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

January 2018 Archives

What to Expect From SCOTUS in February

If the U.S. Supreme Court were like the Moon, we could predict with precise accuracy where it was going because of the laws of gravity.

But the justices tug and pull in unpredictable ways sometimes, and they don't always follow the law. Sometimes, they make it.

That opportunity will roll around again in late February. That's not a prediction; it's just that some pivotal cases are on the docket involving public employees, privacy, and political insignia.

Remember the unbelievable D.C. v. Wesby civil rights case that involved a bunch of alleged trespassers and their host Peaches that got arrested while partying in a vacant house and then won $680, 000 (actually a cool million after attorney fees)? Well, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in this week, and those trespassing partygoers likely aren't going to be celebrating anymore, as the High Court just reversed and remanded the case.

Interestingly, where the district and appellate court found each of the proffered justifications for probable cause for arrest of the partygoers to be insufficient, SCOTUS saw the totality of the circumstances to be more than enough. Additionally, rubbing salt into the wounds (and case) of the partygoers, the Court found that the district and appellate courts' failure to find qualified immunity was a clear error.

Court Stays Order to Redraw North Carolina Voting Maps

The U.S. Supreme Court stayed a controversial lower court order that would have required North Carolina to rework congressional voting districts.

As a result, the Republican-dominated districts will likely stay the same for at least another election. For opponents, the stay was justice delayed.

They also say it is troubling because the lower court concluded that North Carolina discriminated against voters.

Supreme Court Hears Murder Case Where Lawyer Admitted Client's Guilt

So if a lawyer decides to tell the jury his client is guilty -- and the the jury returns a death sentence -- does the malpractice carrier pay to execute the lawyer?

It's a bad joke, but what else can you say when a lawyer makes such a grave decision? Unfortunately for Robert McCoy, he is still on death row after his conviction for a triple murder.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court considers the sobering question: When a defendant in a capital case says "not guilty," can his attorney say "guilty?"

What Will SCOTUS Do About Warrantless Vehicle Searches?

Police pulled over Terrence Byrd for a traffic violation and learned he was not on the rental car agreement -- his girlfriend was.

That was not a crime, but then they searched the car and found heroin in the trunk. That was a crime.

During arguments in Byrd v. United States, the question was whether the warrantless search violated the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights. The U.S. Supreme Court, for the moment, didn't have the answer.

Despite the fact that the judiciary basically redesigned itself to be the ultimate check and balance on governmental authority, when it comes to civil rights, the High Court apparently has not been particularly friendly. Constitutional scholars, including a federal district court judge, have been shouting from a lonely mountain top for some time now about the hostility of SCOTUS to sec. 1983 claims, but sadly, it seems that no one can hear them, or seems to care that the High Court keeps ruling in favor of the government in these claims.

Even the fan-favorite, Erwin Chemerinsky, has been warning of the civil rights doom and gloom at the Supreme Court, and recently wrote about how the Court has repeatedly limited Bivens claims, with the most recent Bivens limitation squashing the, once-hallmark, catchall aspect of the law.

While it is usually no shock when SCOTUS rejects highly controversial cases, that was not the case this week when it rejected the appeals in Barber v. Bryant, and Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant.

This pair of cases challenged Mississippi's controversial "religious freedom" law HB 1523, which permits individuals and businesses to deny service to LGBT individuals if the individual or business sincerely holds the beliefs or convictions that marriage should only be between a man and woman, that premarital sex is wrong, and/or that gender can only be determined by anatomy at birth.

One of the leading constitutional law scholars in the country, Erwin Chemerinsky, recently wrote a piece for the ABA Journal reflecting on the United States Supreme Court's 2017 term. Although the year was filled with big decision, he believes the biggest news of the year was the appointment and confirmation of Neil Gorsuch.

In addition to the controversial appointment, Chemerinsky explains that the term has seen some unusual interplay between the High Court and the new executive branch, right off the bat. Also, he notes that the Court actually handled issues of race and did so in unexpected fashion.

Study: Scalia in the Casebooks

Antonin Scalia has been historically recognized for his influence on the law, and now two researches have quantified it.

In a treatise, the authors show how often Scalia's ideas are explored in casebooks on constitutional law. They say he ranks among the highest of Supreme Court justices who are referenced in the cases.

However, the study also reveals Scalia did "not tower over" other jurists. It may have something to do with the justices who had power to assign opinions.

Roberts Promises Evaluation of the Judiciary's Sexual Misconduct Policies

Chief Justice John Roberts released an annual report on the federal judiciary, but one thing caught the attention of the media more than anything else -- the judiciary's sexual misconduct policies.

Most of the report dealt with how the judicial system responds to natural disasters, such as the recent California wildfires that caused court personnel to evacuate buildings. However, it was another disaster in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal that caused one celebrated judge to leave the building.

"Events in recent months have illuminated the depth of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, and events in the past few weeks have made clear that the judicial branch is not immune," Roberts said.