Over the past year, no U.S. legal issue has generated more news coverage and commentary than the legal status of same-sex relationships, particularly the questions whether the Constitution requires states to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize such licenses grated in other states.
In June 2013, the Supreme Court decided United States v. Windsor (2013), which struck down as unconstitutional a provision in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined “marriage” under federal law to exclude same-sex couples. After Windsor, numerous federal and state courts ruled that the Constitution requires states to recognize same-sex marriages. In November 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reached a different result, upholding bans on same-sex marriage under the laws of several states.
By granting certiorari in cases from the four states comprising the Sixth Circuit–Bourke v. Beshear (KY), DeBoer v. Snyder (MI), Obergefell v. Hodges (OH) and Tanco v. Haslam (TN)–the Supreme Court decided to address two questions left unresolved by Windsor. (Click below to expand image.)
The Court has scheduled oral argument for April 28. In the past two weeks, dozens of briefs have been filed. Many of them are amicus curiae (or “friend of the court”) briefs, filed by persons or entities that are not parties to the case but wish to provide their perspectives to the Court. Most of them–including those of The American Psychological Association, The Cato Institute and the United States government–support the right of same-sex couples to marry. The Court’s decision is expected by the end of June, with these cases among the last to be decided in the Court’s October 2014 Term.
For those monitoring the topic, some of the best information sources are organizations that have been involved in the legal battle–e.g., Freedom to Marry and Lambda Legal. Other good sources include The New York Times and SCOTUSblog.
For worldwide information, the Jones Day law firm provides a database of jurisdictions, detailing the degree to which each country recognizes the status of same-sex relationships.
The make-up class on Court Documents research is scheduled for Monday, March 16, 1 p.m. (Room 335).
Slots are still available. If you haven’t registered, you can do so at: http://lawlibraryguides.bu.edu/certification/register
Class page: http://lawlibraryguides.bu.edu/cert2015_Court-documents
Readers of this blog have seen frequent references to SCOTUSblog, one of the gems in the legal blogosphere.
There are many reasons to follow SCOTUSblog. To start, it is an indispensable research tool for those monitoring cases before the Supreme Court–a free source for news about filings, rulings on certiorari petitions, oral arguments, new opinions and more. Coverage and analysis by veteran Supreme Court reporter Lyle Denniston provides a level of coverage of the Court that is available nowhere else (see, e.g., Denniston’s coverage of the array of cases addressing the law related to same-sex marriage). And the Merits Cases section of the site provides detailed coverage on each case the Court has decided to hear on the merits, including docket information, news stories and links to all the briefs filed in the case.
Other features include commentary and debates on various topics (such as Originalism and the Supreme Court); statistical analysis of Court business; and SCOTUSBlog on Camera, featuring interviews with Justices, scholars and journalists (e.g., Justice Scalia, Dahlia Lithwick, Randy Barnett).
There are various ways to track SCOTUSBlog, including use of a RSS Reader to receive new posts, or following the Twitter feed and using links to retrieve stories. If you haven’t already done so, check it out.
There has been much controversy over the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. That Report is now available via the Federal Digital System web site as Senate Report 113-288. This PDF is 700+ pages and includes the Report as well as minority and other views.
For information on the Supreme Court and cases pending before the SCOTUS, the law library offers a wide range of commercial databases, along with free Internet resources.
These resources can provide almost anything you may want to know about a case at the Court. For an example, consider Zivotofsky v. Kerry, a case involving the constitutionality of a statute that directs the Secretary of State, on request, to record the birthplace of an American citizen born in Jerusalem as “Israel” on a United States passport. The Court’s web site provides docket information about the case, and much else: after the case was argued last week before the Justices, the transcript was posted later that day; and the audio recording of the argument was posted on Friday afternoon, following the Justices’ conference.
Among sources that compile information about the case, see SCOTUSblog for links to the briefs on the case; news coverage and links to commentary on the case; and a link to the lower court decision, which held the statute in question unconstitutional.
Among subscription services, Bloomberg BNA’s U.S. Law Week provides several useful tools for tracking the case, including the case summary from the Supreme Court Today Navigator, and news coverage at all stages of the case–e.g., the story on last week’s argument. Major general newspapers, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, are also excellent sources.
For news once the Court issues its opinion in the case, try also The Supreme Court Bulletin (syllabi of new opinions from Cornell’s LII) or Justia’s Opinion Summaries. For up-to-the-minute coverage, nothing beats the Twitter feeds of SCOTUSblog, other news sources or legal correspondents who cover the Court (Adam Liptak, Nina Totenberg).
Supreme Court watchers are eagerly anticipating word whether the Court will decide to take up the issue whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to get married. In recent weeks, SCOTUSblog and other news sources reported on the Court’s “long conference” on September 29, where petitions for writs of certiorari in several marriage cases were scheduled for consideration.
If the court declines to address the issue in this Term, the chief consequence would be freedom to marry in 11 states. Federal District Court and Circuit Court of Appeals rulings have struck down marriage bans, but those rulings have been stayed (see here, here and here) pending action by the Supreme Court. Once the stays are lifted, the rulings take effect.
Reports of the oral argument in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in August suggested the panel in that case appeared more inclined to uphold the state marriage bans than judges in other Circuit Courts. In an appearance at the University of Minnesota Law School, Justice Ginsburg commented that unless the 6th Circuit upheld a same-sex marriage ban, thus creating a split among the circuits, there would be “no urgency” for the Court to take up the issue in the short term.
To date, there is no word whether the Court will grant certiorari on any of the cases discussed at Monday’s conference. When those decisions have been made, they will be announced in the Court’s Order lists. And there will be extensive coverage in the news outlets that cover the Court. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: On October 2, NPR’s Nina Totenberg noted that the Court had declined, in releasing an Order list in pending cases, to take up any of the pending marriage cases on the merits. She concluded, “sometime in the next few weeks, the high court very likely — though not certainly — will announce which gay-marriage cases it has chosen as test cases for review.”
In each annual Term, the first oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court take place on the first Monday in October.
There are very many sources of information to track cases pending before the Court. Some that you may find helpful:
- The Supreme Court Bulletin, a publication of Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, is regular e-newsletter that provides previews of pending cases and reports the syllabus of each new decision on the day it is released
- United States Law Week includes an extensive array of Supreme Court information, including detailed news coverage at all stages of cases, such as the filing of writs of certiorari, oral arguments and analyses of new opinions
- SCOTUSblog provides extensive news about Court developments, including a Merits Briefs section that provides access to briefs filed in pending and recent cases
- Justia’s Opinion Summaries include summaries of new opinions from many courts, including SCOTUS, and weekly topical newsletters with summaries from various courts
You may also find legal blogs, such as Constitutional Law Prof blog, The Volokh Conspiracy and Balkinization, to be excellent sources for commentary and analysis on cases before SCOTUS and recent decisions.
Since the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, no legal issue in the U.S. has been followed more closely than the question whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to get married.
There are many current awareness tools to monitor the topic. among them, consider these:
The same range of tools can be used to monitor or locate information on other subjects. Whatever you topic, give these tools a try!
Researching executive actions, orders or proclamations used to be a painstaking and at time tedious task…
Thankfully those times have come and gone with the availability of Proquest Congressional’s library entitled: “Proquest Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations 1789-2014.” This comprehensive collection includes all numbered and unnumbered orders. (Sidebar–>Did you know that the first numbered order began with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation?)
This exhaustive collection also includes those orders issued in the President’s name by Secretaries of Federal departments, those issued at the request of the Presidents without specific statutory authority and directives, decisions and determinations other than those officially numbered.
Proquest Congressional’s Executive Branch Documents is also a treasure-trove and worth investigating when researching in this area. Find these resources on the A-Z list .
The great website GPO Access, the home of official U.S. Government documents, has changed its format as well as it’s name. It’s now called FDsys, but it still has the same great content. Take a look at the current FDsys “Featured Collections.”
Now that’s what I call official!
The new link is spelled out below.