Editor's Note :

Editor's Note :

On Monday at 9:30 a.m. we expect orders from the April 24 Conference. We expect one or more opinions in argued cases at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

When the Court convenes on April 28 to hear oral arguments in the challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage, many of the reporters covering the hearing will be at the Court for the first time. This guide to covering the Court is intended for those reporters. Continue reading »

Today’s transcript

By on Apr 20, 2015 at 3:27 pm

The transcript in Johnson v. United States is here

Posted in Merits Cases

SCOTUSblog is now accepting applications from current law students interested in interning with us.  Details about the position’s qualifications and responsibilities, as well as how to apply, are below the jump. Continue reading »

Posted in Featured

The Supreme Court refused on Monday to spare the federal government from a newly imposed duty to use competitive bidding to sign up partners to provide affordable subsidized housing for low-income families — the so-called “Section 8″ program that has existed since 1974.   That denial came as part of a series of newly released orders; the Court did not grant review of any new cases.

Since the Section 8 program was set up, federal housing officials have recruited partners — usually, local government housing authorities — by offering them a negotiated agreement on the terms of their arrangement. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has now ordered the Department of Housing and Urban Development to use the more complex and tightly restricted competitive bidding process instead.

Taking the issue on to the Supreme Court, HUD argued that having to proceed through the bidding process will take away much of its flexibility, and will require it to stage frequent competitions in order to satisfy the procurement contract process. Continue reading »


Monday round-up

By on Apr 20, 2015 at 6:10 am

Coverage and commentary continue to focus on the upcoming oral arguments in the challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage.  Writing for this blog, Lyle Denniston completed his series of posts previewing the oral arguments with a post on the amicus briefs supporting the states in the case.  In the Supreme Court Brief (subscription required), Marcia Coyle reports that, “[f]rom the personal to the legal to the religious, opponents of same-sex marriage offer the U.S. Supreme Court a potpourri of arguments in support of their belief that the court should uphold state bans.”  At The Daily Signal, Gene Schaerr contends that abortion and same-sex marriage “are closely linked in a short and simple causal chain that the Supreme Court would be wise not to set in motion.” Continue reading »

Posted in Round-up

This week at the Court

By on Apr 20, 2015 at 12:01 am

On Monday the Court issued orders from its April 17 Conference, which Lyle reported on. On Tuesday the Court issued decisions in Rodriguez v. United States and Oneok v. LearjetOn Wednesday the Court issued its decision in United States v. Wong.

This is the first week of the April sitting.


This is the final post in a four-part series on the written arguments that have been filed in the same-sex marriage cases at the Supreme Court.  This post covers the briefs filed by individuals and organizations supporting the states’ authority to control the definition of marriage, and, in particular, to prohibit same-sex marriage.  The first three articles in this series covered the briefs filed by the challengers, by the four states defending their bans, and by the amici supporting the challengers, including the federal government.

Taken as a whole, the sixty-six legal briefs filed in defense of the four states’ bans on same-sex marriage show evident signs of trying mainly to satisfy Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. There is a studied effort among many of these amici not to disparage the gains that the gay rights community has made in the law, gains that usually have come from Kennedy’s singular influence, while at the same time foreseeing a dire future for traditional opposite-sex marriage and to state sovereignty if the institution is opened by judicial decree to gays and lesbians.

Continue reading »

Petition of the day

By on Apr 17, 2015 at 10:15 pm

The petition of the day is:


Issue: Whether there is a Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right to avoid a prolonged pretrial detention caused by a police officer's failure to disclose evidence that is “strongly indicative of innocence”; or, where there has been no trial and conviction, and thus no violation under Brady v. Maryland, whether pretrial deprivations of liberty are governed by the Fourth Amendment.



The question for the Court in McFadden v. United States, scheduled for oral argument next Tuesday, is not whether the court of appeals below got it wrong – even the government concedes that it did. No, the question for the Court on Tuesday is, instead, what is the right answer.   And the mind-bending intricacies of mens rea doctrine raised by the case are likely to lead the Court into nuanced and difficult-to-understand questions – and ultimately to division. (Recall the mens rea arguments and divided opinions in Rosemond v. United States last Term.)

The mens rea required for a federal narcotics prosecution is deceptively simple: 21 U.S.C. §841(a) provides that “it shall be unlawful for any person knowingly … to distribute … a controlled substance” (my emphasis). But because the criminalization of controlled substances is controversial in many quarters, and the penalties are viewed by some as harsh – and because the human appetite for psychotropic substances seems inexhaustible — every legal nuance tends to be hard-fought in a narcotics prosecution case. Thus it is with Section 841 mens rea: what exactly does the government have to prove a defendant “knew,” in order for a jury to convict? The exact chemical formula of the substance distributed? That the substance is actually on the statutory list? That the substance is a “narcotic” drug? Or just that he was distributing something people enjoy consuming? (Which, as alcohol demonstrates, can’t be the case.) Continue reading »



For Monday morning’s re-argument in Johnson v. United States, the Justices have posed their own Question Presented: “Whether the residual clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984, 18 U. S. C. §924(e)(2)(B)(ii), is unconstitutionally vague.” When the Supreme Court directs the parties to answer such a question after struggling with a case for two months (it heard the first set of oral arguments in November and ordered re-argument in January), many would say that the handwriting is on the wall. However, the federal government’s supplemental brief presents as strong a case as one can imagine for answering the new question in the negative. And at oral argument on Monday morning, the federal government is likely to make clear that it – and the statute – will not go down without a fight. Continue reading »

More Posts: More Recent PostsOlder Posts
Term Snapshot