The U.S. Supreme Court will be back in session in only TWO days. With cases concerning LGBTQ+ and transgender rights, gun control, immigration law, religious liberty, environmental regulations, insanity defenses, and other topics, the Court’s term was already shaping up to be a noteworthy one. But just yesterday, the Justices added to their docket a pair of cases involving a Louisiana abortion law, a move that will put the Court ever more in the limelight in a term that stretches into an election year. With less than 48 hours until the Nine don their black robes and take their seats at the bench, here’s a brief about what the Court did this week and what is sure to come. Get ready, folks: O.T. 2019 is just about underway!
Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court stayed an injunction against the Trump Administration, which had barred it from using nearly $2.5 billion in interdepartmental transfer funds for construction of the border wall. Tonight was Part II. The high court lifted another injunction that had been issued against the Administration, this one concerning the latest asylum rule promulgated in July. Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissented. With less than a month until the Court is back in session, it seems clear the Justices are not shy of acting on their summer shadow docket. Here’s a summary of the case, the Court’s order, and Justice Sotomayor’s dissent.
Wednesday night, the Supreme Court denied a Texas death row inmate’s petition for a stay of execution. There were no noted dissents, but Justice Sotomayor did write a two-page opinion respecting the Court’s decision. Sotomayor shed light on a possible discrepancy between the Court’s decision in Gonzalez v. Crosby in 2005 and subsequent practices by some of the nation’s federal appeals courts. Here’s a quick brief of the case and Justice Sotomayor’s opinion.
Editor’s Note: Following this post’s publication Friday afternoon, the Supreme Court issued a press release stating that Justice Ginsburg has completed a three-work course of radiation therapy to treat a tumor on her pancreas. The tumor was found on July 31 after routine blood tests, and a biopsy confirmed it was a malignant, but localized growth. The release noted that Ginsburg “tolerated treatment well,” that there is “no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body,” and that she needs “no further treatment . . . at this time.”
We are just past the halfway point in the Court’s summer recess. Late last night, the Supreme Court denied a Florida inmate’s petition for a stay of execution. While there were no noted dissents, Justice Sotomayor penned a brief opinion respecting the denial. Here’s a quick brief about the case to get you up to speed.
Remember when I remarked in my final brief for O.T. 2018 that the Supreme Court is unlikely to grant any cases or issue any decisions until it is back in session in October? Oops. To quote Daniel Day-Lewis’ character in Lincoln: “I’ve found that prophesying is one of life’s less-profitable occupations.” I should have listened.
Late Friday night, by a 5:4 majority, the Supreme Court stayed a June ruling issued by a federal district court in California. The district court had issued a permanent injunction against the Trump administration, barring it from using any of the nearly $2.5 billion that had been transferred to the Department of Defense’s counternarcotics fund to pay for the construction of the border wall between the United States and Mexico. The Administration appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but also sought a stay of the district court’s injunction. The Supreme Court’s order permits the Administration to use those funds for border wall construction unless or until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the Administration’s appeal of the full case. For more on the Supreme Court’s decision, here’s a quick brief.
And thus ends the Supreme Court’s October Term of 2018. As I suspected last week, the finale came with a bang. This week, the Court issued decisions in some of its most high-profile cases all term—decisions in cases concerning the 2020 census; partisan gerrymandering; the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Twenty-First Amendments; federal criminal law; and Auer deference under administrative law. It also released two sets of orders, in which it added a whopping 21 cases to its docket for next term. So as the curtain falls on O.T. 2018, we anxiously await the first Monday in October and the beginning of O.T. 2019. Here is your brief for the week of June 24.
Partisan gerrymandering refers to the redrawing of a state’s congressional districts with the objective of catering to the interests of one political party over another. Often, the party doing the redistricting purposefully redraws the districts in such a way as to ensure that more of their members get elected to Congress than in an otherwise fairly-drawn map. The result is either a “cracked” district—a bizarre, jagged-looking district in which the other party’s members are divided among multiple other districts, so that they do not constitute a majority in any—or a “packed” district—a small, normally urban district in which the opposing party’s members are crammed so that they win by a landslide and “waste” many votes that could have been useful elsewhere. A number of these districts have been the subject of lawsuits, which have percolated their way through the federal courts. After punting on several such cases in recent years, the Supreme Court on Thursday finally answered the question of whether federal courts can strike down partisan gerrymandering—and gave what many might say is a profoundly surprising answer.
(Note: Please excuse this almost-late, sometimes-technicality-filled post; the Court—I admit, as was expected—went bonkers with opinions this week, meaning my undergraduate brain was ground to a pulp late-night after late-night as I read 577 pages of law and wrote over 7500 words here to summarize. But all in the spirit of learning, though—right? Plus, we get to look forward to this again next week. Yippee!)
Cue the commentator’s announcement: “On the final lap, here they come into turn four, all bunched up!” Indeed. We are into the final two weeks of O.T. 2018, and the Court released a dozen—yes, a dozen—opinions this week, grouped into fours on Monday, Thursday, and Friday. In addition, the Court sent back to the lower court a hot-button, LGBTQ vs. religious liberty case from Oregon; granted and consolidated five cases concerning President Barack Obama’s appointments to Puerto Rico’s financial oversight board; and denied a petition for a stay of execution. All told, I will do my level best to briefly canvass the bevy of activity that took place this week at 1 First St. NE, Washington D.C. But—forgive the pun—don’t bet on this week’s “brief” to be very brief. Here’s your brief for the week of June 17.
Last week, I noted that the Court hardly grabbed a headline (despite four decisions in argued cases and three certiorari grants), since its proceedings concerned less-contentious and more-technical matters. Was this week any different? Well, no. Again, Court nuts like myself may enjoy this week’s brief, which covers three more decisions and five cert. grants, a smidgen more than the lay reader. But on the bright side, with twenty-four cases in O.T. 2018 still yet to be decided, the Court is teeing up an action-packed, blow-the-doors-off finale to end its term here in the next fourteen days. At any rate, here is your brief for the week of June 10.
This week, the Supreme Court published decisions in four argued cases and added three cases to its docket for next term. But despite this high number of actions on cases, the Court barely grabbed a headline all week. This is because those four decisions and three certiorari grants all concern more-technical matters: administrative law, bankruptcy, civil procedure, among others. So, for Court nuts like myself and for those looking to take a deep dive into a jargon-filled legal discussion, here’s your brief for the week of June 3 (I’ll try to use as little legalese as possible; key word: “try“).