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

October 2015 Archives

2013 was a rough year for leftist Court watchers. The Court punted on affirmative action, weakened employment discrimination protections, and cut out the heart of the Voting Rights Act. If there was solace to be had, it was in Justice Ginsburg's steadfast dissents. In two days, she read three dissents from the bench -- an almost unprecedented sign of strong disagreement.

Justice Ginsburg was quickly immortalized as the Notorious RBG by a fawning Tumblr blog. And now that Tumblr has grown into a book, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Notorious RBG isn't just an Internet meme anymore -- it's required reading.

SCOTUS Revisits Racism in Jury Selection

Almost three decades have passed since the nation's highest court declared that peremptory strikes on the basis of race are a violation of equal protection. In little less than a week, SCOTUS will revisit the issue of racism in jury selection again.

The Supreme Court's review of Foster v. Humphreys is the latest case to highlight what some have called a double standard of justice against blacks in American courts even with the ruling in Batson v. Kentucky.

The death penalty's days are numbered, at least if you trust Justice Scalia's predictions. Speaking at the University of Minnesota Law School, the justice said it "wouldn't surprise" him if the High Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional in the near future.

His statement drew applause, CBS Minnesota reports, but Justice Scalia is no opponent of capital punishment. He has repeatedly condemned attempts to make executions more difficult through "labyrinthine restrictions" -- a sort of "abolition by a million cuts" approach. If the Court's attitudes are changing as quickly as Justice Scalia indicates, that incremental strategy might not be necessary.

When it comes to the Supreme Court, we live in the age of dissent. Dissents can give activists a guideline to changing the law and they can rally the faithful to a cause that's just lost -- for now. Scalia's brash style, for example, shines brightest in losing dissents.

But outside of blog headlines and Twitter quotations, a Supreme Court dissent can have real power. A new book by legal historian Melvin Urofsky, Dissent and the Supreme Court, reminds us of just that. Dissents, Urosky argues, have a powerful role in shaping the nation's constitutional dialogue and can end up embraced by the Court itself years later. Here are three times history has proven his thesis correct.

October oral arguments are over. We've heard cases on the death penalty, class actions, conspiracy and even electricity reimbursements. Now the rest of October is turned over to the Justices, and their armies of clerk-scriveners, who can actually start deciding things. In the mean time, we look ahead.

Here are our top three cases to watch in November, hitting everything from privacy litigation to asset forfeiture to employment discrimination.

Class actions are one of the best features of the American legal system. (Corporate defense lawyers and general counsel may disagree, but hear us out.) Get an unfair fee from your bank? Buy a cheap product that doesn't live up to its claims? Unjustly detained by police? Class actions are your solution. They're the main way our Lilliputian wrongs get righted.

But what if the head class representative gets justice while the rest of the injured go wanting? Is the case moot? The Supreme Court addressed just these questions this week in a case that could drastically undermine the power of class action litigation. As always, the deciding vote is in Justice Kennedy's hands.

Every once in awhile, the Supreme Court will decide a case that has widespread social and political impact, striking down discriminatory laws, upholding cherished institutions, protecting individual liberties. But not all Supreme Court opinions are great. Most are boring, technical, and of little import to the general public.

And some are downright terrible. For every Brown v. Board of Ed., there's a Buck v. Bell. Indeed, there are enough horrendous Supreme Court opinions to fill a book, or at least a blog post, and many of the Court's worst decisions still stand as good law. Here is our overview of the 13 most terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Supreme Court decisions.

SCOTUS Says No to Professional Line Standers

SCOTUS has finally put down its foot: line standers will no longer be permitted at the nation's highest court. From now on, only the attorneys who actually intend to bring arguments before the Court will be permitted to stand in line of the bar section.

This is really bad news for anyone who made his living by offering his time to stand around SCOTUS. It turns out law firms pay big bucks for proxies to stand in line -- including the homeless -- for prices going for up to $6,000 an hour. Yes, that's what I said. Line standing is a business model.

SCOTUS to Start Highlighting Changes in its Opinions

The US Supreme Court announced Monday that it will start highlighting changes to publicly released opinions. The changes will be highlighted in the text of the opinion and both the old and new material will be visible to readers by placing their cursor over the brightened sections.

This may not come as particularly earth-shattering news, but it is construed by some as a small concession by the Highest Court in response to complaints regarding the court's lack of transparency. Certain groups have actively pushed for the use of cameras in the Court, a notion that Justice Antonin Scalia has dismissed.

Should Juries Recommend Capital Punishment? SCOTUS Will Decide

The US Supreme Court ushered in a new term yesterday morning with a bevy of polarizing social issues: the death penalty, affirmative action, and contraception.

The Court's docket this year is already furnished with two cases of particular significance regarding capital punishment. The Court will answer this question: is a jury the correct body for recommending capital punishment?

The Supreme Court reconvened this morning for the first oral arguments of the October 2015 term. The last term was full of headline-making cases. The Court recognized a fundamental right to same-sex marriage. It upheld Obamacare against another of seemingly endless challenges. It drastically reshaped public signage laws. (Okay, they can't all be sexy cases.)

This term promises to be just as important, if not more. It all starts today. Here are the cases we'll be watching as the term unfolds.