The Court has granted three new cases:
The Court also invited the Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the United States in an original action, a water dispute between Mississippi and Tennessee. Continue reading »
Most of the weekend coverage of the Court focused on the announcement, which came shortly before dawn on Saturday morning, that the Court would not block Texas from implementing its new voter ID law. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from that order, in an opinion joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Lyle Denniston covered the order for this blog; other coverage came from Adam Liptak of The New York Times and Scott Neuman of NPR, while in analysis for the Los Angeles Times, David Savage looked at the relationship between Saturday’s order and the Court’s campaign finance jurisprudence. Commentary on the Court’s order came from Kenneth Jost at Jost on Justice and from Rick Hasen at Slate, while at his Election Law Blog Hasen discussed the possible reasons why Justice Stephen Breyer did not join the dissent. In another post, Hasen transcribed remarks by Ginsburg about the Texas order in an interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg. Continue reading »
On Monday morning the Court issued orders from its October 17 Conference. It granted review in three new cases and called for the views of the Solicitor General in one more. The Court’s next Conference is scheduled for October 31. The November sitting begins November 3.
In a stinging defeat for the Obama administration and a number of civil rights groups in a major test case on voters’ rights, a divided Supreme Court told the state of Texas early Saturday morning that it may enforce its strict voter ID law for this year’s general election, with early voting starting next Monday. Three Justices dissented from the ruling, which was released a few minutes after 5 a.m. folllowing a seemingly lengthy study.
This apparently was the first time since 1982 that the Court has allowed a law restricting voters’ rights to be enforced after a federal court had ruled it to be unconstitutional because it intentionally discriminated against minorities. A U.S. District Court judge in Corpus Christi struck down the ID law last week after a nine-day trial, but it now awaits review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which temporarily blocked the trial judge’s ruling.
The Justice Department has indicated that the case is likely to return to the Supreme Court after the appeals court rules. Neither the Fifth Circuit’s action so far nor the Supreme Court’s Saturday order dealt with the issue of the law’s constitutionality. The ultimate validity of the law, described by Saturday’s dissenters as “the strictest regime in the country,” probably depends upon Supreme Court review.
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The petition of the day is:
Issue: (1) Whether, under this Court’s decision in Martinez v. Ryan, post-conviction counsel’s ineffectiveness can provide cause to excuse the procedural default of an ineffective-assistance-of-appellate-counsel claim, or whether Martinez v. Ryan is limited to excusing only the default of a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel; and (2) whether, under the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), a state-court adjudication of a judicial-bias claim is per se unreasonable under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2) merely because the allegedly biased judge rules on the claim based on facts within her knowledge without first conducting an evidentiary hearing, or whether a federal court must grant AEDPA deference to the judge’s determination when the evidence in the state-court record supports it.
Oyez has posted audio recordings of oral arguments from the first two weeks of the term. The Court heard arguments in:
Courts’ constitutional rulings or orders on state power to ban same-sex marriages kept up their very rapid pace on Friday, as the Supreme Court allowed gay and lesbian couples to begin getting licenses in Alaska, a federal judge did the same in Arizona and the state opted not to appeal, and a federal judge in Wyoming added another ruling against a ban.
A post on the Justices’ Alaska order is here, and a post on the Arizona rulings is here.
In Wyoming, U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl of Casper, relying on an earlier decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, ruled that state’s ban unconstitutional. The judge gave the state six days (until next Thursday) to tell him whether officials planned to appeal. However, the state’s governor, Matt Mead, had said during a election campaign debate on Thursday night that if the ban were nullified, he saw no need to appeal. Wyoming thus seemed poised to become the thirty-second state where same-sex marriage would be legal. (UPDATE 8:21 p.m. The governor has now issued a public statement indicating that the state would not appeal.)
Keeping to itself its reasons for doing the same thing again, the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon rejected a plea to stop same-sex marriages from going ahead in Alaska. By denying the state’s plea for postponement, in a one-sentence order that did not provide any explanation, the Court’s action had the effect of making that state the thirty-first in which gays and lesbians can marry legally.
The Court released its order just moments before a temporary delay imposed by a federal appeals court was due to expire. With that expiration, a federal trial judge’s order finding Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional went into effect, allowing the issuance of marriage licenses in that state.
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UPDATED 1:43 p.m. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne issued a public statement Friday morning saying that the state would not appeal the decisions against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. He said there was “zero” chance the Supreme Court would review the Ninth Circuit decision that led to the nullification of Arizona’s ban. In a letter to county clerks across the state, he said that they could begin issuing marriage licenses immediately to gay and lesbian couples. These developments make Arizona the thirtieth state in which such marriages are now fully permitted. This will also allow recognition of gay and lesbian marriages performed in other states for Arizonans. (Meanwhile, at this hour, there is no word from the Supreme Court on the legal situation in Alaska.)
A senior federal judge in Phoenix on Friday struck down Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage in two separate rulings, and refused to delay the effect of the decisions. He also predicted that the Supreme Court would “turn a deaf ear” to a request to postpone such marriages in the state. His nearly identical, four-page rulings are here and here.
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday morning that the federal government would recognize the legality of same-sex marriages in seven states — all covered by Supreme Court denials of review of three decisions by federal appeals court. As a result, Holder said, newly married couples or already married couples whose unions are now official will be entitled to all federal marital benefits.
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About two-thirds into the opening argument in Jennings v. Stephens on Wednesday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked Randolph Schaffer (arguing for Jennings), “May I just clarify it?” referring to his argument. Unfortunately, clarity was not forthcoming, from either arguing party — likely because difficult complexities actually lurk beneath the simple question of when a party must file a notice of appeal. However the Court decides this case, its decision will likely produce useful answers for a broad swath of federal civil cases.
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