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Supreme Court to Hear Virginia Redistricting Case

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to look at racial gerrymandering in Virginia again, too late to matter this year and maybe not next year either.

In Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, the big issue is whether the state's districts must be redrawn to correct racial gerrymandering. But in taking the case, the Supreme Court left open the possibility that Virginia will resolve the issue itself before oral arguments.

Another issue may still make it to the courtroom, however. The justices may want to decide whether the state House of Delegates has standing in the case.

Influence of Law Clerks on SCOTUS -- Same as It Never Was

Every trial lawyer knows the clerk is the most important person in the courtroom -- after the judge, of course.

The clerk stands at the gateway, insulating the judge from the riff-raff while leading worthy lawyers into chambers. The clerk shuts the door; the clerk calls the calendar; the clerk knows the judge.

At the U.S. Supreme Court, the law clerk is even more integral to the process of justice. "How much?" is the question. "Four percent more" is the answer.

Given all the controversy leading up to Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, many legal commentators and pundits have asserted various opinions on whether Justice Kavanaugh will need to recuse himself from various cases.

This week, Kavanaugh may have surprised many of the partisan pundits on both sides who believed he wouldn't recuse himself from anything, when he recused himself from three cases pending before the High Court. Notably though, there was nothing partisan about it. All three cases are out of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and had decisions which Kavanaugh participated in while on the appellate bench.

In a bit of sad news, retired SCOTUS Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told the world in an open letter that she will be withdrawing from public life due to a dementia diagnosis that is "probably Alzheimer's disease."

At 88 years old, Justice O'Connor explains that she wants to be the one to tell everyone about her condition and share some personal thoughts while she still can.

Making it abundantly clear that on the High Court, Justice Sotomayor is unquestionably the coolest Justice, she explained to an audience at Cornell that she prefers bourbon over beer, and jazz over opera. Sadly, she also explained that none of her SCOTUS colleagues will go listen to jazz with her.

And along with letting all the students see just how awesome she is, Justice Sotomayor encouraged everyone in the audience to be involved in making their communities better places.

This week marks the end of the first round of oral arguments for the SCOTUS 2018 Fall term. Also, the schedule for the arguments to be heard in December was recently announced and includes some hotly contested and high-profile cases.

Below, you can read a quick summary on the biggest cases that are set to be heard by the High Court in November and December.

While justices have traditionally tended to do more watching and listening on the first day they take the bench, Justice Brett Kavanaugh jumped right in.

Perhaps trying not to be shown up by rookie Justice Neil Gorsuch's first day, Kavanaugh started asking questions during the oral arguments in both of the cases heard on his first ever Tuesday morning SCOTUS oral argument. He challenged the attorneys on both sides of each of the cases on prior precedents, and made sure everyone knew he was prepared by specifically calling out page numbers in cited cases when formulating his questions.

Making SCOTUS history, Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed and sworn in over the weekend and is expected to start working immediately at the High Court. How about that? They  voted on a Saturday!

With the October 2018 term underway, clearly Kavanaugh plans to hit the ground running, which may hopefully be able to prevent any cases from going to a deadlock; after all, there have only been a couple arguments so far. But he will have a lot of catching up to do if he expects to meaningfully participate in this term's cases.

Every term, the High Court hears a handful of cases that impact the scientific community, and the natural world at large (or small).

This term is no different, particularly as nature lovers surely noticed that the first case heard this term involved endangered frogs and whether the feds could force private land to be converted into a suitable frog habitat. The SCOTUSblog argument analysis seemed to indicate the matter could go either way.

Below, you can read more about the other science-y cases getting put under the High Court microscope.

Billionaire Owns the Land, but Can't Deny Access to the Beach

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a billionaire's case to close off public access to a California beach.

Vinod Khosla bought 89-acre Martins Beach in Northern California for $32.5 million, then put a gate across the only road that leads to the ocean.

The Surfrider Foundation sued for public access, and every court along the way agreed: California beaches are public.