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.
A previous post addressed resources for cases pending before the Supreme Court. Most of those are useful for cases decided in the recent past; for example, SCOTUSblog’s Merits Cases section provides news coverage, briefs, transcripts and other information for cases dating back to the Court’s 2007 Term.
When looking for information about older cases, there is a range of resources you can consult.
Suppose you were researching the landmark case concerning a criminal defendant’s right to counsel, Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963). The case is available in PDF (United States Reports) through the U.S. Supreme Court Library in Hein Online. Free Internet versions include the case law component of Google Scholar.
Briefs from the case are available through U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978. Search and browse features are available to locate the seven documents provided for Gideon, including a Transcript of Record, briefs by the petitioner and respondent, and several amicus curiae briefs. Another good source for briefs is Westlaw Next: when viewing the case, select the Filings tab from the Keycite information for that case and select among available documents.
There is a large body of secondary literature that discusses the case, including legal journal articles, books (notably Gideon’s Trumpet, by Anthony Lewis), historical accounts, even a television production. Useful discovery tools include Google Scholar (especially for interdisciplinary research); combined law review databases on Westlaw Next and Lexis Advance; and after retrieving the case, using the “Citing References” tab on Keycite (Westlaw Next) or the “Other Citing Sources” link in Shepard’s Citations (Lexis Advance).
The BU Libraries Advanced Search engine can be used to find materials that focus on the case: searching by the name of the case, or using keywords such as “gideon” and “right to counsel,” retrieves many articles and books. Also, using “gideon” as a keyword while searching for titles related to criminal procedure allows one to locate discussions of the case in topical books, such as this one.
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!
The SCOTUS this week began its Summer ritual of announcing its decisions in rapid progression. Among the big decisions include, remarkably, the Court’s first EVER ruling on the limits of the Presidential Recess power. That decision came in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning. As explained on Scotusblog.com, “The Court began with the first question presented in the case: whether the Constitution allows the president to make recess appointments during “intra-session” recesses (breaks that occur within the two one-year sessions between congressional elections) or only during “inter-session” recess (the break between the two one-year sessions). Its answer on this question is a victory for the Obama administration and future presidents who want to be able to make recess appointments.” Justice Breyer wote, “We have not previously interpreted the [Recess Appointments] Clause, and, when doing so for the first time in more than 200 years, we must hesitate to upset the compromise and working arrangements that the elected branches of Government themselves have reached.”
All did not end well for the Obama Administration however as the Court went on to invalidate the appointments that made up the subject of this case–and thereby invalidating a multitude of decisions already made by the NLRB.:
“The Court then turned to the third and final question presented in the case: whether the Senate can prevent the president from making recess appointments even during its longer recesses by holding “pro forma” sessions – that is, sessions at which no work actually gets done – every three days. The Court answered that question in the affirmative, rejecting the federal government’s argument that the “pro forma” sessions are, in essence, just a sham to thwart the president’s recess appointments powers. In the Court’s view, all that matters is whether the Senate says it is in session and could at least in theory conduct business, which is possible (even if unlikely) at the pro forma sessions.
Here it is important to note that, although all nine Justices agreed that these particular recess appointments were invalid, there was not a lot of harmony on the Court in this question.”
Never a dull moment at SCOTUS. Who says the Law cannot be exciting?
Here’s a link to the decision.
For full details and to see the other remarkable rulings of the week, visit scotusblog.com.
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.
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.
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.