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

December 2016 Archives

President-elect Donald Trump released a list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees last May, then nearly doubled it a few months later, putting up ten more jurists as possible Supreme Court justices. He pledged to pick from those 21 in September, a claim Kellyanne Conway, Trump's campaign manager, reiterated after the election.

Now, Trump has narrowed his choices down even further, according to a report by Bloomberg's Greg Stohr. And he could be announcing his pick soon -- before, even, he's inaugurated on January 20th.

It just wasn't meant to be for D.C Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland and the Supreme Court. On Monday, 278 days after Garland was first nominated to the Court by President Obama, Chief Justice Roberts rejected a long-shot attempt to force the Senate to consider Garland for the bench. The same day, the D.C. Circuit put Garland back on its schedule, announcing that he'd hear his first circuit oral arguments in more than ten months.

Garland's Supreme Court dreams have been snuffed.

December 24th marks not just Christmas Eve this year but, thanks to a rare calendrical convergence, the first night of Hanukkah. That should make your Supreme Court holiday shopping a bit easier, split as the Court is between five Catholic and three Jewish justices.

Of course, you probably don't have to buy any of the justices a holiday sweater or celebratory jabot. But if you were to, we have some ideas. We've gathered 16 potential SCOTUS gifts, two for each justice -- one for if you think they've been naughty, one if they've been nice.

If you rush, you can probably still order a present for that aunt or cousin you forgot about and have it arrive on time for the holidays. (You have 'til Friday.) That last-minute order will be online, of course. You wouldn't be alone. This holiday season, online retailers are expecting to see double-digit growth in internet sales.

Many of those sales won't be taxed by the states. Some states are trying to change that, adopting laws meant to recover sales tax that would otherwise be paid by shoppers at brick-and-mortar stores. Those laws could become more common now, after the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to an internet sales tax law in Colorado.

Lawrence Shaw was convicted of federal bank fraud after he stole $300,000 from the checking account of Stanley Hsu. Shaw doesn't deny that he took the cash, but he does object to the bank fraud conviction. He can't, Shaw argues, have defrauded a bank, since he had no specific intent to cheat the bank itself. He just wanted Hsu's cash.

The Supreme Court rejected that argument on Monday, ruling unanimously that Shaw's contention that he wasn't cheating the bank, only the bank's customer, didn't save him from the reach of the bank fraud law.

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear four cases from death row inmates facing execution, resulting in a rare dissent from a denial of certiorari by Justice Breyer. In one case, an inmate had spent 40 years on Florida's death row, awaiting an execution that has yet to come. The Berlin Wall was still standing when the man was sentenced to death, Justice Breyer noted. Saigon had just fallen. Over half of all Americans alive today had yet to be born.

In another denied case, an inmate in Ohio had already evaded execution once -- because the executioner could not find a vein through which to lethally inject him. To try again now, after one botched attempt, would be unconstitutional, he argued.

The eight-justice Supreme Court has deadlocked several times since Justice Scalia's passing last February. Four-four ties have left important cases undecided (last term's Friedrichs and U.S. v. Texas opinions), seen urgent issues returned to lower courts (the remand of Zubik), and prompted litigants to settle, rather than pursue their cases.

Now, the Court's deadlock has its first actual, human victim. Yesterday, the Court split four-four over a last-minute request for a stay of execution by Ronald Smith, a convicted murderer in Alabama whose jury rejected the death penalty -- only to be overridden by the judge. The Court's deadlock allowed Smith's execution to go ahead, and he was put to death last night.

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.