Supreme Court Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court - The FindLaw U.S. Supreme Court Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Civil Rights Law Category

Same-sex nuptials have taken place in parts of Alabama, after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2 not to stay enforcement of a federal judge's order that the state's gay marriage ban was unconstitutional. The High Court's decision paved the way for same-sex marriages to begin immediately (though some county courts still declined to issue marriage licenses, AL.com reports).

Wait -- I did say "7-2," didn't I? Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, wrote a three-page dissent that Court watchers are saying tips the Court's hand vis-a-vis same sex marriage.

Why do these things always happen on a Friday? Last week, the Supreme Court dropped the bombshell that it was reviewing the Sixth Circuit's same-sex marriage case.

Today, the Court announced that it would hear the appeal of Richard Glossip and two other death row inmates in Oklahoma scheduled to be executed in the next few months. The petition is noteworthy because the inmates are challenging the legality of the lethal injection process itself.

In a case that Court-watchers were eagerly anticipating, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously today in Holt v. Hobbs that a prison policy prohibiting inmates from growing beards unless they have a dermatological condition violates the First Amendment.

Holt, a prisoner in Arkansas, converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdul Maalik Muhammad. Muhammad's reading of Muslim scripture required him to grow a beard, something prison policy forbade. Muhammad sued pursuant to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

Following the Sixth Circuit's decision in November upholding gay marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee, many felt it was a matter of "when" not "if" the Supreme Court would decide to tackle the issue of gay marriage again.

It turns out, the "when" is apparently now. The Court announced this morning it was granting cert. in four cases challenging the constitutionality of the bans in those four states. The decision in the case will likely have historic impact on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage across the country.

As the kids say: It's on.

3 New Grants: Texas License Plates, La. Execution, Patents

Happy Friday y'all! Today's breaking news out of the Supreme Court involves grants in three cases -- two from Texas and one from Louisiana. The first case, and the more important one in my opinion, is the First Amendment license plate case that we've covered previously -- the state of Texas is denying requests for Confederate flag vanity plates.

Also from Texas, the Court will take on patent issues once again in a spat over Cisco's Wi-Fi products.

Finally, in a death penalty case out of Louisiana, the Court will have the opportunity to flesh out their holding from Atkins v. Virginia. More specifically, do courts have to hold a separate hearing regarding mental disability and competency to be executed? And do they have to cover the tab for evaluations?

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in United States v. Elonis, ballyhooed as the "Facebook threats" case or the "rap lyrics" case. Commentators have proclaimed that this case will determine the fate of free speech on the Internet.

But this is really a simple case of criminal threats that just happened to be made on the Internet.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act had better look out; in the battle over who's going to punch their SCOTUS "frequent petitioner" card first, Abigail Fisher is a close second.

Fisher, you might remember, was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 and then sued to get in, claiming the state's policy of granting admission to UT to the top 10 percent of graduating students in the state resulted in racial discrimination.

The Fifth Circuit said nope, and the Supreme Court showed marked restraint by not overturning Grutter v. Bollinger like a Lakers fan overturns a police car after a victory.

When does a permissible partisan gerrymander become an impermissible racial gerrymander? The U.S. Supreme Court dealt with that question in oral arguments today in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama. According to the petitioners, in 2012, the Alabama legislature redrew state legislative districts in an attempt to dilute statewide black voting power by "packing" black voters into existing majority-black districts.

Alabama contended that the 2012 gerrymandering didn't alter the racial composition of the districts; that is, they already contained a majority-black electorate. And whatever changes they did make were for partisan, not racial, reasons.

6th Cir. Upholds Gay Marriage Bans: Your Move, SCOTUS

Better late than never, though we're sure the Court would've rather the issue of gay marriage had been addressed never. Avoiding the issue might've been possible, had the circuit courts stayed in concert. Now, the Supreme Court may not have a choice.

A few months back, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the Sixth Circuit could force the Court's hand if it upheld gay marriage bans. Yesterday afternoon, it did just that, upholding bans in four states, calling RBG's bluff and putting SCOTUS in for all its chips.

Now, with a circuit split in place, and the ACLU already preparing their petition for certiorari (apparently en banc isn't happening?), the Court has to decide the issue of whether the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees marriage equality -- doesn't it?

SCOTUS Grants 3 New Cases, Lets Texas Voter ID Law Stand (for Now)

The Supreme Court's latest orders list is out, with three very interesting grants. First, what happens to a convict's guns? Can a court order them transferred or sold to a buyer of the convict's choice? Second, can a Batson issue be dealt with ex parte? And in the third grant, the Court explores the possibility of a facial challenge to a hotel records law under the Fourth Amendment.

In other news: The Court let another state voting law stay in effect, this time in Texas, in the strongest test of the Purcell v. Gonzalez holding yet. A district court had held that the law had a discriminatory purpose, and blocked it, but the Fifth Circuit, citing Purcell, reversed the trial court.