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


The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the insider trading conviction of a Chicago man who had traded based on inside tips from relatives. The man, Bassam Salman, argued that those who tipped him off to insider information must have gained some pecuniary benefit from the tip in order for him to be convicted of securities fraud, echoing a position recently adopted by the Second Circuit.

But the Supreme Court easily rejected that logic, reaffirming the inference of a benefit whenever insider information is given to friends and family -- settling a circuit split and potentially clearing the way for increased insider-trading prosecutions.

Richard Posner, the celebrated Seventh Circuit judge, has a bone to pick with the Supreme Court. This summer, he raised many hackles by declaring that the Court was "at a nadir," with no "real stars" on the bench since Justice Robert Jackson died in 1954. Just this October, Judge Posner argued, once again, that the Court "is awful," saying that only Justices Ginsburg and Breyer were good enough to sit on the Supreme Court.

Now Posner is back at it, firing another broadside against the Court. In a recently released video, Judge Posner described the Court as "a mediocre institution if ever there was one." He argued that Chief Justice Roberts was a "terrible manager" of the federal court system and criticized the Chief Justice's "stupid" decisions, along with the "terrible opinions" of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments on the extent of the government's power to detain immigrants facing removal, without the opportunity for release. Currently, thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers are held in prison-like conditions while their cases work through the immigration system. Those detentions are long, taking over a year in most cases, and detained immigrants are offered no bond hearings.

The Ninth Circuit ruled last year that such detainees must be given a bond hearing within six months and that the government must release those who it cannot prove are a flight risk or danger to the public. The Supreme Court Justices, however, appeared to split 4-4 during oral arguments, raising the possibility that the Court could deadlock on the issues raised.

In its first merits opinion of the term, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Double Jeopardy Clause does not prevent the retrial of a Puerto Rican lawmaker and a businessman who were convicted of bribery. Those convictions were later overturned because of faulty jury instructions. And they were paired with inconsistent acquittals, on two uncontested counts.

At issue before the Court was whether those inconsistent verdicts, following the vacatur of the bribery convictions, prevented the government from trying the men once again. It did not, the Supreme Court ruled, since inconsistent verdicts were not to be afforded preclusive effect.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in the case of Moore v. Texas, a challenge to the standards Texas uses to determine whether inmates are too mentally disabled to be executed. In this case, Bobby James Moore was sentenced to death in 1980 for the murder of a grocery store clerk. A court later ruled that Moore was too mentally disabled to be executed, based on modern medical standards. Texas's highest criminal court, however, reversed that determination.

Questions of intellectual disability and eligibility for capital punishment, Texas ruled, must be determined on the state's judicial precedent, which references an outdated medical definition of disability from 1992 and Lennie Small. Yes, that Lennie, the kindhearted but dim-witted character from John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men."

Here's something a bit unprecedented: 12 distinguished appellate judges have come together with Bryan Garner to release a "hornbook-style" treatise on the doctrine of judicial precedent. And it's the first such publication in over a century.

Published by Thomson Reuters, the new book covers nine major topics, over 93 sections, surveying how prior judicial decisions influence later ones. (Disclosure: Thomson Reuters is FindLaw's parent company.) It is, as the publisher describes it, an attempt to be "theoretically sound, historically illuminating, and relentlessly practical."

About a year and a half ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Johnson v. United States that the so-called residual clause in the Armed Career Criminals Act was unconstitutionally vague. That clause, which covered any crime involving "a serious potential risk of physical injury to another," was too vague to put the public on notice of what conduct was prohibited, the Court found. And that ruling has had legs, upending many sentences under the federal three strikes law.

Now, the Supreme Court is considering whether an identical phrase in the federal sentencing guidelines is similarly invalid.

A year ago on Sunday, while campaigning in Iowa, Donald Trump said that as president he would "absolutely" implement a registry for Muslims in the United States. He has since denied ever supporting a registry, though his Chief of Staff-in-waiting, Reince Priebus, has refused to rule the possibility out. And just the other day, a Trump surrogate went on TV to argue that such a registry would be perfectly constitutional. His evidence? Japanese internment and the Supreme Court's approval of it in Korematsu.

But Korematsu may not be good law any longer, despite having never been explicitly overturned, according to one Harvard law professor.

The Supreme Court tossed out two class action challenges brought by Visa yesterday, less than a month before the financial services company was scheduled to make oral arguments.

The reason? Visa had asked the Court to address one question in their petition for cert, but pursued a different argument in their merits briefing. The Supreme Court, unamused by Visa's shifting legal strategy, decided that Visa won't have a chance to make any of its legal arguments, dismissing the case as improvidently granted.

As chaos reigns in Washington, the Supreme Court is experiencing a bit of a lull. There are no arguments this week, no relists, and no interesting orders.

But that relative quiet seems to have given the justices time to reflect on the changes ahead. For some of the justices, that includes a recognition that the Court's vacant seat might soon be filled.