SCOTUS begins 2019-2020 term

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Arguments

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in five cases this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

In its October 2018 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 69 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Click the links below to read more about the specific cases SCOTUS will hear this week: 

 

October 7

  • In Kahler v. Kansas, James Kahler was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. According to Oyez, Kansas law prohibits a jury from considering mental disorders as a criminal defense “insofar as it shows ‘that the defendant lacked the mental state required as an element of the offense charged.'”

    On appeal, Kahler argued the prosecution violated his right to a fair trial. The Kansas Supreme Court rejected Kahler’s argument, affirming his conviction and sentence. Kahler appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing Kansas law violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments and the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process guarantee.

    The issue: Do the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments permit a state to abolish the insanity defense?
  • Peter v. NantKwest concerns whether applicants challenging a patent rejection under Section 145 of the U.S. Patent Act (35 U.S.C. § 145) must pay attorneys’ fees for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).

    Section 145 authorizes an applicant to challenge the PTO’s rejection of a patent application in federal district court. The law stipulates, “All the expenses of the proceedings shall be paid by the applicant.”

    The PTO rejected Dr. Hans Klingemann and NantKwest, Inc.’s, patent application. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the rejection. Klingemann challenged the rejection under 35 U.S.C. § 145 in federal district court. The district court and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the PTO’s patent rejection.

    The PTO filed a motion for reimbursement of attorneys’ fees under § 145, which the district court denied. On appeal, a divided Federal Circuit panel reversed the district court’s judgment. Sitting en banc, the Federal Circuit then vacated the panel’s decision and affirmed the district court’s initial rejection of the motion for attorneys’ fees reimbursement.

    The PTO appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the Federal Circuit’s en banc ruling “contravenes the ordinary meaning of ‘expenses’ and is inconsistent with Section 145’s history and purpose.”

    The issue: Whether the phrase “[a]ll the expenses of the proceedings” in 35 U.S.C. 145 encompasses the personnel expenses the USPTO incurs when its employees, including attorneys, defend the agency in Section 145 litigation.
  • In Ramos v. Louisiana, Evangelisto Ramos was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on a 10 to 12 jury verdict. He appealed his conviction to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, arguing his conviction by a non-unanimous jury violated his federal constitutional rights. The court of appeal affirmed Ramos’ conviction and sentence. The Louisiana Supreme Court denied review.

    The issue: Whether the Fourteenth Amendment fully incorporates the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict?

October 8

  • Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia is consolidated with Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda.

    Gerald Bostock was an employee of Clayton County, Georgia. After his employment was terminated, Bostock sued the county for discrimination because of sexual orientation. Bostock argued his termination violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The federal district court dismissed the case and, on appeal, the 11th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.

    The issue: Whether discrimination against an employee because of sexual orientation constitutes prohibited employment discrimination “because of … sex” within the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2.

 

 

  • In R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC also concerns Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    Aimee Stephens, an employee at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., was born biologically male. Stephens’ employment was terminated after she informed the funeral home’s owner that she would transition from male to female. Stephens filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which charged the funeral home with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court granted summary judgment to the funeral home. On appeal, the 6th Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and granted summary judgment to the EEOC.

    The issue: Whether Title VII prohibits discrimination against transgender people based on (1) their status as transgender or (2) sex stereotyping under Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins.

 

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the upcoming dates of interest in October:

  • October 7: 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in three cases.
    • SCOTUS will release orders.
  • October 8: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • October 11: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

SCOTUS trivia

When does the U.S. Supreme Court’s yearly term begin?

  1. Always on October 1
  2. Always on October 7
  3. The first Monday in October
  4. Whenever the justices determine summer is over and decide to reconvene

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action

Confirmations

The Senate has confirmed six nominees since our September 9 issue. 

The Senate has confirmed 152 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—105 district court judges, 43 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.

Nominations

President Trump announced 23 new Article III nominees since our September 9 edition.

The president has announced 222 Article III judicial nominations since taking office Jan. 20, 2017. The president named 69 judicial nominees in 2017 and 92 in 2018. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

Federal judicial nominations by month chart

Vacancies

The federal judiciary currently has 107 vacancies. As of publication, there were 40 pending nominations.

According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, an additional 13 judges have announced their intention to leave active judicial status during Trump’s first term.

For more information on judicial vacancies during Trump’s first term, click here.

Committee action

The Senate Judiciary Committee did not report any new nominees out of committee since our September 9 edition.

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count, published at the start of each month, monitors all the faces and places moving in, moving out, and moving on in the federal judiciary. Click here for our most current count.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, if you prefer, we also maintain a list of individuals President Trump has nominated.

Court in the spotlight

In each issue of Bold Justice, we highlight a federal court you should know more about. Right now, we’re taking a closer look at the 94 U.S. District Courts. The district courts are the general trial courts of the U.S. federal court system.

There is at least one judicial district for each state, and one each for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.  

In this edition,  we’re placing a spotlight on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The Eastern District of New York has original jurisdiction over cases filed in the following counties in the eastern part of the state of New York.

  • Kings County,
  • Queens County,
  • Richmond County,
  • Nassau County, and
  • Suffolk County.

Decisions of the court may be appealed to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Eastern District of New York has 15 authorized judgeships. There are currently five vacancies. The breakdown of current active judges by appointing president is:

  • Barack Obama (D): Six judges
  • George W. Bush (R): Four judges



About the author

Sara Reynolds

Sara Reynolds is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at sara.reynolds@ballotpedia.org

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