Bold Justice: SCOTUS grants review in 14 additional cases

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The Supreme Court will hear two hours of oral arguments during the week of January 18 via teleconference with live audio. The court is conducting proceedings this way in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19.

Click the links below to read more about the specific cases before SCOTUS during the second week of its January sitting.

January 19

The consolidated cases originated in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. The FCC issued modifications and orders following a 2016 review of broadcast media ownership rules. A group of petitioners challenged several of the rule changes with the 3rd Circuit. 

The 3rd Circuit issued several rulings:

  • The petitioners had standing to challenge the changes.
  • The FCC’s retention of the top-four component of local television ownership rules and the Incubator Order’s definition of comparable markets were not arbitrary or capricious.
  • The FCC was not unreasonable in delaying action related to an industry procurement rule proposal
  • The FCC had not sufficiently considered the how the changes would affect women- and minority-owned media. 

As a result, the court vacated and remanded the FCC’s orders and its definition of “eligible entities,” and denied the petitioners’ request to appoint a special master to ensure the FCC complied with the court’s rulings in a timely manner.

  • The issue: “Whether the court of appeals erred in vacating as arbitrary and capricious the FCC orders under review, which, among other things, relaxed the agency’s cross-ownership restrictions to accommodate changed market conditions.”
  • BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore concerns the authority of an appeals court to review issues in removal orders.

The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, Maryland (“Baltimore”) sued 26 multinational oil and gas companies in state court, alleging the companies contributed to and were partially responsible for climate change and that the companies’ actions injured Baltimore. 

Two of the companies filed to move the case to federal court, claiming federal law governed the issues raised in the suit. Baltimore filed a motion with the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to move, or remand, the case back to state court. The district court granted Baltimore’s request and denied the companies’ removal request. The companies appealed to the 4th Circuit. The court affirmed the district court’s grant of Baltimore’s remand request. 

  • The issue: “Whether 28 U.S.C. 1447(d) permits a court of appeals to review any issue encompassed in a district court’s order remanding a removed case to state court where the removing defendant premised removal in part on the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442, or the civil rights removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1443.”


SCOTUS ruled on one case since our January 11 issue. The court has issued rulings in 11 cases so far this term. 31 cases are still under deliberation. 

Click the links below to read more about the specific cases SCOTUS ruled on since January 11:

The case: The City of Chicago, Illinois, (“Chicago”) towed and impounded Robbin Fulton’s vehicle. Fulton filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in federal bankruptcy court. Fulton requested that Chicago return her vehicle. Chicago declined the request. Fulton asked the court to sanction Chicago for not returning the car. Chicago asserted it would retain possession of the vehicle, citing an exemption to the federal bankruptcy code’s automatic stay provision. The automatic stay provision requires the immediate return of property once a bankruptcy petition is filed.

The bankruptcy court ruled that Chicago was required to return the vehicle, imposed sanctions, and sustained Fulton’s objection to Chicago’s assertion of its status as a secured creditor. Chicago returned the vehicle and appealed to the 7th Circuit. The court affirmed the bankruptcy court’s ruling. 

The issue: “Whether an entity that is passively retaining possession of property in which a bankruptcy estate has an interest has an affirmative obligation under the Bankruptcy Code’s automatic stay, 11 U.S.C § 362, to return that property to the debtor or trustee immediately upon the filing of the bankruptcy petition.”

The outcome: In a unanimous 8-0 opinion, the court vacated the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case, holding that retaining property after a bankruptcy petition is filed does not violate the Bankruptcy Code. 

Justice Samuel Alito delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a concurring opinion. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.


On January 8, 2021, SCOTUS granted review in 14 cases for a total of 12 hours of oral argument, to be scheduled during its 2020-2021 term. 

SCOTUS has agreed to hear 60 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Twelve of those were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term. 

In its October 2019 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 61 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Click the links below to read more about the 14 cases SCOTUS recently added to its merits docket. The cases are listed by the lower courts from which they originated:

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit

 U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • January 19: 
    • SCOTUS will release orders. 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in three cases.
  • January 22: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
  • January 25: SCOTUS will release orders. 

Federal court action


The Senate confirmed no new nominees since our January 11 issue.

Overall, the Senate has confirmed 234 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—174 district court judges, 54 appeals court judges, three Court of International Trade judges, and three Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.


President Trump announced no new nominees since our January 11 edition.

The president has announced 274 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on January 20, 2017. The president named 69 judicial nominees in 2017, 92 in 2018, and 77 in 2019. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.


The federal judiciary currently has 49 vacancies. As of publication, there were six pending nominations.

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

Committee action

The Senate Judiciary Committee reported no new nominees out of committee since our January 11 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 nominated by the president.

Justice on center stage

In the next few Bold Justice editions, we’re rounding out our spotlight on U.S. Supreme Court justices. Today, we’re learning about Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. 

Kavanaugh has been an associate justice since October 6, 2018. President Donald Trump (R) nominated Kavanaugh on July 9, 2018, to succeed Anthony Kennedy. The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Kavanaugh 50-48 on October 6, 2018.

Image of Elena Kagan

Before joining the U.S. Supreme Court, Kavanaugh was a judge with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (2006-2018). Before that, he was an assistant and staff secretary deputy to President George W. Bush (R) (2003-2006), an associate counsel for the Executive Branch (2001-2003), an associate counsel with the Office of Independent Counsel (1998), and he served as general counsel for the Judiciary Branch (1994-1997). Click here to learn more about Kavanaugh’s professional career.

Kavanaugh was born in Washington, D.C. He attended Georgetown Preparatory School. He earned a B.A. from Yale College in 1987, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1990.

In the 2019-2020 term, Kavanaugh wrote the following opinions:

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on February 8 with a new edition of Bold Justice. Until then, gaveling out! 


Kate Carsella compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Sara Reynolds and Jace Lington.