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

November 2014 Archives

RBG Undergoes Emergency Heart Surgery, Resting Comfortably

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is resting comfortably and recovering after undergoing emergency heart surgery earlier today. Last night, during one of her legendary workouts with her personal trainer, she experienced discomfort and was taken to the hospital. This morning, she had a stent put in to alleviate blockage in her right coronary artery. The two-time cancer survivor and leader of the liberal wing of the court is expected to be released in the next 48 hours, reports the Chicago Tribune.

From all of us here at FindLaw, we wish her a speedy and comfortable recovery.

Obamacare Subsidies Case: No Court or Congress Fix Likely?

By now, you probably know what the Obamacare subsidies case is all about. We've written about it plenty, after all.

The outcome of the case will depend on what remedy the Court chooses to fashion to deal with what seems like an obvious drafting error -- the provision that limits the availability of insurance subsidies to those who use state-built exchanges, rather than the federal exchange which covers the many states which declined to build their own. Will the Court "fix" the error by assuming that Congress meant something other than what the text says, or will it punt on the issue and leave it for Congress to deal with?

And if it takes the latter route, is there any chance that Congress will fix the subsidy flaw?

5 (Kind of) Thanksgiving-Related SCOTUS Rulings to Savor

There's no more American holiday than Thanksgiving. (Well, except maybe Independence Day. And doesn't Canada have a Thanksgiving, too?) A day filled with overeating, over-drinking, and then football? Sign me up!

Thanksgiving has popped up over the years at the U.S. Supreme Court as well, though it didn't involve Chief Justice Rehnquist falling asleep on the couch watching the Stanford game. It's mostly involved the "War on Christmas."

So help yourself to this bountiful cornucopia of Supreme Court rulings (OK, we actually only found five) that include Thanksgiving references -- or at least sound like they should:

Abigail Fisher Planning Another Appeal to Supreme Court

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act had better look out; in the battle over who's going to punch their SCOTUS "frequent petitioner" card first, Abigail Fisher is a close second.

Fisher, you might remember, was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 and then sued to get in, claiming the state's policy of granting admission to UT to the top 10 percent of graduating students in the state resulted in racial discrimination.

The Fifth Circuit said nope, and the Supreme Court showed marked restraint by not overturning Grutter v. Bollinger like a Lakers fan overturns a police car after a victory.

In Ala., Is Partisan Gerrymandering With a Hint of Race OK?

When does a permissible partisan gerrymander become an impermissible racial gerrymander? The U.S. Supreme Court dealt with that question in oral arguments today in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama. According to the petitioners, in 2012, the Alabama legislature redrew state legislative districts in an attempt to dilute statewide black voting power by "packing" black voters into existing majority-black districts.

Alabama contended that the 2012 gerrymandering didn't alter the racial composition of the districts; that is, they already contained a majority-black electorate. And whatever changes they did make were for partisan, not racial, reasons.

SCOTUS Grants Cert. to Obamacare Subsidies Case From 4th Cir.

The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. "Obamacare," is heading back to the U.S. Supreme Court for a third time. One more trip to the Court and the ACA gets a free Scaliawich from the court cafeteria (though admittedly it's just olives, pickles, onions, and week-old capicola on a very sourdough roll).

The Court has granted cert. to King v. Burwell, a case from the Fourth Circuit dealing with the federal tax subsidies offered in states that didn't set up their own insurance exchanges.

6th Cir. Upholds Gay Marriage Bans: Your Move, SCOTUS

Better late than never, though we're sure the Court would've rather the issue of gay marriage had been addressed never. Avoiding the issue might've been possible, had the circuit courts stayed in concert. Now, the Supreme Court may not have a choice.

A few months back, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the Sixth Circuit could force the Court's hand if it upheld gay marriage bans. Yesterday afternoon, it did just that, upholding bans in four states, calling RBG's bluff and putting SCOTUS in for all its chips.

Now, with a circuit split in place, and the ACLU already preparing their petition for certiorari (apparently en banc isn't happening?), the Court has to decide the issue of whether the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees marriage equality -- doesn't it?

SCOTUS Leaning Toward Air Marshal Whistleblower in TSA Dispute?

With the obvious caveat of oral arguments not being a perfect or even good predictor of opinions to come, the tone in Tuesday's oral arguments in DHS v. MacLean seemed to be sympathetic towards Robert MacLean, the Air Marshal whistleblower, rather than his former employer, the Transportation Security Administration.

The legal issue is the conflict between the federal whistleblower law, which encourages employees to come forward when there is a "danger to public heath or safety" and the Aviation and Transportation Safety Act, which has its own national security goals and allows the government to make "Secret Security Information (SSI)" semi-classified, preventing its disclosure.

Of course, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out during oral arguments, "the facts are very much in [MacLean's] favor here." He blew the whistle on the TSA's attempt to pull all Air Marshals from flights after taking it up with his supervisors internally, plus the information wasn't classified as SSI until three years later.

Movember? You'll Never Beat These SCOTUS Facial Hair Legends

FindLaw, a part of Thomson Reuters, celebrates Movember because we are awesome. Last year in honor of Movember/No Shave November, we talked about how to survive the month in a professional environment. Trust us: It's worth the read.

Upon laying eyes on Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.'s magnificent stache, however, I couldn't help but wonder: What other legendary Supreme Court facial hair was out there? Sure, today none of the justices consistently rock facial follicles, but what about the grand and glorious past?

We'll start with the notables, move to the complete index of SCOTUS mustaches and beards, and then conduct a poll for G.O.A.T. (not goatee, but rather the Greatest Of All Time):