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

March 2017 Archives

New York State allows companies to offer price discounts to customers who pay in cash. But the state forbids imposing surcharges on credit card users. For retailers, this is more than just a question of semantics. Surcharges discourage credit card use more than discounts encourage cash, thus helping business avoid the two to three percent swipe fee companies like Visa or MasterCard apply every time a customer pays with plastic.

A coalition of New York businesses, led by a hair salon from outside of Binghamton, sued, claiming that the law violated their First Amendment rights. Yesterday, they won a narrow victory in the Supreme Court, with the Court ruling that New York's law implicates free speech rights and must be analyzed under those standards.

Texas's standards for evaluating mentally disabled death row inmates are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

Until Tuesday, when asked to determine if an inmate was too mentally disabled to execute, Texas relied on a medical definition from 1992, since superseded, and a set of nonclinical factors known as the "Lennie standard." That's Lennie as in Lennie Small, the sweet-natured but simple-minded character from Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men."

Jae Lee immigrated to the United States from South Korea when he was just a teenager. Decades later, he was accused of dealing ecstasy in Memphis, Tennessee. At the urging of his attorney, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year and one day in jail.

Here's the rub. Unlike his parents, Lee had never become an American citizen. And despite his concerns, his attorney assured him that a guilty plea would not result in his deportation, an assurance that turned out to be dead wrong. Now Lee will go before the Supreme Court tomorrow, arguing that his conviction should be overturned due to ineffective assistance of counsel. But will the fact that Lee was almost guaranteed to lose at trial keep him from prevailing?

The past week has been unusually busy for the Supreme Court -- and for Court watchers like us! For more than 20 hours spread over four days, Neil Gorsuch powered through his Senate confirmation hearings, covering everything from educational access for disabled students to the SCOTUS bladder. But while Gorsuch was testifying, the Court kept working, issuing opinions, hearing oral arguments, and even overruling the nominee himself.

Here are the highlights.

Well, this is awkward. Just as Neil Gorsuch faced a barrage of hard hitting questions for the third day in a row, the Supreme Court overruled him on a controversial opinion from 2008. Senator Dick Durbin took the judge to task over that ruling, where the judge rejected a challenge by the parents of an autistic boy who claimed that his school had failed to provide him the educational services required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Since the student was making some progress toward his goals, the school had met its legal responsibilities, Gorsuch concluded.

But today, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that more than just de minimis progress was required. Gorsuch learned of the ruling during a brief break, allowing him to address it during his testimony.

Things picked up for Neil Gorsuch today. The second day of the Senate's hearings on Gorsuch's Supreme Court nomination saw the judge tackling, and sometimes evading, weighty issues. Judicial independence was in play, as were Roe v. Wade and other controversial precedents. There was even an untimely reference to the passing of Justice Samuel Alito.

Here are the highlights so far.

You don't get to the Supreme Court without passing through the crucible of a Senate confirmation hearing -- and sometimes you don't get to the Supreme Court even then. But Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's SCOTUS nominee, survived the first day of his hearing relatively unscathed.

Here are the highlights, from the politics to the polyester to pro football.

On Monday, all eyes will be on Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearing, as the Senate considers whether to approve President Trump's nominee for the late Justice Antonin Scalia's vacated seat -- a seat that's sat empty for over a year now. The hearings, which could last for days, are bound to be a spectacle, in all senses of the word.

To help you get ready, we've compiled some of the internet's most interesting pieces on Gorsuch, his background and philosophy, and what you can expect to come up at the hearings. Consider it some light reading for your weekend confirmation prep.

There's been a lot of talk about Justice Ginsburg's workout regime these days -- the 84-year-old justice does bench 70 pounds, after all. But that's not the only Supreme Court workout worth noting.

While she was on the Court, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor began an early morning workout class at the Court. And she kept it going since then. Until now that is. After more than 35 years, Justice O'Connor's workout class is being forced to relocate.

Happy birthday, RBG! The Supreme Court Justice was born this day in Brooklyn, New York, 84 years ago. She is currently the oldest, and the shortest, member of the Supreme Court.

Justice Ginsburg's age has some worrying that she won't be on the Court for much longer. And whether you agree with her jurisprudence or not, there's no questioning that the Supreme Court wouldn't be the same without Justice Ginsburg. Thankfully, RBG doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon.

Well over a year after cert was granted, a dispute over Microsoft's Xbox video game console will finally be heard in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed to take up the case way back in January of 2016. But the dispute, which involves disgruntled gamers, scratched game discs, and civil procedure roadblocks in class action cases, has languished untouched since then. That is, until this upcoming Tuesday, when the parties will argue before the Court.

There's more at stake than just video games, of course. The case could settle a significant circuit split over the appealability of class certification decisions.

One week from today, Neil Gorsuch will be sitting before the Senate, facing a barrage of questions over his judicial record and how he may perform on the Supreme Court. But when Gorsuch's nomination hearings begin, he'll be prepared.

The Tenth Circuit judge and President Trump's nominee to fill the Court's long vacancy has been waging a stealth campaign in the background, according to CNN, meeting with senators and prepping for his upcoming grilling with a series of so-called "murder boards."

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made her opera debut last fall and she's already back for more.

This time, however, the Notorious RBG, a notorious opera aficionado, wasn't on stage to perform, but to speak. Last night, Justice Ginsburg starred in "Justice at the Opera" at the Kennedy Center Opera House on "justice, criminality and human rights as depicted in the opera."

President Trump has picked Noel Francisco to be his Solicitor General, the administration announced yesterday. The Solicitor General serves as the government's voice in the Supreme Court, representing the federal government's position before the Court. As such, the SG is often aptly referred to as the "Tenth Justice."

Francisco, a former Jones Day partner, is currently serving as acting solicitor general. His nomination to the permanent post should mark the end of the administration's long, winding search for an SG.

Courts must be allowed to consider evidence that jurors relied on racial bias or animus in convicting a defendant, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

The ruling creates an important exception to the so-called "no-impeachment rule," a rule of evidence that bars post-verdict testimony about juror deliberations. When those deliberations, due to juror bias, may have violated a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury, courts must be allowed to consider such evidence, the Court explained in a 5-3 decision written by Justice Kennedy.

One of the Supreme Court's most anticipated cases of the term just got a last minute cancellation. That case, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., involved the rights of transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Oral arguments were scheduled for later this month, but the case was upended just two weeks ago, when the Trump administration rescinded federal protections for those students.

Now, the Supreme Court has taken a last minute pass on the dispute. In a one-sentence summary disposition, the Court vacated the Fourth Circuit's ruling in favor of Gavin Grimm, the transgender student, and remanded the case for reconsideration in light of the new administration's shifting stance on transgender student rights.

President Trump reversed federal protections for transgender students last week, abandoning an Obama-era policy that read Title IX as protecting transgender students' right to use the bathroom that comports with their gender identity.

That now-renounced policy was at the center of Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., a high-profile Supreme Court case scheduled for arguments later this month. Now, with significant questions about how the Court will move forward, both sides are urging the Court to hear the case despite the administration's changes, though one wants the justices to move a bit more slowly.

Juan Esquivel-Quintana was 20 years old when he pleaded no contest to having sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend. Though the relationship would not have been a crime in 43 states or under federal law, it was one in California, where the state prohibits an adult to have sex with a minor three or more years younger. And because Esquivel-Quintana was a legal immigrant, not a citizen, his conviction led the U.S. government to begin deportation proceedings.

Esquivel-Quintana's case came before the Court earlier this week, as the Justices heard arguments over whether his crime qualifies as an "aggravated felony" mandating his deportation.

The Supreme Court ruled today that 11 majority-minority voting districts in Virginia must be reexamined for potential racial bias. The districts at issue were all redrawn following the 2010 census, with the goal of establishing a 55 percent black voting age population, or BVAP, in each.

Black voters in Virginia sued, alleging that the new districts concentrated minority votes into fewer districts, making Virginia's remaining districts whiter and more conservative. The Supreme Court did not weigh in on whether race had been impermissibly used in fashioning the 11 districts, but did rule that the lower court must review the districts once again -- providing at least a temporary victory to the challengers.