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

August 2014 Archives

Friday Double Poll: Best and Worst SCOTUS Writers

The topic of the week for me seems to be legal writing. And my favorite type of post is the "poll the audience" post because it means I can be a spineless scribe and take no stance whatsoever.

So, after writing an advice column for law students and young attorneys about legal writing, I decided to shelve my "Sexiest SCOTUS Justice" topic for a few more weeks and instead ask you, dear readers, who you think the best and worst writers among our Supreme Court justices?

A note: I'm including a few suggestions from myself, the press, blogs, and Twitter friends, but I'll include all nine justices in each poll, just in case.

Snippets: Lyrical Threats, SSM Victors Want Cert., SCOTUS <3 Cops

Today's all about the music: rap lyrics as threats, the final countdown for same-sex marriage advocates, and cops facing the music in court (or not). Here are today's three selections for our SCOTUS roundup:

  • If a man writes criminal threats in the form of rap lyrics, is he actually making those threats, or is he simply doing what most rapper do: writing over-the-top, violent boasts over beats?
  • In a rare case of a victorious party supporting certiorari, same-sex marriage plaintiffs, who are undefeated in federal courts, are asking the Supreme Court to take the case anyway.
  • UC Erwin Irvine Dean Erwin Chemerinsky outlines the numerous ways in which the Supreme Court has made it virtually impossible to hold police officers, such as the one who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, accountable in a civil lawsuit.

After Hobby Lobby, HHS' New Contraceptive Rules Up for Public Comment

Even though the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate took a blow in Hobby Lobby, the Obama administration is still out there trying to preserve it -- and head off any future problems.

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services issued new proposed rules about the procedures religious employers can use to get exempted from providing contraceptive coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans.

Ginsburg's Interview With Marcia Coyle: 5 Interesting Points

Marcia Coyle, a long-time Supreme Court reporter and the author of a great book on the Roberts Court, sat down earlier this week with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her chambers.

This interview went a bit deeper than a lot of recent interviews, and covered a broad range of topics, with Ginsburg's statements on these five topics standing out to me the most: the death penalty, Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissents, gay marriage, law school, and the "Notorious RBG" fan club.

Snippets: Stay Granted in Va.; SCOTUS Ice Bucket Challenge?

The U.S. Supreme Court has stayed the Fourth Circuit's decision in the Virginia gay marriage case, which means licenses won't be handed out to same-sex couples tomorrow. Anyone surprised by this? Thought so.

And despite a national trend toward increased support for same-sex marriage, at least one state is still staunchly opposed. Any guesses?

And finally, who wants to see a Supreme Court justice dump a bucket of ice water on his or her noggin? (Answer: We all do!)

3 Questions: 1972 Gay Marriage Case, Circuit Split, Stay for Va.?

Same-sex marriage: It's the hottest legal topic out there, one that despite a bit of issue fatigue, we end up covering every single day because there is some fascinating legal development at hand.

What's the latest on the many gay marriage appeals? After the Fourth Circuit declined to issue a stay in the Bostic case, where that court ruled against Virginia's gay marriage ban, state officials reached out to the U.S. Supreme Court for some timely intervention -- if no stay is issued, then gay marriage becomes legal in Virginia on Thursday.

Meantime, oral arguments in the Sixth Circuit, and a decision in a state court in one of that circuit's states, have drawn renewed attention to a decades-old order in which the Court already decided the gay marriage debate. But is it still valid?

Obama's 2nd-Term SCOTUS Nomination Odds: A Closer Look

With only two years left in his presidency, and no apparent Supreme Court vacancies in sight, is President Obama ever going to nominate another justice?

Following the president's remarks on that very topic this week, The Wall Street Journal's Jacob Gershman did the math, and it looks like Obama may indeed get that chance, at least statistically speaking. According to Gershman, 82 percent of U.S. presidential terms have overlapped with at least one vacancy on the Supreme Court.

That's a pretty high number, but how could he have arrived at that figure? Let's take a closer look.

SCOTUS Refers Death Penalty Lawyer to Pa. Disciplinary Board

The U.S. Supreme Court has taken the highly unusual move of referring a lawyer to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Disciplinary Board for investigation. The case involves an appeal by Michael Ballard, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for killing his ex-girlfriend and three others, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Ballard's attorney, Marc Bookman, the director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Ballard's behalf.

Ballard, though, said that he didn't want to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Everybody needs a little R&R, even our Supreme Court Justices. While the most exciting thing (to us) that has happened to our Justices is their fashioning into comic book heroes (with my favorite justice as my favorite hero), they are actually traveling the country on speaking engagements.

Let's take a look at what the Justices have been up to this summer.

Studies Show: Ginsburg Was Correct in Voting Rights Act Dissent

When the majority in Shelby County held that the Voting Rights Act had outlived its purpose, all because minority voter registration numbers had caught up in previously problematic states, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was furious. Actually, lots of people were furious, but she was furious and had the bench to use as a pulpit.

We covered her powerful dissent, which pointed out every other sign of voter suppression: gerrymandering, racist southern lawmakers who were caught on tape referring to their black constituents as "aborigines," the hundreds of discriminatory voting law changes blocked by the DOJ since the 1980s, and more.

The majority had one stat: voter registration numbers. Ginsburg had many, many more. Here are a few others:

A Trio of Gay Marriage Cases Seek SCOTUS Review

We jokingly handicapped the race a few weeks ago, but man, it's like these states really are racing to be the first in line on the first day of proceedings at First Street.

As predicted, the first state to get an appeals court judgment against its ban, Utah, has filed its petition for certiorari. It was quickly joined by its fellow Tenth Circuit-er, Oklahoma, and by Virginia, which recently had its ban wiped out by the Fourth Circuit.

Here's how the three states shake out:

Obamacare Subsidies Already on SCOTUS Docket; D.C. Trailing 4th

Is there any doubt that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up Obamacare subsidies in its upcoming term? It'd be a heck of a surprise if they passed, considering the circuit split and rhe certiorari petition sitting on their desk.

The Fourth Circuit case, King v. Burwell, just reached the docket. The D.C. Circuit case, according to SCOTUSblog, could be headed for en banc review after the Obama administration appealed.

Though an en banc grant would delay the D.C. case, en banc or not, the subsidies issue seems destined for the Supreme Court -- a matter of when, rather than if.

Snippets: Which Justice Are You?, ACA Subsidies, 'Notorious RBG'

With the High Court still on summer vacation, there are no hard-hitting legal issues before the Court quite yet (unless you count Justice Sonia Sotomayor rounding up kids to hug Hillary Clinton as "hard-hitting").

As a result, we have three important current events from the world of the Supreme Court this week to tide you over until October -- or at least, until our next blog post: