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

June 2014 Archives

Hobby Lobby: SCOTUS Says Corporations Have Religious Rights

If we had told you that today's Obamacare birth control mandate would be a matter of statutory interpretation, and that five conservative justices would vote against the mandate in the name of corporations' religious rights, would that at all surprise you?

Today's decision was exactly that: closely held corporations have religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and therefore, can't be forced to provide birth control to their employees through Obamacare-mandated health coverage. The decision is based on the text of the statutes themselves, as well as the holding that there are less restrictive means for providing birth control: having someone else pay for it by extending the exception for religious nonprofits to closely held corporations with religious owners.

Abortion Protest Buffer Zone Struck Down in Weird Opinion


This is a weird opinion. That's not to say that it is correct or incorrect: facing a balance between free speech rights of peaceful anti-abortion protestors and a woman's right to obtain reproductive health services, the Court sided with free speech unanimously, while five justices suggested that there might be other avenues for protecting those headed in to abortion clinics.

But just a few years ago, the Court upheld a buffer zone in Colorado, one which was barely mentioned in the McCullen opinion. Also, the opinion bends over backwards to hold that the statute is content-neutral, only to strike it down anyway under a lower standard of scrutiny as insufficiently tailored, all while Justice Scalia protested in concurrence.

Obama Loses in Recess Appointment Case; So Does Scalia

The question has never been whether the Obama administration would lose in the Noel Canning recess appointments case -- it was how badly they would lose. And lose they did, though the damage was limited by a Justice Stephen Breyer opinion that meandered through history to come up with a recess is a real recess if it's more than three and probably not less than ten unless it's a really scary vacancy rule.

Needless to say, Justice Antonin Scalia wasn't happy. He was so unhappy, in fact, that he not only wrote a classic Scalia rant, but he also read his concurrence from the bench -- an odd and rare move that typically only happens with passionate dissents.

SCOTUS: Cell Phone Searches Incident to Arrest Require a Warrant

A simple title for a simple case with a simple resolution:

Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans "the privacies of life," [...] The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple -- get a warrant.

That's right: in terms of the Fourth Amendment, the smartphone and even the flip-phone, with all of the data they contain, are not akin to patting down a pack of cigarettes in a suspect's pocket.

Looking for today's opinions in ABC v. Aereo and Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer? Check out our additional SCOTUS coverage on our Technologist and In House blogs, respectively.

Securities Class Actions, Greenhouse Gas, And Bank Fraud Mens Rea

It's another busy Monday on First Street, with opinions handed down in cases involving securities class actions ("fraud on the market"), EPA greenhouse gas regulation (can they do that?) and the mental state of mind required to be convicted of a federal bank fraud statute.

It's a weird assortment of cases, and probably not the ones you were hoping for, but if environmentalism, holding corporations accountable, or making a federal case out of passing bad checks is your thing, read on for the roundup:

Latest Lot: Software Patents Limited, Free Speech Firing, Taxes

Once, twice, three times unanimous. In a highly uncontroversial lot of opinions, the Supreme Court tackled a long list of tasks: limiting abstract software patents, clarifying that a public employee can't be fired over compelled testimony, and providing a reasonable means to challenge the motive behind the tax man's subpoenas.

We know -- it's not exactly the big, bad cases you were hoping for, but like all special snowflakes, these opinions will have an impact in the real world.

Straw Purchasers, Political Speech, and Argentina's Bad Day

Now we're getting to the good stuff. Last week, we helped your insomnia by recapping the juice man's juiceless juice and incomprehensible cross-ideological splits -- not the sort of stuff that anyone but SCOTUS diehards can sit through without being rendered unconscious through boredom.

Fortunately, Monday has arrived, and with it, a questionable gun straw-purchaser holding, an opinion that will allow Ohio's terrible political speech restriction to be challenged, and maybe, just maybe, the collapse of a nation's economy thanks to SCOTUS and Wall Street vultures creditors.

Friday Fun Day: Conservative Cred, Rappers v. SCOTUS, Dogs Out

It's quittin' time in three hours around these parts, which means one thing: running the clock out like an NFL team with the lead. You don't want to think, do you? (If you do, check out our coverage from earlier this week -- it's fun and informative!)

Instead, let's have a little bit of fun with a roundup of some Supreme Court-related things we've stumbled upon across the Internet this week, including Jay Z v. Scalia, calculating your conservative credentials, and a peek at what's to come in the next two weeks:

2 Burning Questions Answered Re: Inherited IRAs and Lanham Claims

Have you ever stayed up late at night, unable to sleep, wondering if maybe, just maybe, your inherited IRA assets might be exposed to creditors in bankruptcy? Don't worry, you are not alone.

Or perhaps, maybe, just maybe, you thought to yourself: Pomegranate juice? Coca Cola, dag nabbit, there ain't hardly any juice in this here drink at all! And instead of lying there, disillusioned over the lies of a corporate behemoth, you sought to strike back. Have you ever wondered if you could, perhaps using the Lanham Act?

Today's Notable Denials, SCOTUS Snoozers, and More Odd Lineups

Were you one of those people who loved logic games? I was.

As an LSAT teacher, I did every logic game ever released, including the weird non-standard games from the 1980s. Despite my affinity for logic games, however, today's batch of opinions was no fun at all: pluralities, partial concurrences and dissents, and one decision sure to titillate Court-watchers: a unanimous opinion dealing with the bankruptcy courts' ability to hear "core" and "non-core" matters as defined in Stern. (And no, there won't be a quiz on that last part.)

But it wasn't all mind-numbing news -- there were notable denials, interesting cross-ideological splits in the Court, and more. Here's the quick version of the day's news:

SCOTUS End of Term: 5 Most Interesting Cases Left on the Docket

The Supreme Court goes on hiatus at the end of this month, leaving us with nothing but a reading list to tide us over until the fall. And like every year, the last month of the term is set to be the biggest.

What's left on the docket? While there is no holy crap case with widespread appeal, like last year's Windsor and Perry, there are a number of fascinating disputes remaining, covering free speech, presidential power, healthcare, and the Fourth Amendment, for legal geeks to pine over.

Here are our top five, from least to most interesting:

Case of the Mondays: Supreme Court Grants, Denials, and 3 Opinions

Mondays aren't all bad. Sure, they mean traffic, a return to work, and a desperate need to run to Chotchkie's, but for Supreme Court junkies, at least while the Court is in session, Mondays can bring an orders list full of certiorari grants and denials, plus merits opinions.

We've got all of the above today, and better yet: it's mostly interesting. The Court has declined to address the reporter's shield or privilege in an appeal from a New York Times reporter and author, but will address the touchy matter of gerrymandering congressional districts. The Court also double-reversed the Federal Circuit again, and handed down an opinion in the housewife's revenge via chemical weapons case.