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


There's no more American holiday than Thanksgiving. (Well, except maybe Independence Day. And doesn't Canada have a Thanksgiving, too?) A day filled with overeating, over-drinking, and then football? Sign me up!

Thanksgiving has popped up over the years at the U.S. Supreme Court as well, though it didn't involve Chief Justice Rehnquist falling asleep on the couch watching the Stanford game. It's mostly involved the "War on Christmas."

So help yourself to this bountiful cornucopia of Supreme Court rulings (OK, we actually only found five) that include Thanksgiving references -- or at least sound like they should:

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act had better look out; in the battle over who's going to punch their SCOTUS "frequent petitioner" card first, Abigail Fisher is a close second.

Fisher, you might remember, was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 and then sued to get in, claiming the state's policy of granting admission to UT to the top 10 percent of graduating students in the state resulted in racial discrimination.

The Fifth Circuit said nope, and the Supreme Court showed marked restraint by not overturning Grutter v. Bollinger like a Lakers fan overturns a police car after a victory.

When does a permissible partisan gerrymander become an impermissible racial gerrymander? The U.S. Supreme Court dealt with that question in oral arguments today in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama. According to the petitioners, in 2012, the Alabama legislature redrew state legislative districts in an attempt to dilute statewide black voting power by "packing" black voters into existing majority-black districts.

Alabama contended that the 2012 gerrymandering didn't alter the racial composition of the districts; that is, they already contained a majority-black electorate. And whatever changes they did make were for partisan, not racial, reasons.

The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. "Obamacare," is heading back to the U.S. Supreme Court for a third time. One more trip to the Court and the ACA gets a free Scaliawich from the court cafeteria (though admittedly it's just olives, pickles, onions, and week-old capicola on a very sourdough roll).

The Court has granted cert. to King v. Burwell, a case from the Fourth Circuit dealing with the federal tax subsidies offered in states that didn't set up their own insurance exchanges.

Better late than never, though we're sure the Court would've rather the issue of gay marriage had been addressed never. Avoiding the issue might've been possible, had the circuit courts stayed in concert. Now, the Supreme Court may not have a choice.

A few months back, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the Sixth Circuit could force the Court's hand if it upheld gay marriage bans. Yesterday afternoon, it did just that, upholding bans in four states, calling RBG's bluff and putting SCOTUS in for all its chips.

Now, with a circuit split in place, and the ACLU already preparing their petition for certiorari (apparently en banc isn't happening?), the Court has to decide the issue of whether the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees marriage equality -- doesn't it?

With the obvious caveat of oral arguments not being a perfect or even good predictor of opinions to come, the tone in Tuesday's oral arguments in DHS v. MacLean seemed to be sympathetic towards Robert MacLean, the Air Marshal whistleblower, rather than his former employer, the Transportation Security Administration.

The legal issue is the conflict between the federal whistleblower law, which encourages employees to come forward when there is a "danger to public heath or safety" and the Aviation and Transportation Safety Act, which has its own national security goals and allows the government to make "Secret Security Information (SSI)" semi-classified, preventing its disclosure.

Of course, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out during oral arguments, "the facts are very much in [MacLean's] favor here." He blew the whistle on the TSA's attempt to pull all Air Marshals from flights after taking it up with his supervisors internally, plus the information wasn't classified as SSI until three years later.

FindLaw, a part of Thomson Reuters, celebrates Movember because we are awesome. Last year in honor of Movember/No Shave November, we talked about how to survive the month in a professional environment. Trust us: It's worth the read.

Upon laying eyes on Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.'s magnificent stache, however, I couldn't help but wonder: What other legendary Supreme Court facial hair was out there? Sure, today none of the justices consistently rock facial follicles, but what about the grand and glorious past?

We'll start with the notables, move to the complete index of SCOTUS mustaches and beards, and then conduct a poll for G.O.A.T. (not goatee, but rather the Greatest Of All Time):

With all the holidays over the next couple of months, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to be in and out of session on a very irregular schedule. Some weeks will only have a few oral arguments, many weeks will have none. And next week? Next week's oral arguments at the Court are some of the most interesting you'll see before the New Year.

There's national security versus a whistleblower. There's sawed-off shotties, destroyed fish, presidential power versus passports, a Truth in Lending Act case, and a case about securities that few beyond the actual parties to the case will actually be paying attention to.

Here are three cases we're excited about, and three that ... well ... every record has a B-side, right?

Convicted murderer Mark Christeson got the rarest of reprieves: a Supreme Court stay blocking his execution (for now). With an execution set for midnight (Wednesday morning), he was spared with just a few hours to go over the dissent of Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.

Why the reprieve? The order didn't elaborate on the reason for the stay, but we covered his case yesterday on our Eighth Circuit blog: Christeson never received federal habeas review because his court-appointed counsel didn't even meet with him until after the deadline, then filed a late petition, and then spent the next seven years avoiding their own malpractice by continuing to represent him, pressing frivolous timeliness arguments on appeal.

The dubious duo still represent him, in fact -- though outside counsel, as well as a group of former judges, all submitted briefs to the Supreme Court asking for a stay while the issues of a denied substitution of counsel, the conflict of interest with his current counsel, and his denied habeas review are all sorted out.

The Supreme Court's three justices from Yale made the trip back to New Haven, Connecticut, on Saturday to receive the school's Award of Merit. The event was especially sweet for Justice Clarence Thomas, who for a long time has had a cold, estranged relationship with his alma mater. He remarked that the event was "far more special to me than at the time of my graduation."

But the event wasn't just a look into the life of Clarence Thomas. Two other justices, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor, were also honored. Between the three of them, we learned many interesting things about the SCOTUS Yaleies. Here are 11 notes and trivia bits pulled from The Washington Post and The New York Times' recaps of the event: