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

February 2013 Archives

SEC Loses Discovery Rule Case

Despite the joyful refrain of "innocent until proven guilty," the government usually has the upper hand in a legal battle.

Need proof? Look no further than yesterday's Supreme Court decision in the FISA wiretapping case. Amnesty International, along with several other plaintiffs, challenged a federal law permitting the government to use electronic surveillance to monitor the international communications of people suspected of having ties to terrorist groups. The majority agreed with the government that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they couldn't show that they suffered an injury.

The catch? The only way a plaintiff can show injury is for the government to admit that it was spying on that person. The government holds all the cards.

The Little Guy Loses: SCOTUS Decides Clapper, Marx

The Supreme Court ruled against Amnesty International and a delinquent debtor this morning, dispelling any misconceived notions that the plight of the little guy can melt the cold heart of justice.

In two split decisions, the Court decided journalists, lawyers and human rights groups cannot challenge a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) amendment, and that a woman who defaulted on her student loans owes court costs after bringing a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) claim against a debt collector.

Get Ready for Voting Rights Act Review

The Supreme Court has a bold docket this year. Civil rights isn't a topic for the timid, but the Court has taken on several civil rights cases this term.

In October, the Court heard oral arguments about the continued need for affirmative action in public universities. In March, the justices will mull constitutional protections for same sex couples. On February 27, the Court will consider whether the Voting Rights Act is still necessary. The Court's decisions -- especially if the cases consistently rule in favor of or against extending civil rights protections -- could define the Roberts Court.

Trial and Error: Habeas Corpus, Double Jeopardy, and Reversals

It seems the Supreme Court is trying to clear its plate this week to make room for its late-term blockbuster cases. Yesterday, the Court issued four opinions, including one of the term's two dog sniff decisions. Today, the justices topped the Tuesday tally with five additional opinions.

While we're still waiting on big decisions from early arguments like Fisher v. University of Texas, the Court shared plenty of thoughts on court errors during trial. Let's take a quick look at the five decisions of the day.

The Sniff That was 'Up to Snuff' and 3 More SCOTUS Opinions

The Supreme Court decided to go big this week, drawing in Court-watchers with the only topic that could actually get people excited about the law after a three-day weekend.

That's right, folks. We've got a puppy decision.

Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court inadvertently sealed Aldo's win as the latest FindLaw Top Dog when it issued a unanimous decision in the German Shepherd's favor in Florida v. Harris.

March Madness: 10 Cases on SCOTUS Docket

We're halfway through February, so it seems like a good time to look ahead to the Supreme Court's oral argument schedule for March.

(Why live in the moment, when you can constantly look to the future? Right?)

Let's jump right into the 10 cases the Court will consider during oral arguments in March.

Who's a 'Potted Plant' Now? 6 of 9 Justices Attend 2013 SOTU

Three years ago, Justice Samuel Alito was spotted shaking his head during the State of the Union, and denouncing President Obama's explanation of the Court's Citizens United decision as "not true."

He hasn't returned since.

Justice Alito once described a justice's role in attending the State of the Union as sitting there "like the proverbial potted plant." It's a role he doesn't particularly enjoy. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas similarly abhor the SOTU. Thomas cannot abide "the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments," reports The New York Times. Scalia calls it a "juvenile spectacle."

Millbrook v. US: Will SCOTUS Expand FTCA Recovery?

We’ve all heard the phrase “Justice is blind.” While many of us question whether that adage is as true in practice as it is in theory, certain cases make us realize that the law can be blind to the bright line distinction between right and wrong.

For example, if a prisoner is sexually assaulted by prison guards, shouldn’t he be able to hold the government accountable? Last year, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that, if the assault didn’t occur during an arrest, search, or seizure, such a claim wasn’t cognizable.

Next week, the Supreme Court will review the matter to decide whether the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) waives sovereign immunity for the intentional torts of prison guards when they are acting within the scope of their employment, but not exercising authority to “execute searches, to seize evidence, or to make arrests for violations of federal law.”

Another Term, Another Arbitration Dispute

Why it seems like only yesterday that many lawyers were just trying to figure out how to pronounce Concepcion.

Alas, that was 2011, and the Supreme Court is moving on to another arbitration dispute: American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant.

The AmEx arbitration litigation has been going on for years. As in, Justice Sonia Sotomayor sat on one of the Second Circuit panels that heard the case when she was but a federal appellate judge. Again, nostalgia ...

Does the 4th Amendment Promise a Right to Be Secure in Your DNA?

It's easier for the government to take your DNA than it is for the government to take your diary.

That's weird, right?

Both contain your deepest, darkest secrets. But if you're arrested in a state like Maryland or California, the cops can automatically collect a sample of your DNA and store it in a database. Even if you're never convicted. Or charged.

Hell Hath No Fury Like an NLRB Loser Scorned

We all know the traditional protocols. When an appellate court issues a decision that would overrule a bunch of district court decisions, you appeal your adverse district court ruling to the appellate court.

But when it comes to the endless cycle of litigation prompted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recess appointments, the rules suddenly change.