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

March 2012 Archives

Split Decisions: Court Privacy, Immigration, and Sentencing Cases

The Supreme Court wasn’t solely focused on the Affordable Care Act arguments this week, even if the rest of the country could speak of nothing else. The Court also released five opinions, including three that we didn’t cover on Wednesday because we, (like everyone else), could speak of nothing but Medicaid and severability.

In split decisions, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit in FAA v. Cooper (quel surprise!), affirmed the Fifth Circuit in Setser v. U.S., and reversed the Second Circuit in Vartelas v. Holder. Here’s a quick recap of what you should know about the latest Supreme Court opinions:

On the Chopping Block? Individual Mandate, Medicaid Cause Concern

For weeks, we've talked about the viability of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. As the most personal element of the ACA appeal, everyone seemed to have an opinion about whether the government should be allowed the require people to purchase health insurance. But today, the Supreme Court reminded us that the ACA Medicaid provisions could also doom the healthcare legislation.

For the final day of the ACA appeal, the Supreme Court examined whether the ACA was subject to severability, and the constitutionality of the ACA Medicaid expansion programs. While severability was supposed to be the star of the day, NPR argues that the Medicaid decision could have broader implications. If the Court rules that the feds can't force the states to participate in the ACA, what other programs might be derailed?

A Swing and a Miss? Kennedy Skeptical of Individual Mandate

Let’s take a mental trip back to 2000, when Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore each argued to the Supreme Court why he should be the 43rd president. Cynics like to say that the Florida recount was decided by one vote, in a 5-4 finish. Justice Anthony Kennedy was one of those five.

We won't speculate as to whether Justice Kennedy really was the swing vote — it may have been Justice Sandra Day O'Connor — but as the Nine consider the constitutionality of the individual mandate, Justice Kennedy is starting to look like the most powerful person in America.

AIA Barrier Unlikely: Expect an Individual Mandate Ruling in 2012

Today's the day that most Court-watchers have been anticipating since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law two years ago: The beginning of the healthcare law oral arguments.

It's been a long road to the Supreme Court, one that's weaved through six federal appellate courts and countless hours of cable news broadcasts. Now that we're finally here, the biggest news out of First Street today is that the justices seem unlikely to rule that the Anti-Injunction Act precludes a decision on the Obama healthcare law.

Criminals in the Court: SCOTUS Takes on More Appeals

The Affordable Care Act circus rolls into First Street next week, and it seems to be the only Supreme Court topic anyone want to discuss right now.

Except for us. We want to discuss other things. Like the attention the Nine have been giving to the rights of the accused this week.

First, let's talk about the three criminal cases argued before the Court this week.

Sackett v. EPA: Yes, You Can Fight the Man

The Supreme Court ruled today that an Idaho couple can bring a civil action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to challenge a compliance order, instead of waiting for the EPA to initiate a court action. Federal courts had previously rejected the couple's claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Roundup: Supreme Court Opinions, Orders, and Oral Arguments

The busy bees over on First Street have been working extra hard this week, issuing orders in two cases, hearing oral arguments in six cases, and releasing four opinions today.

The four Supreme Court opinions released today are:

Will SCOTUS Favor Administrative Deference in Astrue v. Capato?

The Supreme Court heard arguments today in Astrue v. Capato, regarding whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) should pay survivor benefits to posthumously-conceived children. Currently, the SSA denies benefits to children born more than nine months after a wage-earner’s death.

Based on the justices’ reactions to the oral arguments, there will not be a change in that SSA policy.

Part of the reason is that the Obama administration is opposed to extending benefits in such situations. When a situation falls within a grey area of the law, the Court typically gives “administrative deference” to the government’s interpretation of a law, reports CNN.

Same Day Audio for ACA Hearings: Top 3 Ideas for Listening Parties

Despite begging and pleading and cable-news cajoling, the Supreme Court has not relented on the cameras in the Court issue for this month’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) hearings.

But proving that the Nine aren’t completely immune to the power of public pressure, audio recordings of oral arguments in the case will be available on the Supreme Court website the same day as the hearings, reports SCOTUSblog.

How Will Sackett v. EPA Affect Administrative Compliance Orders?

You know why public libraries are better than the Environmental Protection Agency?

When a book is overdue, you know what the fine will be. You know you will be charged. There's a comforting certainty to a library infraction.

Not so with the EPA, as Mike and Chantelle Sackett learned when they started to build their dream home on a plot of land near Priest Lake in Idaho.

The Great Dissenter: Top 5 Scalia Quotes from the Other Side

What do Johnny Knoxville and Justice Antonin Scalia have in common? One's a Jackass, and the other's a ... distinguished jurist. But they share a birthday! And since we were playing kickball yesterday while Justice Scalia was celebrating his 76th birthday, we're celebrating Nino a day late with our favorite Justice Scalia quotes from concurring and dissenting opinions.

(Though Justice Scalia is known for his colorful writing, his majority opinions must reflect the Court's official position. When he's not writing for the Court, Scalia really lets us know how he feels.)

Let's get this belated party started. On to the list.

Rep. Slaughter Wants a Supreme Court Code of Ethics

When Montana-based District Judge Richard Cebull drew criticism for forwarding a racist joke from his government email account, he asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to conduct an investigation to determine if his actions should be considered judicial misconduct.

That's because the judicial misconduct proceedings clearly define how the federal courts can address district and circuit judges' questionable antics. There's no similar guide for Supreme Court shenanigans.

Rep. Louise Slaughter wants to see that change.

SCOTUS Asks for More Briefing, Reargument in Kiobel

When the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum last week, we thought the years-long debate of corporate liability under the Alien Tort Statute was finally winding down.

We were wrong.

On Monday, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the parties for briefing on additional issues. Now, the Court is asking whether American courts should ever hear disputes under the ATS for human rights abuses abroad, regardless of whether a defendant is a corporation, reports The New York Times.

Interests of Justice Standard Governs Capital Substitution Motions

The Supreme Court announced today that federal courts should use the "interests of justice" standard that applies to non-capital cases when deciding whether to grant a federal habeas petitioner’s substitution motion in a capital case.

Though the Court adopted petitioner Kenneth Clair’s interests of justice standard in Martel v. Clair, Justice Elena Kagan noted that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Clair’s substitution motion.

Will SCOTUS Affirm Kiobel, Deny ATS Claims?

Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch, the case will likely stand out in a year of big cases. A pro-plaintiff ruling would open U.S. courts to a flood of litigation under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). A pro-defendant ruling might leave victims of human rights abuses without recourse against multinational companies.

From the outset of the Kiobel oral arguments on Wednesday, it sounded like the court would affirm Kiobel and disallow human rights claims under the ATS. SCOTUSblog notes that Justice Anthony Kennedy -- often the swing vote on the Court -- told the Kiobel attorney that his case was in jeopardy, while the remaining justices "looked notably unconvinced" by arguments that the ATS supports the Kiobel claims.