For the past fourteen years, the Supreme Court has spent a good deal of time and energy sorting out the constitutional roles of judges and juries in the system of punishment for federal crimes.  The process has made even more puzzling an already complex array of federal sentencing guidelines.

The Court is now being asked to reopen this challenging controversy at a very basic level:  is it unconstitutional for a judge to impose a sentence that goes beyond the facts that the jury found in a partial verdict of guilty, so long as the judge stays within the guideline ceilings?  Does that undermine the jury’s role under the Sixth Amendment?

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Tuesday round-up

By on Sep 9, 2014 at 8:25 am

Briefly:

  • At Education Week’s School Law blog, Mark Walsh reports on the death of Lillian Gobitas Klose, who as a child unsuccessfully challenged mandatory participation in the Pledge of Allegiance at school.
  • At Re’s Judicata, Richard Re considers the prospect that – if it continues last Term’s past practice of granting a petition only after relisting it at least once – the Court might not grant any new cases after the September 29 “Long Conference.”

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 Sep 8, 2014 at 10:11 pm

The petition of the day is:

Chappell v. Ayala
13-1428

Issue: Whether a state court’s rejection of a claim of federal constitutional error on the ground that any error, if one occurred, was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt is an “adjudicat[ion] on the merits” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), so that a federal court may set aside the resulting final state conviction only if the defendant can satisfy the restrictive standards imposed by that provision.

When Congress comes back into session this week, among the unfinished business is the question of what to do about a number of Supreme Court rulings from the spring.

Although the most likely answer is that the deeply politically divided Congress will do nothing at all about recent Supreme Court decisions, the question raises important issues about the constitutional relationship between the Court and the legislative branch and the current health of the system of checks and balances.

The authority of the Court to strike down acts of Congress as unconstitutional goes back at least to 1803 and Marbury v. Madison, a case studied by most law students in their classes on constitutional law.  Just how that process of judicial review works today, and how Congress responds, is a subject that should interest students of constitutional law, legislation, federal courts, and other subjects. Continue reading »

 
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Monday round-up

By on Sep 8, 2014 at 7:56 am

As Lyle reported for this blog, on Thursday the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit announced that it would rehear the challenge to the subsidies provided to individuals who purchase health care on exchanges established by the federal government.  At The Huffington Post, Brianne Gorod suggests that, as a result of the D.C. Circuit’s order, the challengers’ “chances of getting the case in front of the Supremes just got a lot lower.”  Continue reading »

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Much of the modern history of civil rights law finds its origin in a famous footnote in a 1938 Supreme Court decision dealing with shipping “adulterated” milk across state lines.  But there is another part to that ruling, and a new appeal is asking the Court to bring that part up to date, for use in judging laws that put limits on the way businesses can operate.

If the Court agrees to take on the case of Heffner v. Murphy, it could be opening the possibility that many laws could be struck down simply because the facts behind them are out of date.  That could force state legislatures and Congress to reenact the laws, based on today’s actual circumstances, to keep them in force.

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Petition of the day

By on Sep 5, 2014 at 10:13 pm

The petition of the day is:

Gordon v. Bank of America, N.A.
13-1416

Issue: Whether an order denying confirmation of a bankruptcy plan is appealable.

Friday round-up

By on Sep 5, 2014 at 11:13 am

Coverage of the Court looks ahead to cases already on the Court’s docket for the October Term 2014.  At the Council of State Governments, Lisa Soronen looks at the big picture, with brief previews of the issues that could affect states, while Adam Liptak of The New York Times previews Holt v. Hobbs, in which the Justices will consider whether Arkansas prison officials can prohibit a Muslim inmate from growing a half-inch beard.  With the Court expected to hear oral arguments this fall in a pair of challenges to Alabama’s redistricting plan for its state legislature, C-SPAN Radio will air the 1993 oral arguments in another important redistricting case, Shaw v. Reno, tomorrow at 6 p.m. Continue reading »

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Petition of the day

By on Sep 4, 2014 at 10:10 pm

The petition of the day is:

Tibble v. Edison International
13-550

Issue: (1) Notwithstanding the ongoing nature of ERISA’s fiduciary duties, whether the statute of limitations under 29 U.S.C. §1113(1) immunizes 401(k) plan fiduciaries for retaining imprudent investments that continue to cause the plan losses if the funds were first included in the plan more than six years ago; and (2) whether Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Bruch deference applies to fiduciary breach actions under 29 U.S.C. §1132(a)(2), where the fiduciary allegedly violated the terms of the governing plan document in a manner that favors the financial interests of the plan sponsor at the expense of plan participants. CVSG: 08/19/2014.

Closely examining all of the arguments made by two states to support their bans on same-sex marriage, but ultimately dismissing them as “implausible,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Thursday afternoon struck down the bans in Indiana and Wisconsin.  It thus became the third federal appeals court to reach that result; so far, no federal court at that level has upheld a ban in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor.

The next ruling from a federal appeals court is expected from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which has under consideration laws against same-sex marriage in the four states within its geographic area:  Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.  That decision could come at any time.  Other federal appeals courts have already struck down bans in Oklahoma and Utah (the Tenth Circuit), as well as Virginia (the Fourth Circuit).

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