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

February 2014 Archives

SCOTUS Snippets: Protestor, Hidden Cameras, 9th and 6th Get Reversed

Somebody's been naughty. For the first time ever, there is video footage of the Supreme Court chambers and, well, they look the same as they did five years ago. It's not terribly exciting stuff, with fuzzy footage and audio of someone breathing, except they caught footage of a protestor who interrupted oral arguments and is now being charged with a felony.

Meanwhile, in more official business, the Ninth and Sixth Circuits continue their battle for "most reversed circuit" with a pair of reversals each. Who will win the battle of "least competent court" remains to be seen, but the Ninth just gave 110 percent with their anti-speech rulings.

Two SCOTUS Decisions Trample Defendants' Rights

You have the right to an attorney of your choosing, if you can afford one. Unfortunately, you can't, because your assets were just seized. Want to challenge the seizure? Not happening.

You also have the right to refuse to allow the police to search your home. Unfortunately, they may drag you away in cuffs and pressure your cohabitant into overriding your refusal. So, there's that. Just make sure you don't give them an "objectively reasonable" reason to slap on the iron bracelets.

Many Notable Denials on the Court's First Day Back

Habeas corpus is all but dead, gun rights mean nothing (especially for 18 to 21-year-olds), the Feds will break up your neighborhood poker game, and the Supreme Court's rulings in the Washing Machine Cases were ignored completely.

Yes, these are all exaggerations of the effects of the most notable of today's many denials, found amongst a 46-page orders list. But in fact, the Court did not grant any new cases. Here are the ones that we were keeping an eye on:

Argentina Returns, Again Seeking Cert. in Bonds Case

We had a feeling they'd be back.

Last October, we noted that Argentina's first appeal to the Supreme Court was kicked, which wasn't particularly surprising since the appeal was filed before the Second Circuit handed down its decision (ordering Argentina to pay more than $1 billion in debt). While that petition was pending, the Second Circuit handed down its decision, and an appeal of that decision was expected.

Here it is: will the Supreme Court save Argentina from venture "vulture" capitalists, and possibly save that nation from economic collapse?

SCOTUS Snippets: NJ Sports Betting, Poker, and Justin Wolfe

Two more days until the Court gets back to work. Friday's conference presents a number of interesting cases, including concealed carry of firearms and remedies for prosecutorial misconduct. Anticipation is building for the conference, where the Court could take on a number of cases that could prove to be landmark decisions.

Here is a roundup of a few interesting issues that could make their way onto the court's docket in the near future:

Supreme Court Has 3 Chances to Decide Concealed Carry

"... keep and bear arms ..."

To think, just six years ago, folks were debating the meaning of commas, militias, and whether there was a right to individual ownership of firearms. Now, the issue is what those four words mean, and whether "keep" and "bear" imply two separate rights, one of ownership, and one of open or concealed carry.

The practical impact of the distinction is paramount: do states have to allow citizens to carry weapons in public if they choose. The circuit split is huge, and it just got wider. While the Second, Third, and Fourth Circuits have upheld restrictions on concealed carry, the Seventh Circuit was just joined by the most unlikely of circuits, the Ninth Circuit, in striking down state laws restricting the practice.

Though the Supreme Court has repeatedly punted on taking gun cases, especially those that address concealed carry, the court has three opportunities to address the divisive issue in the near-term:

Snippets: Guns, Ginsburg, and NSA Litigation

Today's a day for three of my favorite topics: guns, Ginsburg, and people suing the crap out of the National Security Agency. When Ginsburg, Kagan, and the rest of the justices stop making speeches and return to chambers (seriously, five out of the Nine made speeches last week), they'll consider landmark cases dealing with the Second and Fourth Amendment, if they grant certiorari.

What's got us so excited on a Thursday morning, besides the impending weekend? Read on:

Amicus Brief Numbers: Quantity, Quality, and Influence

Two more briefs, addressing the merits of the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby dispute, hit our inboxes this morning, including Hobby Lobby's response brief. Washington University in St. Louis also took the time to highlight a brief by "Church State Scholars," to which they added a handy accompanying video.

These briefs, and the dozens of others that we haven't read, got us wondering: how many briefs have been filed so far? And does anybody read them?

Friday Frills: The Jabot (or Neck Doily)

You've probably noticed, at some point, that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wears a frilly lace collar with her robe, as did Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

I always assumed that the collar was just part of the uniform. After all, every woman in Supreme Court history (at that point, all two of them) wore them. They look a bit funny, almost British, but what exactly are they? And why do some of the female justices wear them?

SCOTUS Sleeper: Speech Rights of Government Employees Returns

Government employees have free speech rights when discussing a matter of public concern. Except when it disrupts the workplace. Or when the speech is made pursuant to their job duties. Citizen speech is protected. Official speech is not.

It's a convoluted rule, this standard borne from Garcetti v. Ceballos. How does one determine if speech is made as a citizen or as an employee? As the Wait a Second! blog notes, Garcetti was initially interpreted narrowly (speech is protected unless that speech is mandated by one's job duties) but has since been broadened by the circuit courts to include pretty much anything that you learn about in the line of duty.

Missouri In a Hurry to Execute Its Prisoners Using Uncertain Drugs?

Last minute requests for stays on executions are a common thing. Herbert Smulls' case, which grabbed our attention due to a temporary stay granted by the Supreme Court last week, was not unusual in that regard. What was unusual, was that he was executed before his final request was decided by the High Court.

Maybe his case wasn't all that egregious. After all, he had already been heard by the High Court, and the final request was likely a desperate rehashing of earlier issues. But here is another one: last August, Missouri executed Allen Nicklasson before the Eighth Circuit could finish their en banc rehearing denial, never mind a possible Supreme Court appeal.