For the first time since 1996, the Supreme Court’s term has officially extended into the month of July. The Court decided five cases this week, touching on abortion, free speech, religious liberty, administrative agencies, and copyright law. It also added four cases to next term’s docket, one of which concerns the release of grand jury materials from Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Here’s a recap of the Court’s busy week.
Pop quiz: Can U.S. citizens sue other countries in U.S. courts? Answer: Yes. There are a few exceptions to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which otherwise shields foreign countries from suits in state or federal court. Next question: Which of these exceptions did Congress create in 1996? Answer: The terrorism exception. U.S. citizens who are victims of terrorist attacks can sue a foreign state that (1) participated in or assisted the perpetrators of the attack and (2) has been designated a state-sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department. Third question: Can a plaintiff suing under the terrorism exception seek punitive damages against the foreign country? Answer: Yes. Congress in 2008 listed punitive damages as a possible award for such plaintiffs. Final question: Can plaintiffs who brought a terrorism suit before 2008 still seek punitive damages? In other words, did Congress intend the punitive-damages provision to apply retroactively? Well, this was the very question the Supreme Court answered this week in Opati v. Republic of Sudan. Read on to find out.
This was the third and final week of the Court’s inter-sitting recess. Headlines this week came from the Court’s decision to allow the Trump Administration to enforce its new “public charge” immigration rule nationwide—over the dissent of four Justices (including a seven-page dissenting opinion from Justice Sotomayor). Here’s your brief for the week of February 17.
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.
As the January sitting came to a close, the Court made headlines in its orders list on Monday. Five Justices voted to allow the Trump Administration to temporarily enforce its new “public charge” immigration rule. Four Justices dissented. Justice Gorsuch (joined by Thomas) wrote an opinion supplementing his yea vote. Beyond this, the Court added an original jurisdiction, water-rights case to its docket and denied an application for a stay of execution. Here’s your brief for the Week of January 27.
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.
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.