This Week’s Brief: February 3

The Justices are now on a recess between their January and February sittings. As a result, all was quiet at the Court—though the same cannot be said across the street, where the impeachment trial for President Trump wrapped up on Wednesday. With its conclusion, Chief Justice Roberts can get back to focusing solely on Supreme Court matters. Here’s your very brief summary of what little happened this week for the nine Justices.


Statistics

This Week:
Decisions: 0
Cases Argued: 0
Cert. Grants: 0

O.T. 2019:
Cases Decided: 5
Cases Remaining: 68
Weeks Left in Term: 20

Monday–Tuesday

The Court held no proceedings on Monday and Tuesday.

Wednesday

Wednesday evening, the Court declined to stay the execution of Abel Ochoa, a Texas death row inmate who was sentenced to death after killing his wife, his two daughters, and two other family members in 2002. There were no recorded dissents.

Thursday–Friday

The Court held no proceedings on Thursday and Friday.

Some high profile cases the Justices are continuing to consider include:

  • Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky, Inc. This case challenges an Indiana state abortion law that requires women who seek an abortion to, among other things, undergo a fetal ultrasound eighteen hours before the abortion is performed. The question presented is whether such an ultrasound requirement violates a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment rights.
  • Arlene’s FlowersInc. v. Washington. This case is a mirror-image to that of Masterpiece CakeshopLtd. v. Colorado, on whose merits the Court punted in 2018. The questions before the Court are (1) whether a state violates a floral designer’s Free Exercise and Free Speech rights by forcing her to create custom floral arrangements celebrating same-sex weddings or by acting based on hostility toward her religious beliefs; and (2) whether the Free Exercise Clause’s prohibition on religious hostility applies to the executive branch.
  • California v. Texas. This case concerns the oft-challenged “individual mandate” in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). In December 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) overruled the Supreme Court’s decision in NFIB v. Sebelius (2012) upholding the constitutionality of the individual mandate. The Fifth Circuit then ordered the district court to consider whether the ACA must be struck down. The questions before the Supreme Court are (1) whether Petitioners have standing; if so, (2) whether the TCJA overruled NFIB; and if so (3) whether the individual mandate is severable from the ACA.
  • United States v. California. This case involves the Trump administration’s challenge to California’s statewide “sanctuary” law. The law prohibits state law-enforcement officers from providing information about immigrants (both legal and illegal) to federal immigration officials. The question before the Court is whether federal immigration law preempts California’s sanctuary law—and others like it in cities and states around the country—under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
  • Worman v. Healey. This case concerns a Massachusetts state law that bans, inter alia, semiautomatic “assault weapon[s]” and magazines capable of accepting 10+ rounds of ammunition. The question presented is whether that law violates the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
  • Malpasso v. Pallozzi. This is a constitutional law case asking whether a state law that categorically prohibits residents from carrying handguns outside the home for self-defense violates the Second Amendment.
  • Reisman v. Associated Faculties of the University of Maine. This case mixes labor unions with the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The questions presented is whether it violates the First Amendment to designate a labor union to represent and speak for public-sector employees who object to its advocacy on their behalf.
  • Collins v. Mnuchin. This case concerns a constitutional challenge to the structure of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), a mirror-image case to that of Seila Law v. CFPB, the challenge to the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The questions presented in Collins are (1) whether the structure of the FHFA violates the separation of powers, and if so (2) whether the actions of the FHFA must be annulled and the statute creating its structure struck down.
The Week Ahead

The Justices’ inter-sitting recess continues next week. As a result, no official proceedings are scheduled. The Court’s next private conference will be Friday, February 21. The next orders list and oral arguments are set for Monday, February 24.

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