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

December 2011 Archives

Political Questions: More Politics for 2011 Supreme Court Term?

The Constitution may bar the Supreme Court from considering political questions, but the Nine will be hearing several cases this spring that will have an impact on state and national politics.

From Texas redistricting in January to the Affordable Care Act in March to immigration reform in April, this Supreme Court term is shaping up to be the most politically-charged year since the 2000 Bush v. Gore season.

Pending the outcome of the Court's January 6 conference, the term could get even more political.

SCOTUS Tradition: Carols at the Christmas Recess Party

Justice Thurgood Marshall was a party pooper. Or perhaps a Scrooge or a Grinch, if you're looking to describe him within the holiday vernacular.

Apparently, the revered Justice Marshall, intent on keeping church and state apart, declined the annual invitation to the Supreme Court Christmas Recess Party.

That's right, we said Christmas. And we meant it. While most government offices -- and private sector offices, for that matter -- enjoy a "holiday party" at the end of the year, the Supreme Court holds a Christmas Recess Party.

SCOTUS Releases Oral Argument Schedules for February and March

We mentioned Monday that the Supreme Court has finally set the dates for Affordable Care Act oral arguments. It's terribly exciting, and we can only hope that the ensuing coverage and branding opportunities will rival the royal wedding. (There has to be a vendor somewhere in D.C. willing to produce Supreme Court/individual mandate tea towels or novelty gavels, right?)

Shockingly, the individual mandate is not the only hot-button issue the Nine will hear in the Spring. Here's the schedule for the other cases before the Court in February and March.

It's a Date: Individual Mandate Oral Arguments March 26-28

Confession: We don't want the individual mandate challenge to end.

Sure, we want to know how the Supreme Court will rule on the most controversial provision of the Affordable Care Act, but we recently realized that there will soon be a void in the legal community: we'll no longer need to daydream about healthcare constitutionality arguments.

Alas, the end is nigh. The Supreme Court announced today that the epic, three-day, five-and-a-half hour arguments will be happening March 26-28, 2012.

Ho Ho No: Is Santa Claus Unconstitutional?

It’s not easy being Santa Claus. Best Buy is questioning Santa’s gift-giving prowess with their holiday, “Game on, Santa” commercials, and Georgia just gave the flying reindeer special clearance to enter the state, but didn’t offer Santa a waiver from state immigration laws. (Pack your passport, Santa.)

Gone are the days when children happily welcomed the jolly elf with milk and cookies or chocolate and port. Santa better watch out, because everyone wants to sue him now. Father Christmas has to worry about trespassing charges, Peeping Tom accusations — how does he see you when you’re sleeping? — and Federal Aviation Administration violations.

As if the basic criminal obstacles weren’t enough, Santa may be unconstitutional.

SCOTUS to Review Texas Congressional Redistricting Map on Jan. 9

There are two Golden Rules that can be applied to congressional redistricting maps.

The first is your pre-school teacher’s Golden Rule: Treat others that way you want to be treated.

The second is your political science professor’s Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules.

Guess which of these versions politicians use.

This Week on First Street: Supreme Court Orders and More

It was a big morning for Supreme Court orders with four granted cases to be heard in three oral arguments, two issued opinions, one hot-button immigration case ... and a partridge in a pear tree.

Let's start with what will surely be the second-most talked-about case of the year: the Arizona immigration law challenge.

The Court has granted certiorari in Arizona v. U.S., questioning the constitutionality of Arizona S.B. 1070. While no date has been set for oral arguments, the Justices will consider whether federal immigration laws preclude Arizona's attempt at cooperative law enforcement and facially preempt four provisions of S.B. 1070.

Justice Kagan did not take part in the consideration of the petition.

Establishment Claus: How to Make SCOTUS-Approved Holiday Displays

While the spirit of the Establishment Clause guides court decisions year round, Establishment "Claus" is the true legal superstar of the holiday season.

Establishment Claus, you see, is the oft-perplexing, always-vexing nemesis of state institutions that want to get festive without getting entangled in the twinkle lights of religion.

Thanks largely to the busy legal elves at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Establishment Claus always knows who's being constitutionally naughty or nice.

Senate Debates Cameras in Court Ahead of ACA Hearings

Should the Supreme Court get ready for a close-up?

On Tuesday, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee heard testimony on Senate Bill 410, the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2011, which would allow cameras in the Supreme Court, an idea that many past and present justices vehemently oppose (to put it mildly).

The legislation would mandate television coverage of open Supreme Court and Circuit Courts of Appeals sessions unless a majority of justices indicated that coverage would violate due process. The bill also includes provisions for broadcasting district court hearings.

SCOTUS Grants Secret Service Qualified Immunity Review

The vice-president shoots a man in the face, and walks. A man touches the vice-president’s shoulder, and is arrested by Secret Service.

If this sounds in any way unfair to you, then you’ll be delighted to learn that the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari this morning in Reichle v. Howards, a qualified immunity case out of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

SCOTUS Skepticism: Emotional Distress Warrants Actual Damages?

Congress passed the Privacy Act of 1974 to establish protocols to govern the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information maintained in federal agency records. The Act includes a private cause of action for violations

This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in FAA v. Cooper, a dispute between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and a pilot who claims that he suffered emotional distress as a result of a Privacy Act violation.

So how do we quantify emotional harm? And can a plaintiff recover actual damages for emotional harm under the Act?