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

July 2014 Archives

Algorithm Predicts SCOTUS Case Outcomes; Beat It in FantasySCOTUS

Some would argue that the Supreme Court is utterly predictable: We all know that Scalia is going to go scour the statutes, Thomas is going to complain about Commerce Clauses (dormant or otherwise), and Sotomayor is going to tick off her colleagues.

And with 9-0 decisions at a high point (66 percent this term, versus an average of 44 percent over the preceding five terms), prediction can't be that difficult, can it?

According to Prof. Josh Blackman, the creator of FantasySCOTUS, the "power predictors" hit 75 percent. Next season, FantasySCOTUS players will go up against more than a few SCOTUS nerds with lucky guesses: They'll battle a predictive algorithm designed by Blackman and his colleagues, one that predicts individual justices' votes 70.9 percent of the time, and overall affirm/reverse decisions 69.7 percent, tested against 7,000 past cases.

An Odd Motion, Ariz.'s Botched Execution, and the Supreme Court

A motion for relief filed halfway through an execution. Why have you never heard of such things? It's probably because most executions don't last two hours -- lethal injections typically take about 10 minutes.

More interesting than the motion itself was the awkward conference call where the judge heard both sides and seemed close to intervening before convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead in Arizona. As the call ended, the judge noted that this only delays the issue, and that this would have consequences for other plaintiffs.

Indeed. And though the legal arguments here were rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, one wonders how long it'll be before the issue finally (and perhaps inevitably) climbs its way back onto the docket.

Is It Already 'Too Late' for Justice Ginsburg to Retire?

Many liberals want Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire immediately, despite her status as a liberal lion and the leader of the "left" side of the bench. Conservatives want her to stick around, again, despite her political leanings and even though she's shown no signs of slowing down whatsoever.

Why? Everybody is worried about Ginsburg's potential replacement. If she retires while President Barack Obama is in office, and before this year's midterms, there's a good chance she'll be replaced with a like-minded judge, leaving the 4-4-Kennedy split. Republicans, obviously, would prefer that she hold out, hoping that 2016 brings a conservative to White House (and one to her seat as well).

We've said it before, and so has Justice Ginsburg: As long as she's able, she's not planning to step aside for anyone. But an interesting article in The Daily Beast argues that it's already too late -- a filibuster would block a liberal replacement anyway.

Off Again, On Again: Execution to Proceed After SCOTUS Nixes 9th

This was a wee bit unexpected.

Late last week, the Ninth Circuit blocked the execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood, at least temporarily, while he pursued First Amendment right-of-access claims regarding Arizona's drugs of choice for lethal injection. On Monday, eleven judges dissented from the denial of en banc rehearing, with Judge Kozinski writing a separate dissent mocking the death penalty generally.

Then the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and vacated the injunction. And then the Arizona Supreme Court issued a stay. And then they didn't.

Roundup: SCOTUS and the City, Fall Docket, Death Penalty Drugs

How many times have you stared at Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and thought to yourself, "I can't help but wonder ... isn't RBG just an older Carrier Bradshaw?" Of course you have not. But if you understand that reference at all, you'll love the newest Supreme Court parody making the rounds around the Internet.

If you don't, well, we have a list of interesting cases set for the fall. Also, even though we just talked about the death penalty on Friday, the courts are ridin' again, west sidin' again, with the Ninth Circuit staying an execution pending a challenge to a state's secret lethal injection drugs. It's an issue that we've seen crop up repeatedly, nationwide, over the last couple of years, and now, it's a circuit split.

It's also the second anti-death penalty ruling to come from the Ninth Circuit's territory (the other decision was from a district court in California) in less than a week, both of which could end up on the Supreme Court's docket.

Roundup: 'Interim' Marriages, More Marriage Cases, Cal. Cert. x2?

What a week! And we were worried that we'd be topic dry once the Supreme Court's summer session hit.

As is our usual Friday bit, we're going to do a roundup of Supreme Court-related headlines. This time, Utah is seeking a stay on "interim" marriages (same-sex couples married before the Supreme Court's grant of a stay), the Tenth Circuit rules against Oklahoma's ban, and Florida gets its first pro-gay marriage opinion.

And then there's California: foie gras and the death penalty.

Are Fisher and Affirmative Action Returning to SCOTUS?

She came, she saw, she got remanded. And now, she'll petition the Supreme Court for another grant of certiorari after the Fifth Circuit once again ruled against her.

Abigail Fisher didn't get into the University of Texas at Austin. Others, who were arguably less qualified, did under the university's "holistic" approach to admissions, which considers race as a positive, but not dispositive factor. She's now lost twice at the Fifth Circuit, so why might the Supreme Court be her best hope?

It's because a handful of justices are really are itching to end affirmative action.

Handicapping the Gay Marriage Race to SCOTUS: 3 Factors

Gay marriage is coming to the Supreme Court, sooner rather than later. And for the dozens of cases proceeding nationwide, expending resources to litigate on a state-by-state basis, the answer can't come soon enough.

How soon are we talking? Could it happen this year? And which state(s) will be the ones to get there? Utah will obviously be the first to file certiorari, as we noted last week, but will the court take the first case in the cert. pool?

Roundup: Utah Appeal, Obamacare's Next SCOTUS Date, Roberts Lied?

Happy Friday afternoon. If you're still stuck behind a desk, and done reading about LeBron James and Jeremy Lin, you're probably looking for something else to tide you over until you sneak out early.

We've got your back. Here is a roundup of the biggest end-of-the-week Supreme Court news, including Chief Justice John Roberts' alleged lie and the Supreme Court's next dates with Obamacare and gay marriage:

The Fallout: Abortion Buffer Zones, Hobby Lobby, Goodbye Ginsburg?

Supreme Court cases are interesting. But equally interesting is what happens next.

For example, who would've thought that last year's decision in Windsor would, within one year, lead to more than twenty court decisions in favor of gay marriage. Even in Justice Antonin Scalia's worst nightmares, it didn't happen that quickly.

The Court's term just ended, but the fallout has been immediate: the ruling against a Massachusetts abortion protest buffer zone has already led local governments to reevaluate their own variants of the laws, while the media continues to lament the Court's decision in the contraceptive coverage cases, especially after the Court issued a controversial order late last week regarding exemption paperwork.

And, of course, the left is still freaking out about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's age and unwillingness to retire.

Last week, the Supreme Court decided that closely-held corporations had religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), which were violated by the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act ("ACA"), in the much-publicized Hobby Lobby decision. In reaching that decision, the Court noted that filing a Form 700 accommodation "constitutes an alternative that achieves all of the Government's aims while providing greater respect for religious liberty."

Yet, days later, the same Court granted an emergency injunction of a non-profit Illinois college contesting the Form 700 accommodation, which according to them -- the solitary act of filling out a form -- violates their religious liberties.

Harris v. Quinn: No Big Deal or Slow War Against Public Unions?

All eyes have been on Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court's decision on the contraceptive mandate. But what about the other Supreme Court decision from the Court's final day, also authored by Justice Samuel Alito?

Is Harris v. Quinn a decision that we shouldn't be overlooking?