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

April 2013 Archives

Court DIGs Boyer v. Louisiana, Affirms McBurney v. Young

The Supreme Court disposed of two more matters on its to-do list this morning, but it only issued one opinion.

Today, we have a unanimous opinion in McBurney v. Young and a DIG in Boyer v. Louisiana.

Let’s discuss what happened.

This Week at First Street: Arguments End and NLRB Showdown Begins

As spring actually starts to feel like spring, we're experiencing the same of end-of-school emotions that consume most high school kids this time of year: excitement and relief.

Exam season for SCOTUS litigators concluded on Wednesday as the Court heard its final pair of arguments for the 2012 Term: Metrish v. Lancaster and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar. Now the wait for grades and graduation the remaining opinions of the term begins.

SCOTUS Won't Stand in the Way of Beer and COLA

If you spent Monday perusing the latest Supreme Court orders, then you may have noticed that the government is contesting Beer. (Ugh, Mondays.) For those of you following along with the federal judges’ cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) battle, U.S. v. Beer should ring a bell. That’s the case challenging a government decision to withhold COLAs guaranteed under the Ethics Reform Act of 1989.

The Act amended compensation and ethics rules for all three branches of the government. For judges, it limited the outside income they could earn and the honoraria they could accept, but provided for automatic COLAs — like other federal employees receive — to ensure that judges’ salaries would keep up with inflation.

A Couple of Joints (Probably) Won't Get You Deported

Adrian Moncrieffe, a Jamaican citizen, came to the U.S. legally in 1984, when he was three. During a 2007 traffic stop, police found 1.3 grams of marijuana in his car. That’s about two or three joints. Moncrieffe pleaded guilty in Georgia to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Under a state statute providing more lenient treatment to first-time offenders, the trial court withheld entering a judgment of conviction or imposing any term of imprisonment, and instead required that Moncrieffe complete five years of probation, after which his charge will be expunged altogether.

The federal government, however, was not so generous, and tried to have Moncrieffe deported.

SCOTUS Sends Federal Rules Amendments to Congress

You thought that this was going to be just another uneventful Friday afternoon on First Street? Au contraire! The Supreme Court is rocking your world with rule changes today.

Earlier this week, Chief Justice John Roberts sent Congress proposed changes to all your favorite sets of federal rules: Appellate Procedure, Bankruptcy Procedure, Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence. Those proposals were posted on the Supreme Court’s website Friday afternoon.

'Presumption Against Extraterritoriality' Bars Alien Tort Claim

A group of Nigerian plaintiffs claim that Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and Shell Transport and Trading Company -- which you probably know as Shell Oil -- aided and abetted the Nigerian government in committing human rights abuses against them. Those abuses included beating, raping, and arresting people, and destroying or looting property.

The plaintiffs sued the oil company in the U.S. under the Alien Tort Statute in 2002. Eleven years later, they have officially lost their case because the presumption against extraterritoriality applies to claims under the ATS, and the statute doesn't rebut that presumption.

SCOTUS Press Office Doesn't Proofread Student Newspapers

Lewis and Clark Law School Dean Robert Klonoff has an impressive résumé. According to the school’s website, he graduated from Yale Law School, clerked for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and worked as an Assistant to the Solicitor General. He’s even argued before the Supreme Court eight times.

But he clearly doesn’t know that first thing about Supreme Court press policies.

Salinas v. Texas: Is Silence Golden?

Three years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Berghuis v. Thompkins that a criminal suspect must affirmatively invoke his right to refuse questions. The Washington Post characterized the holding as "speak up ... to remain silent."

This month, the Court will revisit the right to remain silent to decide whether the Fifth Amendment protects a suspect who clams up during pre-arrest questioning.

US v. Davila: Can a Judge Advise a Defendant to Go to the Cross?

Anthony Davila pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by obtaining false tax refunds. But he didn’t really want to plead guilty. He actually wanted a new lawyer.

Davila asked a magistrate judge to discharge his court-appointed attorney because that counsel had not discussed any strategies except a guilty plea. The judge told Davila that sometimes, pleading was the best option.

Will the SCOTUS Actually Resolve Genetic Patents This Time?

The Supreme Court will start its final sitting of the 2012 Term with what might be the most controversial intellectual property case of the year, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc.

The case presents a simple question about a complex process: Are human genes patentable?

The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has twice ruled that they are, but the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Mayo v. Prometheus Laboratories casts doubt on that theory.

Friends With Benefits: Who Are the SCOTUS Amicus All-Stars?

Adam Chandler is something of a certiorari numbers buff. When Chandler isn't hard at work as an attorney in the Appellate Section of the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department, he's crunching numbers about cert-stage amicus briefs.

Five years ago, Chandler used his mathematical wizardry to annoint a group of Supreme Court cert-stage all-stars. All-star status was awarded based on the number of amicus briefs that a friend of the Court submitted during a three-year period, and the corresponding number of petitions granted.

Now, Chandler has a new report on the all-stars at SCOTUSblog. While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is now a two-time MVP, there are a several interesting newcomers to the all-star ranks.

Death, Taxes, and SCOTUS: The April Oral Argument List

Benjamin Franklin (paraphrasing Christopher Bullock) said “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

This April, there is one more certainty on Tax Day: The final session of the Supreme Court’s 2012 Term will kick off with arguments about gene patenting on Monday, April 15.

Alas, today is the sad day that we are sharing the final Supreme Court oral argument schedule for the final sitting of the term. Let’s see what’s on the Court’s plate this month, shall we?

SCOTUS to Allow Cameras in Court

Chief Justice John Roberts announced on Facebook this morning that the Supreme Court has shifted its position on cameras in the Court.

"In light of the overwhelming response to the same-day audio recordings in the same-sex marriage cases last week, we are moving forward with a new plan to introduce the Court into multimedia platforms including television and social media," the Chief Justice wrote in a post that has already received over six million "likes."