Articles Tagged with scotus

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On January 31, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, for the U.S. Supreme Court. If confirmed, Judge Gorsuch would take up the seat vacated by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year.

Here’s what you might want to know about Judge Gorsuch:

  • Judicial Service: He currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. He was nominated for that position by George W. Bush on May 10, 2006, to fill a seat vacated by David M. Ebel. Judge Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate on July 20, 2006, and received commission on August 8, 2006.

Posted in: Legal News

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U.S. Supreme CourtToday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in the much-anticipated case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (formerly Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., consolidated with Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Burwell and Autocam Corp. v. Burwell).

In a 5-4 opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, the Court held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) permits a closely held for-profit corporation to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.

Here is some commentary tracking the progress of these cases before the Court’s ruling:

Below are the relevant dockets and opinions in the lower courts:

Hobby Lobby

Conestoga Wood

Here are some resources for the consolidated cases before the U.S. Supreme Court:


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May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. In his proclamation, President Obama cited the accomplishments of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and acknowledged the difficulties that members of this community have faced both historically and in the present.

Let’s take a short trip through our nation’s case law to look at some of these difficulties. Your lessons in school might not have given you a complete picture on American history.

1. Korematsu v. United States

Exclusion Order No. 34

Photo Credit: National Park Service.

Fred Korematsu, an American citizen of Japanese descent, challenged his conviction for remaining in San Leandro, California, in violation of Exclusion Order No. 34, which required all persons of Japanese ancestry to evacuate from a designated geographical area. The Supreme Court stated that “legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group” must be subject to the most rigid scrutiny. “Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions; racial antagonism never can.”

To justify the exclusion order, the Court cited the “definite and close relationship” between the exclusion order and “the prevention of espionage and sabotage.” The Court acknowledged the overinclusive nature of the exclusion order, noting that most of the people impacted by the exclusion order were “no doubt . . . loyal to this country.” However, the Court was not prepared to question the military’s judgment that “it was impossible to bring about an immediate segregation of the disloyal from the loyal” and upheld the exclusion order.

In dissent, Justice Frank Murphy acknowledged the deference that must be accorded to the military in its prosecution of the war. Nevertheless, the order by the military to remove all persons of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific Coast was not reasonably related to its claimed goal of preventing sabotage and espionage because the reasons offered in support of the exclusion order were based not on expert military judgment, but on “misinformation, half-truths and insinuations that for years have been directed against Japanese Americans by people with racial and economic prejudices.”

Even if “some disloyal persons of Japanese descent on the Pacific Coast [] did all in their power to aid their ancestral land,” “to infer that examples of individual disloyalty prove group disloyalty and justify discriminatory action against the entire group is to deny that, under our system of law, individual guilt is the sole basis for deprivation of rights.”

See Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944)


Posted in: Constitutional Law

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EraserBy now, you’ve all read that Justice Antonin Scalia made a series of mistakes in the dissenting opinion of EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, L.P. The Supreme Court issued a corrected version of the opinion on its website. For more on the story, read the coverage in the WSJ Law Blog, the Volokh Conspiracy, or SCOTUSBlog. They’ll give you the background – this post will discuss publishing implications, and why it’s problematic that the Court doesn’t notify the public when they make revisions to opinions.

Here’s how the Supreme Court’s electronic publishing process works. The first version of the opinion, called the bench opinion, is released in XML format to a handful of publishers (the “Project Hermes” feed). Later that day, a PDF version – the “slip opinion” – is released on the Court’s website. The slip opinions may be further edited, and then the official opinions are published in the bound volumes as citable opinions.

The Supreme Court’s website issues the following disclaimer about the slip opinions found therein:

Caution: These electronic opinions may contain computer-generated errors or other deviations from the official printed slip opinion pamphlets. Moreover, a slip opinion is replaced within a few months by a paginated version of the case in the preliminary print, and–one year after the issuance of that print–by the final version of the case in a U. S. Reports bound volume. In case of discrepancies between the print and electronic versions of a slip opinion, the print version controls. In case of discrepancies between the slip opinion and any later official version of the opinion, the later version controls.

The Court occasionally issues new versions of slip opinions, but they don’t always notify the public when they do so.  Professor Emeritus of Cornell Law School and legal information expert Peter Martin has written about this, noting that most changes are for minor typographical errors. However, there have been instances where a significant change was made:

Far more recent history includes the removal of a lengthy footnote from the majority opinion in Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. 358 (2010).  The slip opinion file now at the Court’s web site carries no notice of the revision beyond the indication in the “properties” field that it was modified over two weeks after the opinion’s filing date.  To see the original footnote 31 one must go to the CourtListener site or a collection like that of Cornell’s LII built on the assumption that a slip opinion distributed by the Court on day of decision will not be changed prior to its appearance in a preliminary print.

The changes made to Scalia’s dissent in EME Homer were arguably significant. They were also very public. As far as I can tell, it was Law Professor Richard Lazarus who first discovered the error. He blogged about it, it was picked up by national news, and that’s why we know that the change was made. The Supreme Court notified Professor Lazarus of the change, but there is no mention of it on their site. They simply swapped opinions.


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Confidential FileDelaware Courts of Chancery appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court recently, seeking to validate a law that would allow them to hold confidential arbitration proceedings for parties with $1M litigation at stake. Professor Judith Resnik wrote about this in the NYT Op-Ed pages,  “Renting Judges for Secret Rulings.”

On appeal is the question whether this arbitration process, established by the Delaware Legislature and codified at Del. Code Ann. Tit. 10 § 349 violates the First Amendment’s right to public access for court proceedings.

The Delaware Legislature passed the law in 2009. It allows litigants with an amount in controversy over $1M to pay a $12,000 fee (and $6,000 per day) to conduct private arbitration in state courts, with a sitting state judge presiding over the proceedings. The verdict from this arbitration is final, as an enforceable judicial decision. The filings are not docketed, and the decisions are not published.

The Delaware Coalition for Open Government (DCOG) sued to have the law overturned after it was passed. The district court found that the law violated the First Amendment, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed. The question presented in the petition writ for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court is whether under the “experience and logic” test, established by earlier SCOTUS cases, these cases may be held confidential, or closed to public access.


Posted in: First Amendment

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Cell TowerThe Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed for a writ of mandamus and prohibition in the Supreme Court of the United States yesterday, asking them to vacate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s Order requiring production of phone records for domestic customers of Verizon.

In the petition, the questions presented are (1) Whether the FISC exceeded its statutory authority under 50 USC §1861 to authorize foreign surveillance when it ordered Verizon to produce records for wholly domestic communications and (2) Whether EPIC is entitled to relief under 28 USC §1651(a) to vacate the order by the FISC.

28 USC §1651 is known as the All Writs Act, and it authorizes the Supreme Court to issue extraordinary writs in its discretion. EPIC argues that an extraordinary writ is appropriate because (1) the FISC exceeded its statutory authority in granting the order and (2) No other court may grant relief, due to the secretive, ex-parte nature of the FISC orders and opinions.


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On Monday, in the shadow of then-Hurricane (now-Superstorm) Sandy, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., a case involving the applicability of U.S. copyright law to copies of works created and legally acquired abroad and subsequently imported into the United States.

In the case, Supap Kirtsaeng, a college student from Thailand studying in the United States, launched a small online business selling textbooks. His family in Thailand bought foreign edition textbooks printed by Wiley Asia and mailed them to Kirtsaeng. Kirtsaeng then sold the textbooks online on sites such as eBay.com and reimbursed his family for the costs of purchase and shipping, retaining the remaining profits from the sale.

John Wiley & Sons subsequently sued Kirtsaeng in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition under New York state law. As to the copyright claim, the district court judge determined that the language in 17 U.S.C. § 109(a), known as the “first sale doctrine,” does not include copyrighted goods manufactured abroad.


Posted in: Copyright, Laws

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The U.S. Supreme Court started its term today, hearing oral arguments for Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. The case involves the interpretation of a federal statute enacted by the first Congress as part of the Judiciary Act of 1879—the Alien Tort Statute.

The Alien Tort Statute (ATS) provides that “[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” The statute was all but unused until 1980, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala that the ATS conferred jurisdiction over a lawsuit brought by a foreign national against another foreign national over actions that took place overseas. Since that ruling, the ATS has come up a handful of times, but only once previously before the Supreme Court.

In Kiobel, the case the Supreme Court heard today, twelve Nigerian nationals sued three European oil companies for helping the Nigerian government to kill and torture civilians. The case was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and the district court dismissed all claims against the corporate defendants, finding that the ATS imposes liability only against individuals, not corporations. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims.

The Supreme Court originally granted review in October 2011, but only as to the question whether the ATS applies to corporate conduct abroad. Shortly after hearing arguments on that issue in February 2012, the Court ordered supplemental briefing on the question whether an ATS claim could proceed when the conduct giving rise to the claim occurred wholly outside of the United States. Today’s oral argument focused on this second question.


Posted in: Legal News

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Tomorrow brings one of the most highly anticipated decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years: the ruling on the constitutionality of the health-care law that is arguably the crowning achievement of President Obama’s first term in office. Incidentally, tomorrow also marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of Verdict, Justia’s legal analysis and commentary site.


Posted in: Justia News, Legal News