U.S. Supreme Court - The FindLaw U.S. Supreme Court News and Information Blog

U.S. Supreme Court - The FindLaw U.S. Supreme Court Opinion Summaries Blog


Oral arguments ended last week, but there are still nearly two months left in the Supreme Court's current term. Now's the time when the Court moves from considering the cases before it to finally deciding them -- a process that certainly more complicated this year, given the lack of a ninth justice.

We're expecting a steady trickle of decisions throughout the upcoming weeks, with the most important opinions being released at the end of June, as is typical. Here are the opinions we're awaiting most anxiously.

The Supreme Court heard the final oral argument of the season last Wednesday. And while we're still waiting for decisions in many of those cases, we can now get a sense of which attorneys had the biggest impact on the Court this term -- at least when measured by their participation in cases argued.

In fact, we can get more than a sense, we can get exact numbers, thanks to the folks at Empirical SCOTUS who counted up the Court's top litigators so you don't have to. Let's take a look at the results.

It was an unusual alignment of justices that came together to uphold the extortion conspiracy conviction of a former Baltimore police officer today. Samuel Ocasio, the Baltimore cop, had been convicted of extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion under the Hobbs Act for his role in an auto-repair kickback scheme. That conviction can stand, the Supreme Court ruled, rejecting arguments that a conspiracy to extort must involve taking property from someone outside the conspiracy, rather than willing participants in a scheme.

But not only was the Court's majority a rare combination of justices, it was a tenuous one at that.

The Supreme Court refused to intervene in a conflict over Texas's voter identification law today. That law, which imposes some of the most rigorous voter ID requirements in the country, has been used in Texas's last three elections, even though the Fifth Circuit has found the law to have a discriminatory effect. And those voter ID requirements will continue to remain in place for Texas's upcoming runoff elections in May, now that the Supreme Court has refused to halt the law's enforcement.

But the Court might not stay away much longer. In its order, the Supreme Court gave the Fifth Circuit until July 20th to act on the dispute. If it doesn't, the order explained, then the Supreme Court would be likely to step in.

The Supreme Court heard its final oral argument of the term this morning, and it was a fittingly weighty one: the case of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. McDonnell was convicted on corruption charges in 2014, stemming from his relationship with a Richmond businessman who gave him nearly $200,000 in gifts and loans.

McDonnell currently faces two years in prison for public corruption, but he may end up going free without serving a single day, if today's oral arguments are any indication. A majority of the Supreme Court justices seemed ready to significantly limit, or maybe even strike down, the federal bribery statute used to convict the governor.

When Jeffrey Heffernan, a police officer in Paterson, New Jersey, was spotted with a campaign sign for his mayor's political challenger, he was quickly demoted, as punishment for his "overt involvement" in the opponent's campaign. Heffernan sued, arguing that the demotion violated his First Amendment rights. And he would have had a fairly straight-forward case, except for one complication. Heffernan hadn't been involved in the opponent's campaign. Not at all. He'd just been picking up a sign for his bedridden mother.

Could he sue for a violation of a constitutional right he hadn't actually exercised? Yes, the Supreme Court ruled today, finding that employees who have been punished in order to prevent them from engaging in protected political activity can sue, even when the employer's actions were based on a mistaken understanding of the employee's behavior.

Throughout the past eight years, President Obama has worked slowly but surely to bring greater diversity to the federal courts, the president assured law students at the University of Chicago Law School earlier this month. But when it came time to picking his third Supreme Court nominee, he told the crowd, "at no point did I say: 'I need a black lesbian from Skokie in that slot.'"

Why not?

Wednesday was not a shining moment in the history of Supreme Court oral arguments. This was not Paul Clement going punch-for-punch with Justice Souter in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. It wasn't even Margie Phelps, a crazed member of the Westboro Baptist Church, winning over the reluctant justices in Snyder v. Phelps.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over whether states can penalize drivers who refuse to take warrantless breathalyzer tests. And attorneys for all sides performed "like a clodhopping amateur trying out for a moot court team," as Slate's Mark Joseph Stern so adroitly describes it.

Once upon a time, to read a book you had to travel to the local bookstore, or, for the penny wise, the library. If you needed information from a rare or out of print work, you might have to go halfway across the world to secure a copy. Today? You can just Google.

Google Books, the search behemoth's attempt to digitize all the world's printed matter, already has 25 million titles online, searchable and available for free. But four million of those titles are copyrighted, leading to a long-running class action lawsuit by the Authors Guild, which argued that Google was engaged in "massive copyright infringement." The authors lost that challenge in the Second Circuit and, on Monday, the Supreme Court wrote the final chapter to the dispute, denying cert and allowing that decision to stand.

Victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism won big in the Supreme Court this morning. Today, in a 6-2 ruling authored by Justice Ginsburg, the Court upheld a law giving terror victims an explicit right to collect a court judgment against Iran. That 2012 law, passed as federal courts were considering the same question, did not overstep the separation of powers between Congress and the courts, the Supreme Court ruled.

The ruling opens up a $2 billion judgment against Iran, making the money available to the more than 1,000 victims and families of victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks, including a 1983 bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.