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

February 2016 Archives

Start building your arks, carving out your bunkers, or stocking up on canned food, because surely the end is upon us. The sky must be dark; the oceans must have turned to blood. Somewhere, I think, four horsemen are trotting this way.

After ten years of silence, Justice Thomas asked a question during oral arguments today.

When the Supreme Court reconvened on Monday to hear its first oral arguments since Justice Scalia's passing, the justice's regular chair sat empty, draped in black. For a man who had such an impact on the court, and particularly on its oral arguments, Scalia's absence was palpable.

Now, with only eight justices left to hear and decide cases for the immediate future, how will oral arguments and the Supreme Court be affected? These first few days of arguments, along with some comments from Justice Alito, might give us a hint.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in the case of Taylor v. United States, a case involving the interstate commerce element of the Hobbs Act. The Hobbs Act makes robbery and extortion a federal crime, should those acts affect commerce. In this case, David Taylor, a member of Virginia's "Southwest Goonz" gang, was convicted under the Hobbs Act for robbing drug dealers of their marijuana. But, Taylor argues, the government never proved that his robbery affected interstate commerce since all that weed was Virginia-grown.

The arguments were, fittingly perhaps, a bit ... odd.

Well, here's a first. President Obama has taken a step up in the world and become a Supreme Court blogger. Welcome to the club, Mr. President!

Facing increased Republican opposition to a speedy (or any kind, really) Scalia replacement, the president took to the pages of SCOTUSblog this morning, explaining his commitment to appointing a new justice and giving us a glance into just what he's looking for in the next member of the Supreme Court.

It's been exactly ten years, 3,652 days, and about 800 oral arguments since Justice Thomas last asked a question from the Supreme Court bench. The justice's last active participation in an oral argument was February 22nd, 2006, according to The New York Times.

What's behind Justice Thomas's unbreakable vow of silence and is there any chance we'll hear from him in the future?

The body of the late Justice Scalia is laid out in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court today, where it's expected to see thousands of visitors come pay their respects: President Obama, Congress members, famous attorneys, and tourists alike.

But while much of the world continues to morn Justice Scalia's passing -- and argue about his potential replacements -- some are wondering if his death at a Texas ranch revealed a possible ethics lapse. The justice's final hunting trip, it seems, had been hosted by a businessman with business before the Supreme Court.

It's one of the three branches of government, but also one of the least understood. Except for a few weeks in June, when the Court releases its most important decisions, and when it comes time to appoint a new justice, the Supreme Court largely flies under the public's radar. (Way under. A surprising percentage of the American public think Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court.)

If you pay attention, though, you know the Court is a fascinating place -- and not just because it has the final say on the law. From its secrets to its history to its bizarre procedures, here are seven strange, little-known Supreme Court facts.

When Justice Scalia passed away last Saturday, talk turned immediately to his potential replacements. And we mean immediately. Before the paper of record had even uploaded Justice Scalia's obituary, DC insiders were declaring that they would rush or block a replacement.

And if you've been following those discussions, you've probably heard one name over and over again: Sri Srinivasan. Srinivasan is a good and likely candidate, but he's hardly the only one. Here are seven more you should know.

During his nearly 30 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia left an indelible mark on the country's jurisprudence. To paraphrase J.K. Galbraith, we're all originalists now -- whether we like it or not.

Here are Justice Scalia's most influential decisions from the Supreme Court, covering everything from standing to video games. Some of them may surprise you.

A divided Supreme Court blocked implementation of the EPA's Clean Power Plan on Tuesday. The stay, issued in response to five challenges to the plan, means that the Obama administration may not take any steps to implement its key climate change strategy, which would have drastically limited greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

It's unusual for the Court to stay federal regulations in response to a challenge and the move may indicate that many justices hold serious doubts about the Clean Power Plan's legality.

From the past to the present, there have been hundreds of laws that seek to "protect" women by denying them full rights: laws shielding women from the corrupting influence of politics, and voting; laws guarding women from hearing "sordid evidence," by keeping them off juries; laws keeping women from dangerous work as high-paid pharmacists, but not low-paid janitors. And now, at least in Texas, those laws include protecting women from medical risks associated with abortion by virtually eliminating their access to it.

Let's call these "White Knight" laws. They're laws that seek to save women from the harms of the world, by simultaneously denied them full citizenship, liberty, and economic and political participation. According to a recent amicus brief in Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt, those laws warrant extra scrutiny from the Supreme Court.

U.S. Senator from Texas and current presidential hopeful, Ted Cruz, was born in Canada. Normally, that wouldn't matter much. Cruz's Canadian roots haven't made him politer, more boring, or any better at hockey.

But, those roots might make it harder for him to become president, for the U.S. Constitution reserves the role of commander in chief for "natural born citizens." Now, many legal academics are weighing in on whether Cruz's birth in the nation to our north could keep him from leading the United States. Here's what they're saying.

Happy Birthday, Justice Alito! No, Samuel Alito doesn't turn ten today (he'll turn 66 this April Fool's day, however). Instead, this week saw Justice Alito celebrating his tenth anniversary as a Supreme Court justice.

To celebrate, we're pulling together our favorite Alito-related posts. For while Justice Alito often gets overlooked -- he doesn't have the acid bite of conservative colleague Justice Scalia, nor does he require the same fawning attention as Justice Kennedy, and he lacks some of the swag of the Notorious R.B.G. -- his role on the court is more important than many recognize.

The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act allows Native American tribes to take over certain aid programs that would otherwise be the responsibility of the federal government. The Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin did just that, entering into a "self-determination contract" with the Indian Health Services.

Contracting tribes are eligible to receive money that the U.S. government would have spent on the program, but many have complained that the federal government has often failed to fully reimburse contract support cost. Those dissatisfied tribes include the Menominee, who sued after years of conflict with the federal government -- only to have some of their claims rejected for falling outside the statute of limitations. The tribe argued that equitable tolling should allow them to pursue their claims, but the Supreme Court unanimously rejected that argument on January 25th. Here's why.

Can't get enough of Justice Scalia? Want to know when Justice Sotomayor makes a stop in your town? Figuring out how to stalk your favorite Supreme Court justice isn't as hard as it might seem, thanks to a handy map that lets you know where the justices have been, are, and will be.

SCOTUS Map is a project of Victoria Kwan and Jay Pinho and regularly lists the public appearances of the Supreme Court nine. Let's poke around.