Supreme Court Review 2014/2015 TERM
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2014

THIS WEEK AT THE COURT

The Court has issued two opinions. Last week, the Court heard six cases in oral arguments, issued two opinions and granted review to four new cases. Last Friday, the Court granted review to three new cases.

Decided - Individualized Suspicion Based on Mistake of Law

Heien v. North Carolina - Because a North Carolina Law was ambiguous as to whether a car was required to have one or two working brake lights and because the law had never been previously construed by North Carolina’s appellate courts, it was objectively reasonable for an officer to think that a single faulty brake light was a violation of North Carolina law. Since his mistake of law was reasonable, there was reasonable suspicion under the 4th Amendment to justify the stop. (8-1) (ROBERTS, J.)

Decided - Evidence of Jurisdiction in Removal

Dart Cherokee Basin v. Owens - As specified in §1446(a), a defendant’s notice of removal need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold; the notice need not contain evidentiary submissions. The District Court erred in remanding this case for want of an evidentiary submission in the notice of removal, and the Tenth Circuit abused its discretion in denying review of that decision. (5-4) (GINSBURG, J.)

Decided - Time Spent in Security Screenings under Fair Labor Standards Act

Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk - The time that respondents spent waiting to undergo and undergoing security screenings is not compensable under the FLSA. (9-0) (THOMAS, J.)

Decided - Juror Testimony Concerning Deliberations

Warger v. Shauers - Rule 606(b) applies to juror testimony during a proceeding in which a party seeks to secure a new trial on the ground that a juror lied during voir dire. The affidavit at issue was not admissible under Rule 606(b)(2)(A)’s exception for evidence of “extraneous prejudicial information.” (9-0) (SOTOMAYOR, J.)

Agrees to Hear - Viewpoint Discrimination in Specialty License Plates

Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans - Do the messages and symbols on state-issued specialty license plates qualify as government speech immune from any requirement of viewpoint neutrality?

Agrees to Hear - Evidence of Mental Retardation in Capital Cases

Brumfield v. Cain - Whether a state court that denies funding to an indigent petitioner who has no other means of obtaining evidence of his mental retardation has denied petitioner his “opportunity to be heard,” contrary to Atkins and Ford v. Wainwright, and his constitutional right to be provided with the “basic tools” for an adequate defense.

Agrees to Hear - Induced Patent Infringement

Commil USA v. Cisco Systems, Inc. - Whether the Federal Circuit erred in holding that a defendant’s belief that a patent is invalid is a defense to induced infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b).

Oral Argument - Delegation of Regulatory Power to Private Entity

Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads - Section 207 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 empowers Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to jointly develop performance measures to enhance enforcement of the statutory priority Amtrak’s passenger rail service has over other trains. The question presented is whether Section 207 effects an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to a private entity.

Oral Argument - Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976

Alabama Dep't of Revenue v. CSX Transportation - Whether a State “discriminates against a rail carrier” in violation of 49 U.S.C. §11501(b)(4) when the State generally requires commercial and industrial businesses, including rail carriers, to pay a sales-and-use tax but grants exemptions from the tax to the railroads’ competitors.

Oral Argument - Tax Injunction Act

Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl - Whether the Tax Injunction Act bars federal court jurisdiction over a suit brought by nontaxpayers to enjoin the informational notice and reporting requirements of a state law that neither imposes a tax, nor requires the collection of a tax, but serves only as a secondary aspect of state tax administration.

Oral Argument - Case Consolidation for Appellate Review

Gelboim v. Bank of America Corp. - Whether and in what circumstances is the dismissal of an action that has been consolidated with other suits immediately appealable?

Oral Argument - Equitable Tolling under Federal Tort Claims Act

United States v. Wong - Whether the six-month time bar for filing suit in federal court under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2401(b), is subject to equitable tolling.

Oral Argument - Equitable Tolling under Federal Tort Claims Act

United States v. June - Whether the two-year time limit for filing an administrative claim with the appropriate federal agency under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2401(b), is subject to equitable tolling.

Agrees to Hear - Retroactivity of Miller v. Alabama

Toca v. Louisiana - Does the rule announced in Miller v. Alabama, apply retroactively?

Agrees to Hear - Refund of Undistributed Funds to Debtor Upon Conversion to Chapter 7

Harris v. Viegelahn - Whether, when a debtor in good faith converts a bankruptcy case to Chapter 7 after confirmation of a Chapter 13 plan, undistributed funds held by the Chapter 13 trustee are refunded to the debtor or distributed to creditors.

Agrees to Hear - Appealability of Order Denying Bankruptcy Plan

Bullard v. Hyde Park Savings Bank - Whether an order denying confirmation of a bankruptcy plan is appealable.

Agrees to Hear - Royalty Agreement Projecting Beyond Expiration of Patent

Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises, Inc. - Whether this Court should overrule Brulotte v. Thys.

RECENT MEDIA COVERAGE

RECENT DECISIONS

SUPREME PODCAST PLAYER

This Week at the United States Supreme Court December 13, 2014

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (12/13/2014):

May the State of Texas refuse an organization's request for a specialty license plate because their design includes the incorporation of a confederate flag? May a state deny funding to an indigent petitioner who has no other means of obtaining evidence of his mental retardation? Did Congress unconstitutionally delegate its legislative power to Amtrak, a private entity, when it enacted Section 207(a) of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act? May a party moving for a new trial based on juror dishonest during voir dire introduce juror testimony about statements made during deliberations that tend to show the alleged dishonesty.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (12/06/2014):

Are Facebook rants that direct threats at a specific person criminally actionable or does the First Amendment protect such expression? Should a pregnant woman who has been told by her doctor that she can no longer lift heavy boxes at work prevail in a lawsuit against her employer, UPS, who says that they only grant light duty assignments to those who are injured on the job or are disabled. Should a law that directs a minimum ten-year prison sentence for any bank robber who forces a hostage to accompany them be applied to a person who, after attempting to rob a bank, took refuge in the home of a senior citizen and asked them to move nine feet with them into another room of the home? We review the Court's oral arguments this week considering these questions.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (11/15/2014):

Should a state be able to tax its residents income even if earned out of state and subject to out of state taxes without giving its residents a credit for the taxes they paid to other states? May the Alabama legislature classify voters based on race for redistricting purposes under the rationale that they are simply attempting to maintain the same demographics in their districts as existed prior to the results of a new census? We review the Court's oral arguments considering these questions.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (11/08/2014):

May the federal government offer tax credits to cover health insurance premiums for those who buy health insurance on exchanges established by the federal government where a statute only permits such credits for insurance purchased on exchanges "established by the state?" Does the mere possession of a short-barreled shotgun constitute a violent felony for the purpose of the Armed Career Criminal Act? May a federal air marshall be protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act for disclosing to media sources a July 2003 memo from the TSA discontinuing air marshals on flight from Las Vegas despite a credible threat of a plot to hijack U.S. airliners?

Oral Arguments - Police Officers' Mistakes of Law (10/12/2014):

On this episode we review the oral arguments heard by the Court this week in Heien v. North Carolina, which consider whether the Fourth Amendment permits Police Officers to effect traffic stops based on a mistaken interpretation of the law.

Oral Arguments - Prison Beards and Religious Liberty (10/11/2014):

On this episode we review the oral arguments in Holt v. Hobbs, a case which asks whether a prison's policy that all inmates must be clean-shaven, even those whose religion require beard growth, is valid under federal law.

Introduction to the 2014-15 Term (10/06/2014):

May police officers base the reasonable suspicion necessary to effect a traffic stop on a mistake of law and may they detain you after giving you a ticket so that a drug dog can sniff your car? Is a prison's no-beard policy constitutional as applied to a person whose religion requires men to have beards? Does mere possession of a short-barreled shotgun by a convicted felon constitute a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act? Does subjective intent matter when a statement on social media is objectively threatening? How far do companies have to go to accommodate their pregnant employees? Are teachers agents of law enforcement for the purpose of child abuse inquiries? We discuss these questions among others.

Decision - Contraceptive Coverage Mandate (07/04/2014):

Whether family owned for profit corporations may refuse to pay for healthcare coverage which includes coverage for certain contraceptives that may have the effect of terminating an already fertilized egg or whether such a religious accommodation would upset a compelling government interest in ensuring that woman have equal and sufficient access to healthcare.

Decision - Presidential Recess Appointments (07/02/2014):

Were President Obama's three appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in January 2012 a valid exercise of his Recess Appointments Power or was the fact that the Senate was convening every three days in pro-forma sessions enough to mean that the Senate was not in Recess, making his appointments unconstitutional?

Decision - Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones (07/01/2014):

Is a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics in Massachusetts which extends onto public sidewalks and roadways and within which no person may enter who does not have business at the clinic unconstitutional?

Decision - Cell Phone Searches (06/30/2014):

Does the Fourth Amendment permits the police, without obtaining a warrant, to review the contents of a cell phone found on a person who has been lawfully arrested?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (06/21/2014):

Were the Facebook posts of Anthony Elonis threatening people he knew with bodily harm criminal or protected by the First Amendment? Was a government employee protected by the First Amendment when he testified against a former co-worker for stealing time on the job? Is it illegal for a person buying a gun to identify themselves as the "actual buyer" of the weapon, when in fact they are buying the gun for someone else? Must a federal agency engage in notice-and-comment rulemaking before it can significantly alter the way it interprets an agency regulation?

False Advertising - POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola (06/13/2014):

On this episode we review the Supreme Court's decision this week in POM Wonderful LLC v. Coca-Cola Company, which considers a claim by POM Wonderful that Coca-Cola's Minute Maid brand misleads consumers by displaying the words “pomegranate blueberry” with far more prominence on one of its juice blend labels than other words on the label - when in fact the product contains but 0.3% pomegranate juice and 0.2% blueberry juice. The Court considers whether a private company can bring a Lanham Act false advertising claim after the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) has already approved the label.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (06/07/2014):

Is it unconstitutional for a state legislature to redraw district lines for the purpose of maintaining supermajority black districts and as a consequence diluting the black vote in other districts? May a woman who tried to hurt her best friend with a chemical from her lab after she discovered that her best friend had mothered her husband's child be prosecuted under a law implementing a wartime chemical weapons treaty? May a person challenge an Ohio law that permits any citizen to bring an action against a person who knowingly disseminates misinformation to voters during a political campaign before the person has been or would be successfully prosecuted for a violation of the law? May a company be liable for patent infringement when they perform only some of the steps of a patent and then rely on or encourage others in the general public to carry out the rest of the steps themselves? Did Nautilus infringe a patent in its design of heart rate monitors it includes with its exercise equipment or is the underlying patent too ambiguous and, therefore, unenforceable?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (05/31/2014):

Is it constitutional to have a death penalty system with an IQ score cut-off, above which no person may be considered mentally retarded? Did Secret Service engage in unlawful viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment when during a stop in Jacksonville, Oregon, in 2004, they moved a group of anti-Bush protestors further away from the president than pro-Bush demonstrators?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (05/10/2014):

May a town board open each of its monthly legislative sessions with a Christian prayer? What is the process by which the Federal Courts Rules of Practice and Procedure come into existence?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (05/03/2014):

Does the Sarbanes-Oxley Act apply to the destruction of fish in order to impede or obstruct an investigation? Do police officers need to corroborate anonymous tips about reckless or drunk drivers before stopping the reported vehicles? Can Congress require the executive branch to recognize Jerusalem as Israel on consular documents? May police search the contents of an arrestee's cellphone without a warrant?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (04/26/2014):

May the citizens of a state ban race conscious affirmative action programs from being used in the public schools in their state? Does a company that permits paid subscribers to record and re-play broadcast television shows violate the rights of the copyright owners?

Special Episode - Software Patents - Oral Arguments in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank (04/17/2014):

In this episode we review the oral arguments in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l, a case that has the potential to redefine the patentability of computer-implemented inventions.

Special Episode - Campaign Finance - This Week's Decision in McCutcheon v. FEC (04/05/2014):

This week the Court issued one of its most anticipated opinions of the term in a controversial campaign finance case. The Court decided whether limits on the total amount of money an individual is permitted to spend in an election cycle on donations to candidates, parties and political action committees is constitutional. We review the details of the Court's decision.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (03/29/2014):

Should for-profit corporations be able to tailor their employees health insurance coverage to the religious beliefs of the corporation's owners? Are secret service agents personally liable if they move a group of protestors solely based on the viewpoints the protestors are expressing even if the move can also be explained using a security based rationale?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (03/08/2014):

Is the Florida scheme for preventing the execution of the mentally retarded under-inclusive and a violation of the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment? Is an Arkansas prison beard growing policy necessary for security purposes or a violation of a federal law protecting religious freedoms?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (03/01/2014):

Does the EPA have the power to regulate greenhouse gases emitted by stationary sources, such as power plants, under the Clean Air Act when doing so would require the EPA to substantively alter a statute to do so? Can police after arresting a person who voiced an objection to a search of his home, return an hour later and search his home based on the consent of his live-in girlfriend? May police search a cell phone instant to a lawful arrest or must they obtain a warrant first? Does military jurisdiction for the purposes of a federal trespass statute extend to a protest area on a public roadway easement that runs through a military installation?

Special Episode - Recent Patent Law Decisions (02/20/2014):

On this episode we consider the Supreme Court's newfound interest in Patent Law and its battle to correct several misinterpretations of prior Supreme Court precedent by the Federal Circuit. We also update you on the most recent Patent Law cases before the Court.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (01/18/2014):

How broadly may the President interpret his Recess Appointments Power in light of the intransigence of the Senate in confirming his appointees, leading at least one federal agency to become ineffectual? May a company give internet users the ability to stream, record and playback broadcast television programs currently airing without violating the copyrights in those programs? May a person who seeks to have a quiet, non-confrontational conversation with someone outside an abortion clinic be subject to a law that creates a buffer zone around abortion clinics? We discuss these issues and more.

Contraceptive Coverage Mandate: Little Sisters of the Poor (01/11/2014):

Non-profit religious groups argue that having to sign a form, which excepts them from the contraceptive coverage mandate, is itself an unconstitutional intrusion on their religious beliefs because in signing the form they are deputizing a third party to provide the very coverage they oppose. Justice Sotomayor considers their arguments.

Court Halts Gay Marriage in Utah - Learn More (01/06/2014):

The Court has decided to stay a Utah federal court decision striking down the state's ban on gay marriage. Learn more about the decision.

EPA v. EME Homer City - Cross State Air Pollution (12/14/2013):

Whether an upwind state that is polluting a downwind state is free of any obligations under the Good Neighbor provision unless and until the EPA has quantified the upwind state’s contribution to downwind state’s air pollution.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (12/07/2013):

Can corporations assert religious freedom rights to challenge a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires corporations of a certain size to provide healthcare coverage for contraceptives? Is Florida's scheme for identifying whether the mentally retarded may be put to death so broad as to constitute a violation of the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments? Was there an adequate security-based rationale for moving a group of anti-Bush protestors farther away from President Bush while he was dining on an outdoor patio in 2004 than a pro-Bush group, and if not, are two Secret Service agents who moved the anti-Bush group liable for a claim of constitutionally barred viewpoint discrimination or are they entitled to qualified immunity? May the commander of a California air force base ban an individual from traveling on a public roadway that runs through the base?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (11/16/2013):

When a person makes clear to police that they do not want their house searched and a short time later is taken into custody, may the police conduct a warrantless search of the house based on the consent of a co-tenant? Under the federal labor anti-bribery statute, is it illegal for a union to agree not to picket an employer in exchange for the employer's agreement that it will allow union representatives on-the-job access to its employees and will remain neutral as to the subject of unionization?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (11/09/2013):

May a town legislature open every legislative session with a clergy-led prayer given by a prayer-giver that the Town has designated as their “chaplain of the month?” Should steelworkers be compensated under the Fair Labor Standards Act for the time it takes them to put on and take off protective gear at the beginning and end of their shift?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (10/19/2013):

Does a state constitutional amendment which prohibits affirmative action programs at state colleges and universities violate the Equal Protection Clause? May the EPA condition the granting of permits for power plants and industrial factories on adherence to EPA guidelines regarding greenhouse gas emissions, under the theory that the EPA has the authority to engage in a similar regulatory scheme with regard to motor vehicles? Does a person violates federal firearm sales laws when he buys a gun with the intention of selling it to someone else even when the person he intends to sell it to is someone who could have lawfully purchased the gun themselves.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (10/12/2013):

Are aggregate limits on the amount an individual may spend on contributions to political candidates and their parties in a federal election cycle constitutional?

Special Episode - Cell Phone Searches Incident to Arrest (09/29/2013):

On this episode we consider two cases seeking Supreme Court review this term that ask the Court to decide for the first time whether cell phone searches incident to a lawful arrest are constitutional or instead require a warrant.

Year In Review (07/04/2013):

On this week's show we review the most controversial decisions of the term and the media analysis and reaction to a historic term at the United States Supreme Court.

Decision - Gay Marriage Cases - Windsor & Perry (06/28/2013):

May the federal government define marriage for the purposes of federal law? Do the proponents of Proposition 8, banning gay marriage in California, have standing after the iniative became law to challenge its subsequent invalidation by a federal court?

Decision - Affirmative Action - Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (06/27/2013):

Whether this Court's decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, including Grutter v. Bollinger, permit the University of Texas at Austin's use of race in undergraduate admissions decisions.

Decision - Voting Rights Act - Shelby County v. Holder (06/26/2013):

Did Congress exceed its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments when in 2006 it reauthorized Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act under the pre-existing coverage formula of Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act?

Decision - Indian Child Welfare Act - Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (06/25/2013):

Whether the Indian Child Welfare Act requires an adoptive couple to relinquish their parental rights to a child that is less than 1% Cherokee in favor of the biological father who had previously relinquished his parental rights.

Decision - Hostile Work Environment - Vance v. Ball State Univ. (06/24/2013):

Who constitutes a supervisor for the purposes of workplace harassment vicarious liability?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (06/22/2013):

May a township redevelop its one low-income, minority neighborhood to make way for upscale housing without facing a disparate impact claim under the Fair Housing Act? Is a class action arbitration waiver clause in a commercial contract enforceable when the cost of arbitrating individually far exceeds any potential recovery, effectively insulating the protected party from liability? Is the First Amendment violated by a condition on federal funding to fight AIDS and other diseases that requires any organization accepting funds to have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking?

Decision - Right to Remain Silent - Salinas v. Texas (06/21/2013):

May a defendant's silence during non-custodial police interrogation be used against him at a subsequent trial?

Decision - Voter ID - Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Ariz., Inc. (06/20/2013):

May Arizona additionally require evidence-of-citizenship when processing federal voter registration forms?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (06/15/2013):

Are human genes patentable?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (06/08/2013):

Does the Fourth Amendment permit police to take a DNA swab from all individuals arrested for serious offenses prior to conviction? Does 18 U.S.C. 1382, which prohibits a person from reentering a military installation after a commanding officer has ordered him not to reenter, apply to a public road that runs through a portion of the military installation?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (05/25/2013):

Is it a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause to open Town Board meetings with religious prayers from private citizen volunteers? May police accept the consent of a co-tenant after another co-tenant has refused to permit a warrantless search of their home? Are federal agencies entitled to deference when they interpret ambiguous statutes concerning the scope of their regulatory authority?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (05/18/2013):

Can a company who makes genetically modified seeds limit the way farmer may use those seeds after they are purchased? What does the term "defalcation" mean in the Bankruptcy Code? Are indigent defendants who appeal their cases pursuant to the federal in forma pauperis statute permitted to amend their complaints, an allowance granted to most other litigants?

Notable April Opinions (05/04/2013):

On this episode we review four notable opinions issued by the Court last month.

End of Oral Arguments This Term and Fisher v. University of Texas (04/27/2013):

On this episode we reflect on the oral arguments this term and listen to the unabridged oral arguments in one of the more controversial and entertaining oral arguments of the term, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (04/20/2013):

We review four cases heard in oral arguments this week. Are human genes patentable? Should a federal law that favors American Indian tribes and parents be applied to take a adoptive child from a non-Indian family to return her to a father that washed his hands of her years before? Does the Congress have the power to require a former member of the military to register as a sex offender years after he served his sentence and after leaving the military? Is a person's silence in response to police questioning prior to arrest and the giving of Miranda rights admissible as evidence against him in a subsequent trial when the defendant does not testify?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (03/30/2013):

May the police bring a drug sniffing dog to the front door of your home to sniff around? May a state’s constitution ban affirmative action programs in the state?

Live from the Supreme Court - Oral arguments in the Gay Marriage Cases (United States v. Windsor) (03/27/2013):

Listen to the full oral arguments in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case heard by the Court today. This week Supreme Podcast reports live from the Supreme Court.

Live from the Supreme Court - Oral arguments in the Gay Marriage Cases (Hollingsworth v. Perry) (03/26/2013):

Listen to the full oral arguments in the California same sex marriage case heard by the Court today. This week Supreme Podcast reports live from the Supreme Court.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (03/23/2013):

Does the U.S. Forest Service have to consider the effect of its forest thinning policies in the Sierra Nevada mountain range on fish species in nearby waters? Does federal election law preempt an Arizona law that requires the rejection of federal voter registration forms that are not supplemented by documents proving citizenship? May a student at USC have his family in Thailand send him new textbooks sold oversees for resale in the United States for a profit without violating US Copyright law? We discuss all these cases before the Supreme Court this week and more.

Special Episode - The Gay Marriage Cases (03/16/2013):

On this special episode we consider each of the questions presented in the upcoming gay marriage cases scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on March 26th and March 27th. We also review some of the more interesting amicus curiae briefs filed in the two cases.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (03/02/2013):

Absent a warrant or probable cause should police be permitted to take a cheek-swap DNA sample from an individual under arrest for a serious crime in order to check the sample against those in cold case files or must police wait until the arrestee has been convicted? Do American citizens who have reason to believe their communications with foreigners are being intercepted by the US Government under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act have standing to challenge the program even though they have no way of knowing whether they are actually subject to surveillance or not?

Special Episode - Oral Arguments Voting Rights Act (03/01/2013):

Hear the entire oral arguments in one of the most controversial cases of the year. Should a core section of one of the country's most successful laws be struck down on the grounds that it is an overreach of federal power and is based on a factual determination made over 47 years ago?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (02/23/2013):

Do farmers infringe patents held in genetically modified seeds when they plant those seeds without authorization from the patent holder? Does an alert by a trained narcotics detection dog provide police with probable cause to search a vehicle? Are aggregate limits on individual political contributions constitutional? We discuss these issues and more...

Special Episode - Affirmative Action (02/17/2013):

In this special episode, we discuss the constitutional implications and history of Affirmative Action and the Supreme Court's newest affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (01/25/2013):

Can a federal law implementing a chemical weapons treaty be applied to an ordinary poisoning case, wherein a microbiologist in Pennsylvania attempted to poison a woman who had an affair with her husband? May the Supreme Court of Michigan abolish the diminished capacity defense in criminal trials in a case involving the retrial of a defendant who's original defense was the defense being abolished? Does the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (“SLUSA”) prohibit private class actions based on state law regarding a scheme of fraudulent certificates of deposit, ordinarily not covered by federal securities laws, where they are in part backed by covered securities?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (01/18/2013):

Is a floating home without an engine and a self-generating power source considered a "vessel" for purposes of federal maritime jurisdiction? Should a seven year delay in bringing an indigent capital defendant to trial, due to the lack of Louisiana state funds (post-Katrina) to pay for attorneys to defend him, constitute a violation of the Sixth Amendment's Speedy Trial Clause?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (01/12/2013):

Does the Constitution require a warrant before police may subject a suspected drunk driver to a blood test even if some evidence is lost while the warrant is obtained due to the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream? Does federal law provide a state prisoner the right to suspend their federal habeas proceedings when they are adjudged incompetent? When Los Angeles diverted water to a monitoring station that identified pollutants in a navigable waterway did it subject itself to liability under the Clean Water Act?

Special Episode - Gun Regulation (01/06/2013):

In this special episode, we discuss the constitutional implications of gun regulation and the history and jurisprudence of the Second Amendment.

Special Episode - Romer v. Evans (01/01/2013):

The central precedent cited in the upcoming gay marriage case concerning California's Proposition 8 is Romer v. Evans (1996). We present a summary of the case, consider the parallels between it and the upcoming gay marriage cases and present the full oral argument audio. You will hear the justices struggle with the question of whether a state constitutional amendment may be enacted for the purpose of taking away rights from a particular group of individuals (homosexuals). And you will hear the positions of both sides of the case.

Special Episode - 4th Amendment Privacy (12/24/2012):

Happy Holidays! On this episode we discuss one of the most closely guarded American values - personal privacy. We consider the major cases that establish the outer boundaries of police conduct infringing upon personal privacy and prepare you for the upcoming decision in Florida v. Jardines, a case about whether police may bring drug detection dogs to sniff at your front door without a warrant. This episode contains explicit language at the very beginning of the episode, but is clean after the 20 second mark.

The Gay Marriage Cases: A Primer (12/15/2012):

We discuss two cases granted review concerning the constitutionality of two anti-gay marriage laws. The cases are United States v. Windsor, which challenges a federal law - the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which challenges an amendment to the California State Constitution, enacted by Proposition 8, a ballot initiative.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (12/08/2012):

When the ex-wife of a US soldier wins an order in a US District Court under a treaty to take their child back to her home country of Scotland, may the father appeal the order or is the case automatically mooted because the child is no longer within the court's jurisdiction? When the government releases water from a dam causing temporary flooding and damage to land downstream does it constitute a taking requiring just compensation? Did the Supreme Court err in refusing to grant an appeal by a convicted murder sentenced to death who suffered a "most severe and unimaginable level of physical and mental abuse" as a child" - Justice Sotomayor thinks so. Is LA County liable under the Clean Water Act for polluting a river by maintaining dirty storm water sewer systems or is it saved by the construction of a single word in the act?

Special Episode - Are Human Genes Patentable? (12/07/2012):

How should those who discover new processes of identifying and isolating human genes be rewarded for their work without hindering further research and a patient's ability to get a second opinion? We consider the case law and the morality of one of the most interesting questions the Supreme Court will be confronting this term.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (11/30/2012):

Can employers be held vicariously liable for harassment by employees they empower to oversee a victim's work but not with the power to take formal employment actions against the victim? May states abolish the insanity defense? Does Obamacare violate the rights of religious institutions by creating the risk that their money might be spent by beneficiaries to procure care violate of the religious beliefs of the institutions?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (11/16/2012):

Does the Constitution permit the state to collect DNA samples from persons arrested for serious crimes without a warrant? Is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which singles out states identified in 1964 as discriminating against eligible voters for special treatment, still a valid exercise of constitutional powers 47 years later? When sentencing courts consider sentencing guidelines in effect at the time of sentencing that suggest a higher sentence than would have been recommended at the time of the underlying offense, do they run afoul of the constitutional prohibition against Ex Post Facto laws?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (11/09/2012):

Are you still entitled to attorney's fees under a fee shifting statute if you lose on your monetary damages claim but prevail on your request for a permanent injunction? When seeking certification of a shareholder class action based on the fraud-on-the-market theory are you required to prove that the purported misrepresentations that caused you and your class to buy at an inflated price were material or is materiality a merits issue not relevant at the certification stage?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (11/03/2012):

Can police bring a dog to your front door to smell for narcotics without probable cause? Does the first-sale doctrine apply to goods acquired abroad? Do law abiding U.S. citizens and residents have standing to challenge the possible interception of their international communications authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act? How should the IRS determine whether you should receive a credit for the payment of a foreign tax? Should a habeas petitioner with a credible claim of actual innocence who missed their filing deadline have to separately prove an extraordinary circumstance for the delay?

Justice Thomas: A Comprehensive Retrospective (10/27/2012):

We trace the rise of one of the more unique justices to serve on the Court. From a childhood that began in a shanty with no bathroom and a single light bulb to a successful career in Washington, DC, the life of Justice Thomas is riveting at nearly every turn. He is the current Court's only southerner and only black justice and he has developed a unique jurisprudence that many scholars believe has persuaded many of his colleagues to alter their approach.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (10/17/2012):

Is an Arizona voter ID law preempted by federal law?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (10/12/2012):

What constitutes a critical mass of underrepresented minority students at higher education institutions and once achieved must such institutions discontinue their affirmative action programs? Does federal law require the deportation of a 24-year permanent legal resident for possessing 1.3 grams of marijuana (equivalent to the weight a half of a single penny)? May a state deny citizens of other states access to public records that it permits its own citizens to access?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (10/06/2012):

May citizens of a foreign country living in the United States sue a foreign corporation doing business in the United States under the Alien Tort Statute for atrocities perpetrated against them by the corporation in their country of origin? May the police forcibly draw blood from a suspected drunk driver without a warrant? Is a houseboat a "vessel" for purposes of federal maritime jurisdiction?

Introduction to the 2012-2013 Term (09/28/2012):

As the Court prepares for the start of the 2012-2013 term on Monday, we prepare you for some of the more interesting issues the Court is expected to confront this term.

Special Episode - Campaign Finance Law (02/16/2012):

The First Amendment ensures that all who speak, popular and unpopular alike, are protected, and that the solution to any unfavored speech is more speech not less. The utility of that First Amendment ethos, however, has long been called into question when the corrupting influence of corporate and union money in elections is at issue. In this episode, we explore the history of campaign finance law in the United States and the landmark Supreme Court cases that have defined the outer boundaries of legislative powers in this area.

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (11/30/-0001):

When a person makes clear to police that they do not want their house searched and a short time later is taken into custody, may the police conduct a warrantless search of the house based on the consent of a co-tenant? Under the federal labor anti-bribery statute, is it illegal for a union to agree not to picket an employer in exchange for the employer's agreement that it will allow union representatives on-the-job access to its employees and will remain neutral as to the subject of unionization?

This Week at the United States Supreme Court (11/30/-0001):

Is Florida's scheme for executing the mentally retarded over-inclusive such that it violates the 8th Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment? Is an Arkansas prison beard growing policy necessary for security purposes or a violation of a law protecting religious freedoms?

CERTIORARI GRANTED

Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans

Do the messages and symbols on state-issued specialty license plates qualify as government speech immune from any requirement of viewpoint neutrality?

REPORTER: John Sviokla

CERTIORARI GRANTED

Brumfield v. Cain

Whether a state court that denies funding to an indigent petitioner who has no other means of obtaining evidence of his mental retardation has denied petitioner his “opportunity to be heard,” contrary to Atkins and Ford v. Wainwright, and his constitutional right to be provided with the “basic tools” for an adequate defense.

REPORTER: Christopher Proczko

ORAL ARGUMENT

Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads

Section 207 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 empowers Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to jointly develop performance measures to enhance enforcement of the statutory priority Amtrak’s passenger rail service has over other trains. The question presented is whether Section 207 effects an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to a private entity.

REPORTER: Jonathan Shoenholz

OPINION

Warger v. Shauers

Whether Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) permits a party moving for a new trial based on juror dishonest during voir dire to introduce juror testimony about statements made during deliberations that tend to show the alleged dishonesty.

REPORTER: Josh Kleiman

EXPLORE AND LEARN

Explore The Constitution

WHAT DOES THIS LANGUAGE MEAN?
FREE SPEECH: Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech. (learn more)

Hot Button Issues

WHAT IS THIS LEGAL ISSUE REALLY ABOUT?
CAMPAIGN FINANCE: How far may the government go in regulating campaign financing without intruding upon First Amendment rights to freedom of expression and association? (learn more)

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Test Your Knowledge

How Well Do You Know Your Chief Justices?

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Little Known Facts

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Personalities on the Bench

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Women and the Court

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Education Law

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CHARTS & STATS

Cases Granted
01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014
77
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Cases Argued
10/01/2014 - 09/30/2015
33
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Cases Decided
10/01/2014 - 09/30/2015
8
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Circuit of Origin Frequency
01/01/2014 - 06/30/2015

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Oral Argument Input by Justice
10/01/2014 - 09/30/2015

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Top Ten Cases by Amicus Curiae Interest
10/01/2014 - 11/30/2014

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DOCKET

RECENT GRANTS OF CERTIORARI

DATE CASE ISSUE CIR.
12-12-14 Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises, Inc. Royalty Agreement Projecting Beyond Expiration of Patent 9th
12-12-14 Bullard v. Hyde Park Savings Bank Appealability of Order Denying Bankruptcy Plan 1st
12-12-14 Harris v. Viegelahn Refund of Undistributed Funds to Debtor Upon Conversion to Chapter 7 5th
12-12-14 Toca v. Louisiana Retroactivity of Miller v. Alabama
12-05-14 Commil USA v. Cisco Systems, Inc. Induced Patent Infringement Fed.
12-05-14 Brumfield v. Cain Evidence of Mental Retardation in Capital Cases 5th
12-05-14 Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans Viewpoint Discrimination in Specialty License Plates 5th
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RECENT OPINIONS

DATE VOTE CASE ISSUE
12-15-14 5-4 Dart Cherokee Basin v. Owens Evidence of Jurisdiction in Removal
12-15-14 8-1 Heien v. North Carolina Individualized Suspicion Based on Mistake of Law
12-09-14 9-0 Warger v. Shauers Juror Testimony Concerning Deliberations
12-09-14 Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk Time Spent in Security Screenings under Fair Labor Standards Act
11-17-14 9-0 Glebe v. Frost Limiting Closing Statements as Structural Error Not Clearly Established
11-10-14 9-0 Johnson v. City of Shelby Complaint Dismissal for Imperfect Statement of Legal Theory
11-10-14 9-0 Carroll v. Carman Qualified Immunity
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RECENT ORAL ARGUMENTS

DATE CASE ISSUE
12-10-14 United States v. Wong Equitable Tolling under Federal Tort Claims Act
12-10-14 United States v. June Equitable Tolling under Federal Tort Claims Act
12-09-14 Alabama Dep't of Revenue v. CSX Transportation Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976
12-09-14 Gelboim v. Bank of America Corp. Case Consolidation for Appellate Review
12-08-14 Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads Delegation of Regulatory Power to Private Entity
12-08-14 Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl Tax Injunction Act
12-03-14 Hana Financial, Inc. v. Hana Bank Trademark Tacking
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