Bold Justice: SCOTUS begins March sitting

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Court announcements

On March 5, the court’s Public Information Office announced that all of the justices had been fully vaccinated. 

On March 19, the court held its first in-person conference since last spring. Some of the justices participated remotely.

March sitting

The Supreme Court begins its March sitting the week of March 22 via teleconference and will provide audio livestreams of the argument sessions. The court is conducting proceedings this way in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19. SCOTUS will hear arguments in seven cases for a total of six hours of oral argument. 

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

March 22

California state law allows union organizers access to employees at worksites under limited circumstances. This is known as the Agricultural Labor Relations Act’s (ALRA) access regulation. The Agricultural Labor Relations Board presides over its enforcement. 

In 2015, organizers from the United Farm Workers (UFW) union tried to gain access to two corporations’ worksites–Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Company, collectively known as “The Growers”–and later filed complaints against The Growers, citing unfair labor practices and blocking the organizers’ access to the workers. 

In 2016, The Growers filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against the Board, seeking to bar enforcement of the access regulation on their worksites and challenging the regulation’s constitutionality. The district court denied the request and dismissed the complaint. On appeal, the 9th Circuit affirmed, or upheld the district court’s ruling.

The questions presented: “Whether the uncompensated appropriation of an easement that is limited in time [is effectively] a per se physical taking under the Fifth Amendment.”

March 23

In 2016, Crow Tribe of Montana Officer James Saylor detained Joshua Cooley and searched Cooley’s vehicle, which was pulled over in Indian Country on U.S. Route 212. Saylor confiscated several firearms and observed equipment appearing to contain methamphetamine. 

Cooley was arrested and indicted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. The district court granted Cooley’s motion to suppress evidence from Saylor’s search, ruling that Saylor conducted an “unreasonable search and seizure” under the Indian Civil Rights Act. The U.S. government appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The court affirmed the district court’s ruling. 

The questions presented: Were the lower courts wrong to suppress evidence on the theory that an Indian tribe police officer was unauthorized to detain and search a non-Indian based on a potential violation of state or federal law while on a public right-of-way in an Indian reservation?

March 24

In 2015, Edward Caniglia and his wife argued at their home in Cranston, Rhode Island. During the argument, Caniglia retrieved an unloaded gun from their bedroom. Mrs. Caniglia spent the night at a nearby hotel. The next day, Mrs. Caniglia called the police to request a wellness check on her husband and an escort home.

At the home, the sergeant determined Caniglia was imminently dangerous to himself and others. The police requested Caniglia go to a nearby hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Caniglia complied, later alleging he did so based on a police promise that his guns would not be confiscated. The sergeant seized firearms and ammunition from the home. 

Later, Caniglia made several attempts to retrieve his firearms from the police department. His requests were denied. Caniglia filed suit in district court against the police department and city officials, alleging violations of his rights under the U.S. Constitution and state law. The firearms were returned to Caniglia. The U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island granted the defense’s motion for summary judgment on Caniglia’s legal claims and held that the police officers’ seizures were protected under the Fourth Amendment’s community caretaking exception. On appeal, the 1st Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling. 

The question presented: “Whether the ‘community caretaking’ exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement extends to the home.”

April sitting

On March 12, SCOTUS released its April calendar. The court will hear 12 hours of oral argument in 14 cases between April 19 and April 28. The court will hear arguments remotely and provide live audio streams to the public. To date, all arguments have been conducted remotely this term.

To date, all but one of the cases accepted for argument during this term have been scheduled. Six cases were removed from the argument calendar. One case, Terry v. United States, will be rescheduled later in the term. The court has agreed to hear 63 cases in total during its October 2020-2021 term.

In its 2019-2020 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 61 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

The following list of cases is organized by scheduled argument date:

April 19, 2021

April 20, 2021

April 21, 2021

April 26, 2021

April 27, 2021

April 28, 2021


SCOTUS issued one opinion since our March 8 issue. The court has issued 19 opinions so far this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

On March 8, the court issued an opinion in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski which concerned nominal damages claims and whether they provide legal standing in federal cases. Nominal damages claims are when a judge finds in favor of one party in a lawsuit but concludes that no real harm was done and awards a very small, or nominal, amount of monetary relief.

The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and was argued before SCOTUS on January 12, 2021. So far, the court has accepted four cases from the 11th Circuit and has decided one during this term.

In an 8-1 ruling, the court held that awarding nominal damages provides legal standing in a case, meaning that the plaintiff has the legal right to sue. Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the majority opinion of the court and Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed a concurring opinion. Justice Thomas has authored three majority opinions during the current term.

Chief Justice John Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, concluding that nominal damages claims are not a sufficient basis for Article III legal standing in a case. This was Roberts’ first dissenting opinion in a case argued during the 2020-2021 term as well as his first lone, or solitary, dissent since joining the court in 2005. 


SCOTUS accepted one case since our March 8 issue, to be scheduled for argument during the upcoming October 2021-2022 term. The court has granted review in a total of eight cases for the term, which is scheduled to begin on October 4, 2021. 

Thompson v. Clark concerns the Supreme Court’s favorable termination rule for plaintiffs suing for unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment and burden of proof requirements in cases of unlawful warrantless entry under the Fourth Amendment. Thompson originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

The favorable termination rule was established in the 1994 case Heck v. Humphrey to prevent a plaintiff’s civil claims potentially undermining the validity of the plaintiff’s criminal conviction. The Supreme Court held that the plaintiff’s criminal proceeding must end in a favorable termination to the plaintiff in order for a suit to proceed. 

Following that decision, circuit courts have differed on the definition of “favorable termination.”. Some circuits hold that plaintiffs must clearly be found innocent—a higher standard—while others hold that the judgment simply must not be inconsistent with the plaintiff’s innocence. 

The questions presented in Thompson v. Clark are:

  1. “Whether the rule that a plaintiff must await favorable termination before bringing a Section 1983 action alleging unreasonable seizure pursuant to legal process requires the plaintiff to show that the criminal proceeding against him has ‘formally ended in a manner not inconsistent with his innocence,’ Laskar v. Hurd, 972 F.3d 1278, 1293 (11th Cir. 2020), or that the proceeding ‘ended in a manner that affirmatively indicates his innocence,’ Lanning v. City of Glens Falls, 908 F.3d 19, 22 (2d Cir. 2018); see also Laskar, 972 F.3d at 1293 (acknowledging 7-1 circuit conflict).
  2. “Where a Section 1983 plaintiff brings a Fourth Amendment claim for unlawful warrantless entry of his home and the government pursues a justification of exigent circumstances, does the government have the burden to prove exigency existed (as the Third, Sixth, Ninth and Tenth Circuits have held), or does the plaintiff have to prove its non-existence (as the Second, Seventh and Eighth Circuits have held).”

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • March 22:
    • SCOTUS will release orders. 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 23: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 24: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 26: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

SCOTUS trivia

SCOTUS is scheduled to begin its next term on October 4, 2021. Which of the following start dates have been used during previous SCOTUS terms? 

a) The first Monday in October

b) The first Monday in February

c) The second Monday in October

d) All of the above

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action

Nominations and confirmations

President Biden announced no new nominees and the U.S. Senate has confirmed no new nominees since our March 8 issue.

President Biden has not yet made any federal judicial nominations during his term. 

In comparison to previous presidential administrations, Presidents Donald Trump (R) and George H.W. Bush (R) made their first Article III judicial appointments by June 1 of the first year of their presidencies. Presidents George W. Bush (R) and Ronald Reagan (R) made their first appointments by August 1, and Presidents Barack Obama (D) and Bill Clinton (D) made their first Article III judicial appointments by October 1 of their first years in office. These figures do not include appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.


The federal judiciary currently has 72 vacancies. As of publication, there were no pending nominations.

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

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, keep an eye on our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Welcome to the ‘90s! This edition of Bold Justice takes us back to a time when the Chicago Bulls were a reigning dynasty on the basketball court, when we caught our first Pokémon, and when we realized that our hearts would go on. Today, we’re taking a look at President Bill Clinton’s (D) judicial nominees.

During his term of office, President Clinton made 387 successful judicial appointments where the nominee joined the court. Of those appointments, 378 were Article III judges. Among the most notable of these are Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

When President Clinton assumed office in January 1993, he inherited 111 life-term vacancies out of 842 total Article III judgeships (13.18%), the highest vacancy percentage since the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan (R) in January 1981. 

Of his Article III appointees–not including Supreme Court nominations–Clinton appointed 66 judges to the United States Courts of Appeal, 305 judges to U.S. district courts, and five judges to the U.S. Court of International Trade

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on March 29 with a new edition of Bold Justice. Until then, gaveling out! 


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