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

September 2016 Archives

The new Supreme Court term doesn't begin until Monday, but it got its unofficial kickoff yesterday, as the Court released orders from this week's "long conference," granting cert in eight new cases.

Lucky for us, they're eight pretty interesting cases. The disputes include questions over immigration law, the educational rights of children with disabilities, immigration and "crimes of violence," credit card fees, and attorney misconduct. There's even an Indian Law case titled Lewis v. Clarke. Here's a quick preview of the new additions.

Congress's approval ratings are at historical lows. The presidential elections have left little to be desired. When it comes to the federal government, Americans find little they can be happy with. Except the Supreme Court.

The judiciary is now the most popular branch of government, with the Supreme Court viewed favorably by 60 percent of Americans, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. The Court beat out President Obama, who has a 50 percent approval rating, and absolutely eclipsed Congress's sad 20 percent approval rating in the governmental popularity contest.

As the new Supreme Court term gets ever closer, we can start to see how the upcoming months might play out: some intriguing criminal cases, important debates about race and the justice system, a fascinating free exercise issue involving used tires, and very little labor law.

Of the 31 cert petitions the Court has granted for the new term, only one directly involves labor and employment law issues: National Labor Relations Board v. SW General, over whether the NLRB's former acting general counsel could properly bring unfair labor practice complaints. It's a case dealing with arcane but important issues, with potentially significantly impacts not just the Board but the entire federal bureaucracy.

In May, Donald Trump released a list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees, a group of, as Trump described them, "great conservative judges, great intellects, the people that you want." But it seems that the Republican nominee for president wasn't totally content with just those 11.

On Friday, Trump released a list of 10 more candidates he would consider nominating to the Supreme Court, should he win the presidency in November. "This list is definitive and I will choose only from it in picking future justices of the United States Supreme Court," Trump said in a statement.

So far, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear just over 30 cases during the upcoming term, but that number is sure to balloon in the coming weeks and months. Next week, for example, the Court will begin its "long conference," going through the cert petitions that have accumulated over the summer, followed by more cert reviews as the term goes on.

But the Court's makeup could be pushing it to accept some petitions while passing on others. The "shorthanded and ideologically divided Court," Reuters' Lawrence Hurley reports, is "showing a keen interest in more technical cases," such as intellectual property disputes. Among the drier cases that the Court could take up is a dispute over a dancing baby and a controversy over an offensive band name.

The 1794 Supreme Court case of Georgia v. Brailsford doesn't get much attention these days. It's not one of the Court's best cases, or worst cases. It didn't play a major role in shaping modern practice and it doesn't have much to do with today's legal disputes. Most lawyers have probably never heard of it. If they have, it is likely because Brailsford is the only Supreme Court jury trial ever reported.

But in the early days of the republic, and of the Court, Brailsford was a landmark case, one dealing with international law, the role of the new states in the federal government, and even the legitimacy of the Court. So yesterday, on the case's 222nd anniversary, three Supreme Court justices gathered in the same Philadelphia courtroom where the case was originally heard to reenact the dispute.

The Supreme Court's summer recess ends next Monday, as the justices return to review the petitions for certiorari that have accumulated over the summer.

And while that "long conference," as it's known, may add a few new interesting cases to the Court's docket, the Supreme Court already has quite the term in store for it: cases covering everything from the legality of ATM fees to the separation of church and state. Here are seven that we'll be following closely, and that you should too.

What could be the upcoming term's most interesting case isn't a dispute over controversial subjects like gay rights or immigration. It doesn't involve boldface names or the continued existence of massive government programs. No one's life hangs in the balance.

It's Trinity Lutheran v. Pauley, and it's a battle over used tires and religion -- or rather, whether a church in Missouri can have access to a state program that helps resurface playgrounds with rubber from ground up scrap tires. But as peculiar as this conflict might be, it could have a significant impact on religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

Thirty years ago, the Supreme Court decided the case of Batson v. Kentucky, ruling that dismissing potential jurors solely because of their race was unconstitutional and putting one of the first limits on the otherwise unrestrained use of peremptory challenges.

Depending on who you ask, Batson was either a triumph or a farce, a sign of the legal system's commitment to fair trials or a toothless opinion that has been easily evaded. In today's recap of "More Perfect," NPR's Supreme Court podcast, we look back at the people behind Batson and the debate the landmark decision still engenders today.

Just in time for back to school, the legal world got a brand new ranking. And no, it's not U.S. News reselling the same list of the top 14 law schools in America again (and again, and again). A new study by researchers at the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, looks at the influence legal scholars have on the profession, by tallying how often their works are cited in court opinions. Consider it a ranking of the most important law professors in the nation.

Some of the results are surprising. Let's take a look.

What makes the Supreme Court supreme? Why is it the final arbiter on the validity of laws and the meaning of the Constitution? The answer, of course, is Marbury v. Madison. But it wasn't always so. In the earliest days of the Court, the institution was hardly as august as it is today -- and getting to that point involved some strange dealings and significant power struggles.

So, in today's recap of "More Perfect," NPR's new podcast on Supreme Court history, we're looking at Marbury v. Madison -- and the history of scorned romances, bacon-faced judges, and dank potato holes that gave rise to one of the Supreme Court's most important decisions ever.

For decades, the Supreme Court has been filled with justices who did not believe in William Shakespeare. Indeed, for only the past few months has the Supreme Court been free of anti-Shakespeare conspiracy theorists.

The highest court in the land apparently has a long history of harboring Shakespeare-denying jurists, a shadowy cabal of so-called "Oxfordians" who reject the idea that "Hamlet," "Macbeth," and "Romeo and Juliet" were written by William Shakespeare.