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November 2013 Archives

Secret Service, Immunity, Protestors, and Viewpoint Discrimination

What's more important: free speech or the safety and security of the President?

Ideally, we'd have both, but the government is arguing, in a case granted review by the Supreme Court earlier this week, that a recent holding by the Ninth Circuit ensures that the President's security detail will be worried about lawsuits by protestors, rather than protecting the Commander-in-Chief.

The protestors sued, alleging viewpoint discrimination, after they were forced to move two blocks away from former President George W. Bush during a campaign trip in 2004, while supporters were able to remain closer. The Ninth Circuit denied immunity and allowed the lawsuit to proceed, stating that there was no reason, whatsoever, for the disparate treatment.

And much like the protestors want their voices to be heard, here is a roundup of various takes on the case:

Court Grants Cert. in Two Obamacare Contraception Cases

We didn't have to be Miss Cleo or the late Sylvia Browne to figure this one out. With a widening chasm between circuit courts' opinions regarding the so-called Obamacare contraception mandate, it was only a matter of time before the Court granted certiorari in at least one of the lower courts' cases.

And after the court asked for the Solicitor General's input, and the government agreed that certiorari was appropriate, it was a near-certainty that the Court would take the case.

Well, the wait (for cert) is finally over. This morning, the Court agreed to hear and consolidate the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases, which could decide the limits of a corporation's religious rights, and by extension, could strike the provisions of Obamacare that require employers to pay for health plans that provide contraception, including the ever-controversial "morning after" pills.

The Supreme Court's Death Penalty Problem: Drugs, Vague Standards

How long can the status quo hold?

In the face of a new wave of death penalty problems and legal challenges, the Supreme Court refused to intervene, leaving three cases, involving drugs used in executions, the standard for mental retardation, and judicial overriding of jury sentencing, in place.

Though the court didn't hear these cases, these three issues seem particularly capable of repetition:

Supreme Court Declines to Block Texas Abortion Restrictions

The Supreme Court caught us all off-guard by releasing a separate order this afternoon, less than a week after receiving the state's briefs in the case. In the order, the court declined to step in to the Texas abortion restriction battle, at least for now.

In a 5-4 split along conservative-liberal lines, the Court declined to vacate a stay entered by the Fifth Circuit, which in practical terms means that the Texas abortion restrictions, most notably the rule requiring providers to have practicing privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the clinic, will remain in effect, at least until the Fifth Circuit hears the expedited appeal of the case in January.

Alito Questions Judge's Race and Gender Criteria for Class Counsel

Much like women who are online dating receive far more suitors than they can handle, the Supreme Court gets asked for a date far more often than it can (or will) accept. As a result, the grant rate for certiorari is a bit less than 1 percent.

With that in mind, the Monday orders list is usually a sad, yet uneventful waiting room full of spurned parties. Today? It was far from a riot, but there were a few notable cases, including the court's denial of a writ of mandamus in an NSA surveillance case and this, a half-hearted benchslap by Justice Alito.

2 More Circuits Issue Contraception Rulings; Hurry Up SCOTUS!

We're still waiting ...

Late last month, after the Solicitor General responded to three anti-Obamacare petitions for certiorari, we were pretty sure that the Court was going to take up the issue of the contraception mandate. After all, the Tenth, Sixth, Third, and Fourth Circuits have all issued conflicting rulings on whether a corporation has religious rights, and whether those rights are trampled upon by the Affordable Care Act's so-called contraception mandate.

Plus, the Solicitor General agreed that the court should take up the issue, at least in the Hobby Lobby case out of the Tenth Circuit. Now, add the D.C. Circuit and the Seventh Circuit to the list of courts pressing the issue. Seriously, SCOTUS: it's time.

Abortion Cases: Okla. Rejected (Again), Texas Briefs SCOTUS

No, it's not your imagination. There is a storm brewing. Pro-life activists are passing dozens of controversial abortion restrictions in state legislatures throughout the country, hoping and praying that the challenges will reach our increasingly conservative Supreme Court. According to USA Today, 92 abortion restrictions were passed in 24 states in 2011. In 2012, 43 more were added to the books.

No such luck, at least so far. Fresh off a rejection of an appeal from Oklahoma over the state's ban on so-called "off-label" medical abortions, Oklahoma once again felt the sting of a SCOTUS rejection, even though there was a bit of a circuit split to resolve. Plus, Texas turned its eye to SCOTUS to defend its new geographic restriction.

SCOTUSblog Seeking Press Credential and a Buyer?

Other than the Supreme Court itself, there is one place where we all go to look for the latest news from the nation's high court: SCOTUSblog. Lawyers, students, reporters, bloggers, and even the judges themselves follow the blog, which provides constant coverage of everything Court-related, from opinion orders, to oral arguments. The blog has become so authoritative, that it is often mistaken for the actual court, especially on Twitter.

And yet, despite their authoritative reputation, the blog, which will soon be sporting a "For Sale" sign, lacks a press credential.

Friday Roundup: Clever Infographic, Breyer's Admission, and More

Much like last week, we're going to keep this quick. After all, it's Friday, you've already gone home, and no one is reading this (until Monday. Yay procrastination.)

What's the skinny on SCOTUS this week? Not a whole lot, to be honest, other than Justice Stephen Breyer possibly outting himself (gasp!) as an atheist or nonbeliever. There's also a pretty funny infographic making the rounds, which should put a smile on your SCOTUS-loving faces.

SCOTUS: Sorry, Your Lawyer Was Unethical But Not Per Se Ineffective

A lawyer takes over a case a few days before his client is set to be the star witness in her aunt's murder trial. He doesn't consult the prior attorney. He almost certainly doesn't read the case file in full. And he agrees to take the case on the unethical condition that he obtains the media rights to his client's story.

According to Justice Ginsburg's separate concurrence, he even guaranteed that he could win at trial. His client then withdraws her plea.

Fred Toca is now disbarred for unrelated reasons. His client, Vonlee Titlow, after backing out of the deal, was herself convicted of second-degree murder.

Abortion Case Nixed, 9th Already Reversed, Cy Pres Procrastinated

Busy Monday.

This morning, the court released an orders list with quite a few surprises, including the Court's response to the Oklahoma Supreme Court's certified question answers in the medical abortion (RU-486 "off-label") dispute, a per curium reversal of a Ninth Circuit decision (the fun starts early, apparently), and finally, with a Schwarzenegger-esque, "we'll be back" sort-of-statement, Chief Justice Roberts announced the denial of certiorari in Mark v. Lane, a Facebook class-action settlement case.

Interested in the short version, rather than the court's 27-page orders list? Read on:

Friday Roundup: The Big Painting, Boobies Case and Fantasy SCOTUS

It's Friday, and your attention span is probably shot. Mine certainly is. We'll keep this quick.

What's the latest in this ever-so-quiet week on First Street? Well, the first four females of the Court just got the ultimate artistic tribute, a Pennsylvania case involving breast cancer charities and the word "boobies" might be making its way south to the High Court docket, and we're setting our lineups for FantasySCOTUS.