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

May 2017 Archives

High Court Tosses Ninth Circuit's 'Provocation Rule' in Excessive Force Cases

In what the U.S. Supreme Court called a 'fundamental flaw' in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, the high court said the 'provocation rule' cannot be used to hold police liable for excessive force.

Reversing the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the unanimous court said that the circuit's "provocation rule" was a "novel and unsupported path to liability." When police had not used excessive force, the rule allowed courts to hold them liable anyway if they provoked victims to act in ways that brought a forceful response.

"The rule's fundamental flaw is that it uses another constitutional violation to manufacture an excessive force claim where one would not otherwise exist," Justice Samuel Alioto wrote for the court in County of Los Angeles v. Mendez.

Supreme Court Ruling Stymies Patent Trolls

In a blow to 'patent trolls,' the U.S. Supreme Court said venue for corporate defendants in patent litigation is where they are incorporated.

The decision threw a roadblock in the way of companies that buy patents just to demand royalties and sue. The high court said patent claims must be made in a defendant's home state -- not in some other jurisdiction.

As applied to domestic corporations, "residence" under the patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. section1400(b) refers only to the state of incorporation, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court in TC Heartland v. Kraft.

High Court Strikes Racial Gerrymandering in North Carolina

For the second time in as many weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to North Carolina's efforts to change elections based on race.

Last week, the High Court let stand a decision that the state's voting laws unlawfully targeted African-American voters based on voter identification and other measures to keep them from the polls. This week, the Court struck down congressional boundaries that were drawn to pack more black voters into congressional districts.

"The Constitution entrusts states with the job of designing congressional districts," Justice Elena Kagan wrote in Cooper v. Harris. "But it also imposes an important constraint: A state may not use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines unless it has a compelling reason."

SCOTUS Won't Review NC Voter ID Law

Leaving in force an appeals court decision that struck down North Carolina laws that targeted African-American voters, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the decision.

The high court gave no reason for refusing to hear the case, but Chief Justice John Roberts said its action should not be read to say anything about the merits. Instead, he suggested it was more about the battle between the government officials who had petitioned for review and then retracted the request.

"Given the blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review in this Court under North Carolina law," Roberts wrote, "it is important to recall our frequent admonition that 'the denial of a writ of certiorari imports no expression of opinion upon the merits of the case.'"

AI Can Predict Supreme Court Decisions, New Study Finds

When it comes to predicting decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, talking heads may soon be replaced by talking bots on the evening news.

That's because studies reveal that artificial intelligence predicts the court's decisions more accurately than legal experts. In the 2002 term, an algorithm correctly predicted the court's decisions 75 percent of the time. Rolling back 100 years, a machine-learning model correctly predicted 70 percent of some 28,000 decisions.

With the usual legal pundits coming in at 66 percent, it may be time for legal analyst Dan Abrams to make room for Siri, Esq.