Petition of the day

By on Oct 30, 2014 at 10:16 pm

The petition of the day is:

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Issue: (1) Whether the messages and images that appear on state-issued specialty license plates qualify as government speech immune from any requirement of viewpoint neutrality; and (2) whether Texas engaged in “viewpoint discrimination” by rejecting the license-plate design proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, when Texas has not issued any license plate that portrays the confederacy or the confederate battle flag in a negative or critical light.

The Supreme Court has long ignored Justice Felix Frankfurter’s warning to stay out of the political thicket. It regularly hears challenges to redistricting cases (not to mention lots of other types of election cases), raising issues from the one-person, one-vote rule to vote dilution under the Voting Rights Act, to racial and partisan gerrymandering claims. The Court’s decision to hear a part of a challenge to Alabama’s state legislative redistricting plan enacted after the 2010 census (in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, set for argument on November 12) brings all of these issues together in a seemingly technical but high-stakes case, showing the artificiality of separating issues of race and party in redistricting, featuring a bold role reversal in political parties’ use of racial gerrymandering claims, and offering a surprising new threat to the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. Continue reading »

Thursday round-up

By on Oct 30, 2014 at 8:13 am

Briefly:

  • In the ABA Journal, Mark Walsh previews next week’s oral argument in Yates v. United States, in which the Court will consider the case of a commercial fisherman convicted of violating the anti-shredding provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act for the destruction of several undersized fish.
  • In her column for The New York Times, Linda Greenhouse discusses Justice Lewis Powell’s concurring opinion in Plyler v. Doe, a 1981 case in which the Court held that Texas could not exclude undocumented children from the free public education provided to other children. Just as the Court in that case was, in Powell’s view, “appropriately intervening to save the country from a policy demonstrably destructive of the social fabric,” Greenhouse argues that it should have done the same in the recent Texas voter ID case.
  • In The Wall Street Journal, Jess Bravin reports on recent comments by opera buff Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reacting to The Death of Klinghoffer, an opera that depicts the 1985 hijacking of a cruise ship by Palestinian terrorists, who shot passenger Leon Klinghoffer – a disabled U.S. citizen who was Jewish – and then pushed him overboard in his wheelchair.
  • At CNN, William Mears previews next week’s oral argument in the Jerusalem passport case Zivotofsky v. Kerry.
  • Constitution Daily reports (and has video) on a recent speech by Justice Samuel Alito about “the enduring legacy of the Bill of Rights and how the Bill has affected other nations.”

A friendly reminder:  We rely on our readers to send us links for the round-up.  If you have or know of a recent (published in the last two or three days) article, post, or op-ed relating to the Court that you’d like us to consider for inclusion in the round-up, please send it to roundup [at] scotusblog.com.

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Petition of the day

By on Oct 29, 2014 at 10:15 pm

The petition of the day is:

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Issue: Whether the government speech doctrine permits the state of North Carolina to promote its “Choose Life” message through a specialty license plate program over which it exercises complete and effective control without also offering a pro-choice specialty plate.

Tribe6

The connections among liberty, government power, speech, campaign finance, technology, and privacy.

“People ask, ‘Why did you pick constitutional law?’  I mean, come on.  Who, with a real opportunity to dig into a subject of law would not want that to be constitutional law?  It has everything.  It has history.  It has moral philosophy.  The meaning of liberty, of equality, of dignity.  It has legal technicalities galore.  It has precedent.  It involves strategy, dealing with complicated human situations and the people who are affected by law, and the human dynamics of complicated institutions like the U.S. Supreme Court.”

In this six-part interview, Laurence H. Tribe, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, discusses his background, from his birth in Shanghai, China during World War Two and his early interest in mathematics to teaching presidents and Supreme Court Justices and arguing cases before the Supreme Court; the inspiration and purpose of his latest book, Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution , written with former student Joshua Matz; and understanding essential, accessible points of the Supreme Court, principles in constitutional law and leading issues of the day — “Obamacare,” racial equality, gay rights, campaign finance, and the relation of privacy and technology.

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A recitation of the facts in Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans suggests a scenario typical of the most fact-bound petition imaginable, bound for prompt denial because of its technicality. A borrower receives a mortgage loan. Among the dozens of papers that the borrower signs at the closing is a document in which the borrower acknowledges that the lender has provided the disclosures required by the Truth in Lending Act (commonly known as TILA). Fast forward to three years later, long after the borrower has received and spent the funds for the loan, when the borrower is facing foreclosure and no longer able to make monthly mortgage payments. At that point, the borrower sends a letter to the lender stating that the lender in fact did not provide the required disclosures and purporting to rescind the entire loan transaction. When the lender ignores the letter, another year passes, and then the borrower files suit to rescind the loan. Continue reading »

Wednesday round-up

By on Oct 29, 2014 at 7:31 am

Briefly:

  • At Greenwire, Jeremy P. Jacobs profiles Peter Keisler, “a go-to guy for industry on Clean Air Act cases at the Supreme Court.”
  • At Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Joan Biskupic explains why she wrote her newest book, on Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the increased prominence of Hispanics in U.S. politics.
  • In the wake of the recent pre-dawn order issued by the Court in the Texas voter identification case, Tony Mauro of The National Law Journal has an interview with General William Suter, the former clerk of the Court, who describes “a little-known effort by the court in the 1990s to curtail postmidnight motions and orders — a campaign whose impact is still being felt.”
  • At Re’s Judicata, Richard Re previews next week’s oral argument in Yates v. United States, in which the Court will consider the case of a commercial fisherman charged with violating federal anti-obstruction laws after he threw several undersized fish overboard.
  • At the Ogletree Deakins blog, Christina Broxterman and Karen Shriver look at the impact of the Court’s recent orders denying review in seven challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage on employee benefit plans.
  • Jess Bravin of The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reports on recent remarks by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who in a speech to law students at George Washington University indicated that she thought that John Oliver’s recent sketch of the Supreme Court as nine talking dogs was “hilarious.”
  • Also in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Jess Bravin reports that Ginsburg told the law students that she too sometimes pulls all-nighters.

A friendly reminder:  We rely on our readers to send us links for the round-up.  If you have or know of a recent (published in the last two or three days) article, post, or op-ed relating to the Court that you’d like us to consider for inclusion in the round-up, please send it to roundup [at] scotusblog.com.

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Petition of the day

By on Oct 28, 2014 at 10:11 pm

The petition of the day is:

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Issue: Whether a state’s reduction of medical benefits to some categories of legal aliens but not others, conducted within the discretion afforded to the states by Congress under the cooperative Medicaid program, is subject only to rational-basis review when it is challenged as a denial of equal protection.

 
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The Obama administration’s attempt last summer to find a new way to give religious non-profit groups an exemption from the new health care law’s mandate for birth-control services did not go far enough, a federal judge in Florida decided in a temporary ruling on Tuesday.  U.S. District Judge James S. Moody, Jr., of Fort Myers blocked enforcement of the rules against a Roman Catholic college, Ave Maria University, until a court trial on the dispute.

The release of the government’s new rules on August 22, and their challenge by the Florida college located in the town of Ave Maria near Naples, followed the Supreme Court’s ruling in July  in a case involving another religious college, Wheaton College in Illinois.  The Justices spared non-profits from having to send in a formal document to claim the exemption from the contraceptives mandate.   (The Wheaton College case arose after the Supreme Court, in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, gave closely held religious corporations, operating as for-profit businesses, an exemption from the contraceptive mandate.)

Continue reading »

Five Puerto Rican same-sex couples and a gay rights advocacy group on Tuesday began an uncertain trip to a federal appeals court, where a potential obstacle to their marriage plea may await them.  Their lawyers filed a formal notice that they are appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, to challenge a ruling a week ago by a judge upholding Puerto Rico’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Two years ago, the First Circuit said flatly that it was still required to follow the Supreme Court’s summary, one-sentence ruling in 1972, in the case of Baker v. Nelson.  That ruling, it said, is “binding precedent” which bars an argument that there is “a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”  And, it noted, the Supreme Court has not overturned that ruling in more recent gay rights decisions.  The Baker decision said without elaboration that a plea for a right to marry a same-sex partner did not raise “a substantial federal question.”

The question now is whether the First Circuit will continue to adhere to that view, in the face of a broad wave of federal court decisions indicating that Baker v. Nelson no longer remained an obstacle to striking down state laws against same-sex marriage.   If the First Circuit holds fast, it could set up a split on this issue that could lead the Supreme Court to step into the same-sex marriage controversy in a way that it has so far avoided.

Continue reading »

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