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

Recently in Court Rules Category

1L Student Gets His Redistricting Case Heard by SCOTUS

Stephen Shapiro, a 1L at American University, has successfully convinced this nation's highest court to review whether or not a lower district judge's decision to dismiss his redistricting case was proper under the applicable state and federal law -- specifically the Three-Judge Court Act. If SCOTUS rules the that the dismissal was improper, courts will review the issue of partisan gerrymandering within the context of the First Amendment.

Shapiro's case is a feather in the cap of the 55-year-old law student. He has entered a world where he typically is confused as a professor, not a student; now he may sit before the nine justices before he's even earned his J.D.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Spokeo v. Robins, a case which could have major implications for Internet privacy litigation. Spokeo, a "people search" website, aggregates public information on individuals, from their educational levels to the cost of their house. But, whoops! Sometimes that information isn't always accurate.

When Spokeo published inaccurate information about Thomas Robins, he pursued a class action against the site for violating the privacy-focused Fair Credit Reporting Act. But besides that statutory violation, Robins couldn't point to any injury. Sure his info was wrong, but was he fired over it? Did his wife leave him? No. So, the question before the court yesterday was, then, does Robins even have any right to sue?

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.

The President keeps an open record of everyone who visits the White House. Congress broadcasts its most sleep-inducing business over three different C-SPAN channels. The Supreme Court? They like a bit more privacy.

That privacy is earning the Court a fair amount of criticism as it gets ready to begin its new term. From the cardinal halls of Stanford Law to the pink mail boxes of Palm Beach, Florida, the Supreme Court is facing accusations that it is too secretive in its doings.

SCOTUS Maintains Veil of Secrecy Over Juror Deliberations

What happens in the juror room stays in the juror room (unless it's a mock trial and you get to watch hidden cameras and the foreperson who is a lawyer in real life declares himself as such and misstates the law, causing you to lose your graded mock trial final -- sorry, I'm still bitter).

Gregory Warger was riding his motorcycle when Randy Shauers clipped him. Fault was at issue, as was the proper measure of damages, but in the end, the jury sided with Shauers. Warger, after losing a leg in the accident, got nothing.

But then a spark of hope emerged: It turns out the foreperson had lied during voir dire when she was asked if there was any reason why she could not award damages. During deliberations, she told her fellow jurors that her daughter had been at fault in an accident and a lawsuit would have ruined her daughter's life. Someone leaked this to the lawyers and signed an affidavit. Warger wanted a new trial.

Too bad.

Justice Kagan Takes Aim at Eleventh Circuit Appellate Procedure

The Supreme Court often appends opinions related to prisoner litigation to the end of its semi-weekly order list. Generally, if the Court is going to deny a cert. petition to a prisoner on habeas or direct appeal, it summarily does so in the order list, but if an issue is important enough, one or more members of the Court will address it in an opinion or statement.

Today's statement, issued by Justice Kagan, and joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor in a cert. denial to Patrick Henry Joseph v. United States, calls into question an Eleventh Circuit appellate procedure.

The Big Fall Conference: From Petition to Certiorari Decision

Around these parts, we call it the Supreme Court's BFC, or Big [Fall] Conference. Others call it the "long" conference. We're sure the clerks have their own nicknames for annual stack of around 2,000 petitions.

This year's BFC falls on Monday, September 29, and when it gets here, the justices and their clerks will have their work cut out for them, with thousands of petitions seeking SCOTUS review. Nearly all of those petitions, of course, will be denied, but each petition has to be reviewed by both the cert. pool (eight justices' combined clerks, who divide and conquer) and Justice Samuel Alito's independent team of clerks.

Let's trace the steps of these petitions:

Alito Unrecuses From Aereo and Pom Wonderful; Unrecusal Tax Break

We've discussed Justice Samuel Alito's truancy in the past, with the Justice sitting out of dozens of certiorari denials and initially recusing himself from this term's Limelight, Pom Wonderful, and Aereo cases, all likely due to conflicts presented by his stock portfolio. (Though the Justices do not disclose their reasons for self-recusal, Alito's financial disclosures have shed a lot of light on patterns of inherited and purchased stocks, past recusals, and botched non-recusals.)

With Alito benched, rather than on the bench, there was some concern over whether Aereo could end in a 4-4 tie, leaving the Second Circuit's pro-Aereo opinion intact, but also leaving the rest of the land (which includes anti-Aereo court decisions in other circuits) unaffected. Worry not though, as he just unrecused himself in Aereo and Pom Wonderful, days before oral arguments.

It's going to be a busy week for SCOTUS with decisions expected in several cases, and on this dreary Monday, the Court did not disappoint. The order list was released with one cert grant, and many denials. The Court also issued an opinion in Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust, and we remember a landmark case beloved to all Torts 1 (and Con Law) students.

Opinion in Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust, et al. v. U.S.

The case of Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust gives us a bit of a lesson in railway history, and examines the application of the General Railroad Right of Way Act of 1875 to a landowner's interest, if any. The United States had obtained a right of way over petitioners' land for railroads, but later relinquished the rights.

Union Case Dropped; Younger Clarified; Congress Comes to Court

Ready for a three-peat of SCOTUS updates?

Remember that big union case out of Florida, the case that could have changed top-down unionization and greatly weakened organized labor's ability to unionize workplaces through deals with management? Never mind.

And in a less exciting case, the Court clarified Younger abstention, reinstating a lawsuit by Sprint against a local telephone provider.

Plus, Congress was just added to the oral arguments in Noel Canning, the National Labor Relations Board appointments dispute.