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

February 2018 Archives

The case of Vernon Madison has been headline news since his most recent round of appeals got started back in 2016. Madison, an inmate in his late 60s, contends that he should not be executed because he cannot remember committing the crime that landed him on death row. Now, the Supreme Court is gearing up to hear Madison's case for a second time.

While that novel argument seems to defy all credulity, Madison's failing memory is actually an undisputed fact, and case law establishes that a convict should not be executed unless they can "rationally understand the connection between the crime he committed and the punishment he is to receive." Madison has suffered multiple strokes, and as a result, can't remember who the last president was, let alone the crime he committed over 30 years ago.

Detained Immigrants Not Entitled to Periodic Bond Hearings

It's not easy to write a short headline for a legal decision that takes judges 91 pages to explain.

So it's understandable when major news agencies miss the point, like reports of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Jennings v. Rodriguez. The New York Times said "No Bail Hearings for Detained Immigrants," but the High Court technically said they do not have a right to periodic bond hearings.

A poet might say, "What's in a word?" In this case, the judges had a problem defining the word "detained."

The message from the SCOTUS to the POTUS was direct and clear in the short rejection issued Monday morning: No shortcuts.

The administration, not pleased by the federal district court injunction, had attempted to bypass the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by appealing directly to the High Court. However, SCOTUS did not find the appeal to be worth taking up before the Ninth Circuit had a chance to render a decision. Interestingly, the Court did make a peculiar comment after the rejection: "It is assumed that the Court of Appeals will proceed expeditiously to decide this case."

Terrorist Victims Cannot Collect on Artifacts

After archaeologists discovered ancient clay tablets in the ruins of Persepolis in the 1930s, Iran loaned them to a Chicago museum where they are on display today.

The U.S. Supreme Court said they will stay there, too, notwithstanding a $71.5 million judgment against Iran. The judgment creditors wanted to seize the artifacts to collect on their judgment, but the justices declined.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the unanimous panel, said federal law "does not provide a freestanding basis for parties" to "attach and execute" against the property of a foreign state in Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran.

Court Narrows Whistleblower Remedies

Contrary to popular opinion, liberal and conservative justices see cases the same way sometimes.

In Digital Realty Trust v. Somers, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously threw out a whistleblower case against a company that allegedly violated securities laws. It wasn't about workers' rights v. big business; it was about the plain meaning of the law.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the acknowledged left-end of the panel, said whistleblowers must inform the Securities and Exchange Commission before suing under the Dodd-Frank Act.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is facing renewed controversy related to Anita Hill and the other women he allegedly harassed while holding a position of authority. A recent news story highlighted the fact that new-ish evidence surfaced which, if believed, would mean that Justice Thomas lied during his confirmation hearings (which is actually an impeachable offense, even for a SCOTUS justice).

However, even if Justice Thomas is found guilty in the court of public opinion, it is not very likely that he would be impeached any time soon given the strong partisan politics currently at play. Also, given how easy it is for justices to escape prosecution by stepping down, he'd likely be able to dodge impeachment via retirement.

Supreme Court Just Says 'No' to Gun Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court shot down gun advocates, refusing to hear challenges to California gun laws.

California is one of nine states, plus the District of Columbia, that impose waiting periods on gun purchases. The laws give time for "cooling off " and background checks.

The Supreme Court left the California law alone. In the wake of mass shootings across the country, it's a welcome change in a cold winter for some.

Supreme Court Considers Intervening in DACA

In Monopoly, few players get to pass go and collect $200 without paying some dues along the way.

President Trump is one of the few, and sometimes plays by his own rules. His lawyers are trying to bypass the federal appeals courts to take their case against "Dreamers" directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The justices are considering the request, but some 700,000 immigrants may be asking, "What's the rush?"

The seemingly never-ending justice roller coaster for Brendan Dassey just keeps going and going. After his successful appeal was overturned by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals en banc, a petition was filed with SCOTUS to challenge the circuit's decision.

Recently, it was announced that Dassey's legal team has retained noted litigators who have made several appearances before SCOTUS -- though interestingly, the specific attorneys were neither noted nor named. Dassey's attorney, Steven Drizin, did note though that the High Court has warned that appearing before it without a "seasoned" litigator was akin to malpractice.

The 5 Best SCOTUS Yelp Reviews

If your law firm isn't on Yelp, you might be missing out on some of that sweet sweet Yelper business. Also, whether or not you want to be there, a client, or potential client, or adversary, can put you on there in order to leave their feedback, so not being on there means you can't do anything to manage your Yelp reputation.

Interestingly, to get an idea of what sort of reviews Yelpers leave, taking a look at the United States Supreme Court's 4.5 star Yelp rating is both fun and informative. Below, you can see snippets of some our favorite SCOTUS Yelp reviews.

The Supreme Court may rule supreme, but not even its own decisions are safe from itself. While Chief Justice Roberts is known as a staunch supporter of the doctrine of stare decisis, some commentators believe this might be the year for some seriously big SCOTUS reversals.

With the High Court packed with a conservative majority, one major source is predicting that three longstanding precedents may not have long for this world. Those three include:

After Chief Justice Roberts decided recently to not send a man who could no longer remember his crime to the execution chamber in Alabama, court pundits took it as a sign that the Chief Justice could be switching teams. The other conservative justices would've let the old-timer die. Although, most liberal pundits have been cautious about putting too much stock in the Justice Roberts statistics showing the Justice may have spontaneously grown a liberal conscious.

But the pundits have noticed for quite some time that Justice Roberts has not consistently agreed with his conservative brethren. As the years have passed, the analytics show that Roberts has been siding with the liberal justices more and more often.

Justice Alito, who presides over matters coming out of the Third Circuit, has rejected the appeal of Pennsylvania's GOP leaders over the state's High Court ruling requiring the overly Republican-friendly voting map be redrawn.

Challengers asserted that the court did not have the authority to redraw voting districts, but that only state legislatures could do so. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court disagreed with that position and denied the existence of a federal question, and the now U.S. Supreme Court refused to get involved, leaving the challengers with little else to do.