Archive for the 'SCOTUS' Category

Jan 23 2014

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Resources for Monitoring a Case at SCOTUS

The resources that you can use to monitor a case at the Supreme Court include free and subscription services that are available to BU Law students. One of the most high profile cases in the Court’s current Term is NLRB v. Noel Canning, involving the President’s power to make recess appointments without the consent of the Senate.

To learn about the case, including the most current information, consider availability of these, among other sources:

  • the transcript of the oral argument, posted to the Court’s website within hours of the argument on Jan. 13
  • the docket for the case, 12-1281, updated to the present, also from the Court
  • Lyle Denniston’s same-day coverage of the oral argument on SCOTUSBlog
  • from SCOTUSBlog’s Merits Briefs section, more extensive news coverage and links to all the briefs filed in the case
  • coverage of the case on United States Law Week, including a detailed story following the oral argument (Kerberos password required)

When the Court releases its opinion, probably in the Spring, these sources and many others will provide access to the full text. For a same-day announcement of this and other SCOTUS cases, you might consider signing up for the Supreme Court Bulletin, a service of Cornell’s Legal Information Institute.

For more SCOTUS resources, see our research guide on court documents; or check out our guide to current awareness tools for links to other updates and news sources.




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Oct 09 2013

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Cases to Watch in 2013 SCOTUS Term

The U.S. Supreme Court heard the first oral arguments of the 2013 Term on Monday. The Court’s home page provides an argument calendar for the month; by clicking on the date, researchers can quickly access docket information on the cases argued or to be argued that day.

Among the cases that have emerged as leading cases to watch in this Term is McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a case involving limitations on campaign finance contributions, that was argued on Tuesday. For commentary and analysis on this and other leading cases, consider:

SCOTUSBlog, perhaps the single best source for monitoring the Court, summarizes and provides background information on, and available briefs filed in, the cases scheduled for oral argument here.

Among other sources that may be helpful for monitoring developments and cases at SCOTUS, see Oyez, the ABA’s Preview Briefs and blogs such as The Volokh Conspiracy.

For more complete information on sources for current awareness and news, check out Steven’s research guide.

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Sep 25 2013

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Beginning Soon: The Supreme Court’s 2013 Term

Each year, the U.S. Supreme Court Term begins with oral arguments on “the first Monday in October.”

For those following the Court’s proceedings, its web site is an indispensable source, providing a wide range of information, including the Court’s docket, oral argument calendar and transcripts, Order lists and much more. In addition, many independent tools are available to stay current with news developments, research the background of pending cases and receive notifications of the Court’s opinions.

If you’re following particular cases or the Court’s proceedings generally, some tools you may find especially helpful include:

  • SCOTUSBlog: Followed by Court watchers everywhere, this high-volume blog includes news, analysis and detailed reporting and commentary that is second to none; use a news reader to track new posts, or follow SCOTUSBlog’s Twitter feed; the Merits Cases section is a great way to locate background information on pending and recent cases, including briefs filed in the case
  • United States Law Week: Now part of the Bloomberg/BNA library of legal information, U.S.L.W. provides extensive coverage of the Supreme Court, including new opinions, docket summaries, preview and review articles, coverage of oral arguments, an extensive subject index to its coverage, and related material such as Circuit splits; for new users, an online tour of the “Supreme Court Today” section of U.S.L.W. is available here
  • Supreme Court Bulletin: Available for a free subscription from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, this email news update is a good way to get summaries of the Court’s decisions and previews of upcoming cases
  • Justia’s Opinion Summaries, which can be received on ongoing basis by email after a simple registration process
  • Useful Twitter feeds also include those of journalists who cover the Court–e.g., Marcia Coyle, Adam Liptak, Tony Mauro; searching or monitoring the hashtag #scotus is a quick way to locate very current news and commentary

The Term begins in less than two weeks. Signing up for news updates now can help you to avoid missing important information later.


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Aug 28 2013

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“Stop and Frisk” and the Law

If you have an interest in taking a closer look at the controversy over New York City’s controversial “stop and frisk” practices and the recent court decision declaring them unconstitutional, consider:

New York legislation provides that a police officer may stop persons for questioning and search for weapons under certain circumstances “when he reasonably suspects that such person is committing, has committed or is about to commit” a crime. See New York Criminal Procedure Law 140.50, which “essentially codifies” the Supreme Court’s decision in Terry v. Ohio (1968). With this legislation as its basis, New York City developed the practices known as “stop and frisk.” The practices are detailed and explained here and here.

Widely condemned by civil liberties groups, “stop-and-frisk” was defended vigorously by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

On August 12, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled the policy violated the constitutional rights of racial minorities. The opinion, which runs over 190 pages, concludes:

… I find that the City is liable for violating plaintiffs’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The City acted with deliberate indifference toward the NYPD’s practice of making unconstitutional stops and conducting unconstitutional frisks. Even if the City had not been deliberately indifferent, the NYPD’s unconstitutional practices were sufficiently widespread as to have the force of law. In addition, the City adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data. This has resulted in the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Both statistical and anecdotal evidence showed that minorities are indeed treated differently than whites. For example, once a stop is made, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband.  I also conclude that the City’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. … One NYPD official has even suggested that it is permissible to stop racially defined groups just to instill fear in them that they are subject to being stopped at any time for any reason – in the hope that this fear will deter them from carrying guns in the streets. The goal of deterring crime is laudable, but this method of doing so is unconstitutional.

Among the undisputed facts that supported Judge Scheindlin’s conclusions were these:

  • Between January 2004 and June 2012, the NYPD conducted over 4.4 million Terry stops
  • 52% of all stops were followed by a protective frisk for weapons. A weapon was found after 1.5% of these frisks. In other words, in 98.5% of the 2.3 million frisks, no weapon was found.
  • In 52% of the 4.4 million stops, the person stopped was black, in 31% the person was Hispanic, and in 10% the person was white
  • In 2010, New York City’s resident population was roughly 23% black, 29% Hispanic and 33% white.
  • Between 2004 and 2009, the percentage of stops where the officer failed to state a specific suspected crime rose from 1% to 36%.

In a recent blog post, Linda Greenhouse examined the issue and considered how the current U.S. Supreme Court might address “stop and frisk,” in the unlikely event that the case were appealed to that level. Considering a pair of opinions, written by Justices Scalia and Ginsberg, Greenhouse concluded it is hard to predict:

How would Floyd v. City of New York have fared at the Supreme Court? The answer is I’m not sure. Pondering the question has been an abstract exercise, in the absence of a Court of Appeals decision that would precede any Supreme Court appeal, and without the briefs that would define and sharpen the issues. But with only six weeks to go before the first Monday in October and the court’s return, it’s worth trying to limber up for the justices’ return by looking at this case through their eyes.

To the question of whether I’m glad the case will likely not find its way to the Supreme Court’s door, the answer is yes.

The New York Times and other new sources have provided extensive coverage of the controversy and the ongoing legal action involving “stop and frisk.” On August 27, the City asked Judge Scheindlin to issue a stay of her order pending appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Jun 26 2013

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SCOTUS Decides Marriage Cases: DOMA Unconstitutional

On the last day of the Term, the Supreme Court released all the remaining cases it had heard argument on during the October 2012 Term. As expected, these included the two cases related to same-sex marriage. The cases were:

United States v. Windsor: In a 5-4 decision, Justice Kennedy writing for the majority, the Court held that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates due process and equal principles principles of the 5th Amendment that apply to the federal government; this is a major victory for same-sex couples who are legally married under the law of their states but subjected to discriminatory treatment under federal law in areas such as income and estate taxes, immigration and Social Security benefits. The dissenting opinions were written by Roberts, Scalia and Alito.

Hollingsworth v. Perry: In another 5-4 opinion, concerning a challenge to the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, the Court determined that petitioners (Prop 8 proponents) did not have standing to appeal the order of the District Court that declared Propisition 8 unconstitutional. The majority opinion was by Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan. It orders the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the appeal from the District Court’s order. Pending proceedings consistent today’s opinion, this ruling apparently means that same-sex couples will be allowed to legally marry in California. Justice Kennedy dissented, joined by Justices Thomas, Alito and Sotomayor.

SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston provides this early summary of what the opinions do and don’t do.

In the third case released on Wednesday, Sekhar v. U.S., the court concluded that attempting to compel a person to recommend that his employer approve an investment does not constitute “the obtaining of property from another” under the Hobbs Act. All justices supported the conclusion. The lead opinion was written by Justice Scalia; Justice Alito’s concurring opinion was joined by Justices Kennedy and Sotomayor.

Some 300,000 readers were online to follow live-blogging from the Court by SCOTUSBlog this morning.

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Jun 25 2013

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SCOTUS Update (Tuesday)

The Supreme Court released three more opinions today, including Shelby County v. Holder (No. 12-96), the challenge to the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Writing for the majority in a 5-4 ruling, Chief Justice Roberts concluded that Section 4 of VRA is unconstitutional in light of current conditions; its formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting covered jurisdictions to federal preclearance of changes in voting laws. Justice Thomas concurred; he would have struck down Section 5 of the VRA as well. Dissenting, Justice Ginsburg wrote that the court has usurped Congress’ role in determining how to enforce the post-Civil War Amendments to the Constitution.

The other cases that were announced today, in the order they were released:

  • Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District (No. 11-1447) (Takings case decided by 5-4 vote; Alito’s majority opinion held that the government’s demand for property from a land-use permit applicant must satisfy requirements of the Nollan & Dolan cases, even when it denies the permit, and even when its demand is for money; Kagan writing for the dissent)
  • Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (No. 12-399) (Unusual 5-4 split in case applying the Indian Child Welfare Act; Alito writing for the majority, including Breyer, concluded that ICWA did not bar termination of parental rights of biological father who had earlier relinquished parental rights; Scalia and Sotomayor wrote dissenting opinions)

Well over 100,000 readers were following the live-blogging on SCOTUSBlog at the peak of activity this morning.

The cases remaining to be released are: Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Proposition 8 case; United States v. Windsor, the Defense of Marriage Act case; and Sekhar v. U.S., the case involving whether a lawyer’s advice is property for purposes of the Hobbs Act. These cases are expected to be released tomorrow morning, beginning at 10 a.m.

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Jun 24 2013

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SCOTUS Update (Monday)

As noted here last week, the Supreme Court left its most highly anticipated cases for this week. One of them was released today: Fisher v. University of Texas, No. 11–345, the affirmative action case involving admissions at the University of Texas.

Writing for 7 justices (including Breyer and Sotomayor) Justice Kennedy concluded that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals failed to apply the strict scrutiny required by Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), when it affirmed the District Court’s award of summary judgment for the University regarding its admissions policy that included consideration of race. Justices Scalia and Thomas wrote concurring opinions; Thomas would explicitly overrule Grutter. Only Justice Ginsburg dissented. Justice Kagan did not participate. Initial reaction from live-bloggers on SCOTUSBlog viewed this as a compromise decision and not the sweeping rejection of consideration of race in college admissions that some had anticipated; Grutter is still alive but is likely to be challenged directly at another time.

The five other decisions released today include:

  • Vance v. Ball State University (an employee is a “supervisor” for purposes of vicarious liability under Title VII only if he or she is empowered by the employer to take tangible employment actions against the victim; 5-4 decision, Alito for the majority, Ginsburg for the dissent)
  • University of Tex. Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar (Title VII retaliation claims must be proved according to traditional principles of but-for causation; another 5-4 decision on Title VII; Ginsburg writing for 4 dissenters)
  • Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett (State-law design-defect claims that turn on the adequacy of a drug’s warnings are pre-empted by federal law; 5-4 decision, with Alito writing for majority; dissenting opinions by Breyer and Sotomayor)
  • U.S. v. Kebodoeux (Congress has power under Necessary and Proper clause to enact the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) and apply requirement to an offender who had already completed his state law sentence when SORNA was enacted; Breyer writing for majority; Scalia and Thomas dissenting)
  • Ryan v. Schad (per curiam decision in death penalty case; Ninth Circuit reversed and stay of execution vacated)

The Chief Justice announced that the Court would release more opinions tomorrow (Tuesday) and one more day this week. Stay tuned.

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Jun 18 2013

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The 2012 SCOTUS Term Winds Down

In the final weeks of a Supreme Court Term, there are dramatic moments on the days when opinions are released. Court-watchers and those who have a strong interest in the pending cases follow the news from Washington closely. Often, the most highly anticipated cases are among the last to be released, later in June.

Of the 64 opinions from the current Term, five were released on Monday. Still, as news coverage noted (see here, here, here), the “big” cases were not yet decided: neither of the same-sex marriage cases (DOMA or Proposition 8), nor the affirmative action case involving admissions at the University of Texas, nor the challenge to section 5 of Voting Rights Act. The Atlantic provides a brief summary of these four cases.

The next day for new opinions will be this Thursday. Once again, interested followers can visit SCOTUSBlog for its live-blogging from the Court, starting at 9 a.m.; at around 10 a.m., the justices will begin reading summaries of their opinions from the bench and the opinions will be posted on the court’s web site, as they are released.

And if the case you’re following isn’t announced on Thursday? Tune in again, on Monday …

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May 06 2013

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On Donald Verrilli, Commencement Speaker

At the BU Law commencement on May 19, the featured speaker will be one of the most prominent lawyers in the United States, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.

Verrilli has served as the Solicitor General of the United States since June 2011. He replaced Justice Elena Kagan at OSG. Previously, he was Deputy Counsel to President Obama and as an Associate Deputy Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice. Prior to his government service, he practiced law at Jenner & Block for over 20 years.

Some of the Verrilli’s work can be viewed at government web sites, in the numerous briefs and oral arguments in which he has represented the U.S. government before the Supreme Court.  He is also the author of many scholarly articles focusing on Supreme Court. C-SPAN provides video clips that highlight the audio recording of Verrilli’s oral arguments before the Court and his frequent participation at panel discussions on legal issues.

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Apr 29 2013

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Interviews with Pioneering Women in the Law

Filed under Free!,SCOTUS

The Makers project highlights the contributions of prominent American women by providing interviews that explore the personal as well as the professional in these American lives. One the the featured pioneers is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The interview with Justice Ginsburg is here (after a sponsor’s ad), with extended segments that highlight her experiences: as a student at Harvard Law School, being rejected by law firms, her marriage, her work for the ACLU womens’ rights project and women and the law.

Other interviews in this series feature dozens of women from many different fields. The pioneers in law include: Sandra Day O’Connor, Maddy DeLone, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Catharine MacKinnon and Sarah Weddington.

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