns admiralty law while the other stems from the discovery of Blackbeard’s pirate ship (yes, you could say Blackbeard’s ship charted a course to the U.S. Supreme Court); a showstopper of an environmental law case; and an ERISA statutory interpretation case that, I admit, nearly put me to sleep. As an added bonus, the Court added a copyright case to its docket and denied a petition for a stay of execution. All in a week’s work for the Nine! Here’s your brief for the week of November 4.
Another very quiet week for the Justices: no decisions, no oral arguments, a few miscellaneous orders, and just one cert grant in a securities-law case. But have no fear—with the November sitting beginning next week, the Supreme (Court) machine will soon awaken from its quiet idle and roar into its normal, high gear. For now, here’s a short rundown of the little drummings of action this week at 1 First St. NE.
After the furor of the first two weeks of the Court’s term, the week of October 21 was markedly more placid. The Justices did not hear oral argument in any merits cases and predictably did not issue any decisions yet in argued cases. We do have the first opinion of the term, but it’s only an opinion relating to one of the Court’s orders on Monday. On a separate note, while the Justices didn’t garner many headlines in the courtroom, Justice Ginsburg grabbed the spotlight on Wednesday night for being awarded a very prestigious prize by the Berggruen Institute. So after a quiet week for the Justices (or for eight of them, at least), here’s your quick brief for the week of October 21.
The Justices met for their second full week of the term. The Court added four cases to its merits docket, heard oral arguments in another four cases, and gave us all a couple interesting nuggets in its orders lists (including a dismissal of a case that might already win the award for the “Strangest Cert Petition of the Term”). For your weekly recap of the action at 1 First St. NE, here’s your brief for the week of October 14.
Congratulations: 1 week of the Court’s term is down, three dozen (or more) to go. Though its first full day in session was relatively quiet, Tuesday landed with a bang. Garnering headlines throughout the nation were oral arguments in three cases concerning LGBTQ+ and transgender rights in the workplace. Transcripts and full audio recordings of these cases (as well as the three heard on Monday) are linked here. After a three-month summer sabbatical, your weekly briefings on the action at the U.S. Supreme Court are back. Here’s your brief for the week of October 7—the first week of the Court’s O.T. 2019.