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


Five years after John Oliver's expose on civil asset forfeiture, SCOTUS is chiming in to explain that a state's civil in rem forfeiture is subject to the Eighth Amendment's protections against excessive fines.

In the recently issued opinion in Timbs v. Indiana, the appellant sought to overturn the state's taking of his Land Rover under civil asset forfeiture. Tyson Timbs had pleaded guilty to selling drugs, and the state seized his vehicle. However, as the High Court explained, the Land Rover forfeiture was a disproportionate penalty because the most he could be fined under the statute he pleaded to was $10,000, and the car was purchased for $42,000.

In the ongoing saga of Bobby James Moore v. Texas, the High Court not only granted the death row inmate's petition for writ, the Court issued a summary reversal, and remanded the matter to the appellate.

If this sounds familiar, that's because this is the second time that SCOTUS has sent this case back down to Texas Court of Criminal Appeals with instructions to reconsider in light of their opinion. And this time, the Court, in short, told the Texas court that it didn't listen and has to do it again.

Justice Clarence Thomas has chosen an interesting time to speak up and out against the actual malice standard established by New York Times v. Sullivan.

In a concurrence, authored by Justice Thomas and joined by no other Justices, of the denial of Katherine McKee's petition for cert in her case against Bill Cosby for defamation, Justice Thomas basically explains how he believes the Court and lower courts got standard for libel against a public figure all wrong and that, in his words: "We should reconsider our jurisprudence in this area."

It has been announced that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg actually made it into the Court for the Justices' regular conference Friday morning.

Since her surgery to remove lung cancer tumors in December, she has been working from home and had not shown up to the High Court, not even for January's oral arguments. Notably, she did not miss any votes though and her return couldn't have been timed better, as oral arguments are scheduled to start next week. Unfortunately, there has been no confirmation of whether Justice Ginsburg will take the bench next week.

SCOTUS April Calendar Springs Up

The April docket of oral arguments for the High Court is pretty packed with 12 cases over two weeks. And still no word on whether Justice Ginsburg will attend the hearings or be working from home.

Arguments will kick off on April 15 and conclude on April 24, unless the Justices decide to take up the Trump administration's appeal on the 2020 census issue. However, as Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog notes, even if the Justices do decide to take that case up ahead of the federal appeals court hearing the matter, it could be heard in a special session in May, rather than added to the April calendar.

The case of Domineque Ray surprised many people across the country. Ray was convicted of rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl, and sentenced to death. And while there may not be too much surprising about a death sentence for rape and murder of a minor, his final appeal strikes a chord with civil rights advocates, regardless of their stance on the death penalty.

Ray challenged the fact that he was not allowed to have a spiritual leader from his faith present at the execution. The state allows a Christian chaplain in the execution chamber, but rejected Ray's request to allow his imam. Initially, the district court struck down Ray's challenge, but on the appeal, the Eleventh Circuit stayed the execution due to the clear Establishment Clause and religious discrimination concerns. Unfortunately for Ray, a five to four SCOTUS majority overruled the stay, and he was put to death.

In the closely watched abortion case out of Louisiana and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, SCOTUS appears to have erred on the side of caution and issued the temporary stay pending their decision on whether to take that matter up on certiorari.

Notably, while the 5 to 4 decision extends the emergency stay of enforcement on Louisiana's law that would impose certain requirements on abortion providers in the state, if the Justices refuse to take the matter up, the stay automatically terminates and the law will then go into effect. Curiously, rookie Justice Kavanaugh issued a dissent, which the other no voting Justices did not sign on to.

The United States Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on the abortion clinic restrictions case out of Louisiana, and due to the urgency of the matter, has issued an administrative stay of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision until February 7.

As the short order issued by the Court on February 1 explained, the stay is due to the timing of action rather than the merits. The filings for the application for a stay in the case had not been received until February 1, and the law would be taking effect on February 4. Rather than ruin the whole Court's weekend, Justice Alito penned an order to give his colleagues a few more week days to consider this controversial topic.

The Google v. Oracle litigation over Java APIs is on its ninth year, and now, second appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

Google has filed a petition for writ of certiorari seeking to resolve one fundamental issue for software copyrights (whether APIs can even be copyrighted), and one specific issue relating to whether Google's specific use of the Java APIs to create a new program constitutes fair use.

In a recently published book, Glass and Gavel: The U.S. Supreme Court and Alcohol, by Nancy Maveety, some of the favorite cocktails of Supreme Court Justices are revealed and discussed, along with notable alcohol-related cases and the social aspect alcohol has had on the Court and Justices.

Apparently, both Maveety and the Notorious RBG are big fans of Campari, and the classic Italian cocktail, the Negroni, as she explains during the Modern Law Library's most recent podcast, featuring an extended segment about the book.