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


If a judge follows you on Twitter, must he recuse himself from any future cases where you are a party or an attorney? Surely reading tweets doesn't amount to an appearance of bias.

What about a LinkedIn connection? It is, after all, the "professional" social network.

Or what about Facebook? Of all the social networks, it is the most informal. Friendship gives you access to photos, wall postings, and other non-public information. If a judge is Facebook friends with a litigant, or an attorney, does that mandate recusal?

We've discussed the issue before, and have seen it pop up in state cases, but this petition for certiorari, set for consideration on April 25, asks the U.S. Supreme Court to set a nationwide standard for social media and the appearance of impropriety. It's a tall order for a Court that still uses ivory paper instead of email.

Ah, another slow week on First Street. Not to worry, folks, there's plenty of Supreme Court gossip to tide you over.

No, the Hillary Clinton reference in the headline has nothing to do with a flying shoe (no word on the make and model of said shoe, but we do know that it was feminine and orange). Though that incident has snatched up the headlines, a different speech by the possible presidential candidate, discussing the court's ruling in McCutcheon, is far more interesting. She hates the ruling, but an interesting question is: Does she benefit from it?

Meantime, thanks to a few recent developments in same-sex marriage litigation appeals, the race to the Supreme Court has shifted. Who's on track, and who is likely to file for certiorari first? We'll handicap the odds.

The impact of last week's decision in McCutcheon v. FEC is obvious: There will be a lot more money injected into politics. Those who can afford to donate will, which realistically means that the rich will have an even louder voice.

Chief Justice John Roberts didn't seem particularly concerned about the impact of his controlling plurality opinion, noting that Congress may not "restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others," while Justice Stephen Breyer predicted doom and gloom, stating that the decision "eviscerates our nation's campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve."

Outside the bench, the reactions are equally (yet predictably) split:

February's protestor sure isn't going to be happy. Let's hope for a sequel!

Speaking of sequels, in a case many dubbed "Citizens United II," the Supreme Court this morning held that the aggregate limits on direct campaign contributions to candidates and political parties were a violation of free speech, and therefore unconstitutional. Unsurprisingly, the decision was heavily split, with an unusual 4-1-4 lineup that pitted four conservatives against four liberals, with Justice Clarence Thomas steadfastly standing alone in concurrence with the judgment only.

As for the real-world effect, expect a lot more money to change hands in the next federal election, more donations to state candidates and parties (which previously played second-fiddle to federal candidates when running up against the limits), and maybe, just maybe, a legislative effort to curb transfers of funds between PACs, parties, and candidates.

After eight years of silence (so long as you don't count last year's near unintelligible mumble), Justice Clarence Thomas finally spoke during Supreme Court oral arguments, albeit with an odd choice of topic.

Speaking of silence, moments before he spoke up, the House of Representatives passed Articles of Impeachment against the Justice, accusing him of nonfeasance of duty due to his years of silence and repeated refusal to adhere to stare decisis.

Circuit Court of Appeals? Isn't this the U.S. Supreme Court blog?

True indeed, but controversies below, and circuit splits, often mean SCOTUS petitions. Besides, we've got three issues that are begging for a little Supreme Court clarification -- the Second Amendment, sexual orientation discrimination, and the issue that never seems to go away: abortion.

This should've been an easy case of reading the plain text of the statute. Unfortunately, it's merely another example of why the entire tax code should be shredded and redrafted.

Quality Stores was going bankrupt. The company offered severance packages to all employees, based on seniority and service time. It withheld and paid Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, then asked the IRS for the more than $1 million in payments back, arguing that severance pay was not subject to FICA taxation.

The Sixth Circuit, relying on an income tax withholding statute, held that severance payments were not FICA taxable. But the U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8-0 decision (with Justice Elena Kagan recused), felt otherwise.

Let's start with a caveat here: Reading the tea leaves of oral arguments is always a dangerous game. For one, Justice Clarence Thomas remains silent, so you'll get nothing out of him. Two, the rest of the justices generally agree that in nearly all cases, it's the briefs and law that decide the case, not the oral arguments.

That being said, for a case this important, we're definitely willing to pull out our crystal ball and review the transcripts and recaps for hints of the possible outcome.

What are the soothsayers saying? From the transcripts and the general consensus of those who actually attended, it's looking like bad news for the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate.

Robert Mitchell Jennings won.

A federal district court granted habeas relief because Jennings' trial counsel failed to present evidence of his possible brain abnormalities and his disadvantaged background. The district court, however, didn't agree with his argument about his attorney's concessions during closing arguments.

The government appealed, the Fifth Circuit reversed, and refused to consider the capital concession argument, labeling it procedurally defaulted. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case earlier today.

Our least favorite thing in the world right now is the obsession with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's retirement. Seriously, pretty much every week, there's an article about how she should retire in time for President Obama to replace her, followed by her saying, "Nah," and dozens of other writers chiming in with "leave the lady alone."

But, the fact is, she's 81, Justice Antonin Scalia is 78, Justice Anthony Kennedy is 77, and Justice Stephen Breyer is 75. They're all probably headed for the exit in the near-term. This begs the question: Who are their likely replacements?

Speaking of soothsaying, there are a couple of interesting certiorari petitions that may, or may not, make the Court's docket -- one involving sex offender laws, and the other presenting the obvious Confrontation Clause issue with red-light cameras.