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

July 2015 Archives

For those of you who can't wait for the Supreme Court to get back from summer recess, there's some good news. No, the Court hasn't decided to call its vacation off. But it has released the schedule for the first oral arguments of the 2015 term.

All told, the Court will hear 11 cases in its first sitting. The topics covered range from relatively mundane to pretty dang interesting. Here's a quick overview of a few of the best:

You may see Obamacare back in front of the Supreme Court next term, at least if religious nonprofits have their way. Just over a year ago, the Court ruled in Hobby Lobby that the Affordable Care Act must accommodate the religious objections of closely held corporations.

Now, the court is facing a slew of cert petitions from Catholic nonprofits, nunsRoman Catholic colleges, and others who say that their religious freedom is still violated ... even with the accommodations.

The nonprofits all object to being involved with Obamacare's contraception mandate in any manner. They've all made similar legal arguments. They've all lost -- repeatedly. Will the Supreme Court be more sympathetic to their objections?

You might be forgiven for sometimes forgetting that there are nine Justices on the Supreme Court. After all, when it comes to getting attention in the news, not even the "Notorious RBG" can surpass Justice Scalia's reach. Love him or hate him, Justice Antonin "Nino" Scalia is by far the most well-known of The Nine.

That popularity, or notoriety, has spawned a whole Scalia industry. There are Scalia books, Scalia dolls, Scalia op-eds, Scalia operas. There's enough Scalia to keep you busy throughout the Court's whole recess. Here's a quick overview.

Most Americans want term limits for Supreme Court Justices, according to a recent poll by Reuters and Ipsos. Two thirds of the country supports imposing term limits on the Justices, which would require a constitutional amendment. Support for the limits is bipartisan, with just a slim 17 percent wanting to maintain the status quo. Presumably, that 17 percent consists entirely of America's lawyers.

Of course, the public is wrong and the lawyers are right. Here's why.

June is typically the Supreme Court Justices' busiest month. It finds them finishing up their most divided and controversial decisions, holding extra opinion days, and releasing opinions at a much higher pace than the rest of the year. But when it's done, so are they. Unlike the rest of us, the Supreme Court Justices get the summer off.

That doesn't mean they don't keep busy, however. Here's a quick overview of how some of the Justices spend their summer vacation:

John Roberts and Alfred Postell both graduated Harvard Law School in 1979. After graduation, Roberts went on to clerk for Judge Friendly, while Postell practiced tax law in a prestigious firm. Their lives diverged as they advanced. John Roberts became Deputy Solicitor General, a Supreme Court litigator, federal judge, and eventually Chief Justice. Postell was overtaken by schizophrenia. He lost his job and his home.

The two still remain close, at least physically. While Chief Justice Roberts sits on the Supreme Court bench, Postell spends his days homeless on the streets of D.C., just a block from the White House and a short walk away from the Supreme Court.

It's been a long and historical term for the Supreme Court. The High Court has issued momentous rulings upholding Obamacare, recognizing a constitutional right to marriage equality, expanding anti-discrimination law, and knocking down environmental regulations. Oh, and it ruled that fish weren't tangible objects, at least not the kind that the corporate-focused Sarbanes-Oxley Act had in mind when prohibiting evidence destruction.

As always, many important rulings didn't make major headlines. Here are three cases that deserve more attention than they got, both for their immediate impact and what they might tell us about future decisions.

One of the more curious parts of the Supreme Court is that the venom and vitriol that can sneak into Supreme Court opinions often belies the close friendships between the Justices. Indeed, some of the most ideologically opposed Justices maintain the closest connection. We're talking, of course, about Nino Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The friendship between the two, forged through their conflicts on the bench is, well, almost operatic. Now it is literally operatic, memorialized by composer and law school grad Derrick Wang in the one act opera "Scalia/Ginsburg." The piece debuts this Saturday at the Castleton Festival in Virginia.

It's not easy to make a career in crime these days. The banks are cracking down on scoff-law traders, Google Earth is tracking your illegal logging, and even old-fashioned, violent criminals are routinely given decade-long sabbaticals due to sentencing enhancements.

Under the Armed Career Criminal Act, certain violent offenders are subject to mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years if they have been thrice convicted of crimes involving "a serious potential risk of physical injury to another."

If you happen to flip through to the Discovery Channel this week, you'll notice that it's "Shark Week," the station's wildly successful tribute to the attorneys of the sea. In honor of our gilled-brethren, we here at FindLaw are celebrating shark week ourselves with a look at legal sharks throughout the profession.

Don't think that sharks are limited to private practice, either. There have been plenty of sharky lawyers on the Supreme Court throughout the years. Here are three we think are of particular note.

Your local No Tell Motel can truly live up to its name, thanks to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court. Last week, the High Court gave a wink and nod to secret lovers and hotel clerks throughout the land, ruling that laws allowing police to inspect hotel registries without a warrant are unconstitutional.

Of course, those registries weren't just tracking your evening visits to the love shack, they were often used to investigate all sorts of criminal behavior, from murder to meth making. The laws required hotels to record guest information and turn it over to the police on demand. Such laws are a facially unconstitutional violation of the Fourth Amendment, the Court ruled.

With all the attention given to the Supreme Court's recent rulings on Obamacare, same-sex marriage, and the death penalty, it was easy to overlook several other important decisions. For example, last Thursday, the Supreme Court recognized that housing policies which have a disproportionate impact of certain groups can violate the Fair Housing Act.

The ruling is the first time the Supreme Court has approved disparate impact claims, though they have been used widely for decades. The decision allows advocates to maintain a major tool in fighting housing discrimination, where intentional discrimination can often be hard to establish.