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Kate Carsella

Kate Carsella is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

U.S. Supreme Court issues rulings in three cases

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued opinions in three cases argued during the 2020-2021 term on April 1. 

Florida v. Georgia

The case came to the court under its original jurisdiction over disputes between states and concerned the apportionment of waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. In 2013, Florida filed a complaint against Georgia, alleging that Georgia’s water use was inequitable. Florida v. Georgia was first argued before SCOTUS on Jan. 8, 2018, during the October 2017 term. On June 27, 2018, the court sent the case back to the lower court for reconsideration in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Stephen Breyer.

The case’s second argument took place this term on Feb. 22, 2021. In a unanimous ruling, the court overruled Florida’s exceptions to the Special Master’s Report and dismissed the case. Justice Amy Coney Barrett delivered the majority opinion of the court.

FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project (consolidated with National Association of Broadcasters v. Prometheus Radio Project)

These consolidated cases originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit and were argued before SCOTUS on Jan. 19, 2021. The cases involve whether the FCC adequately considered how its rule changes would affect broadcast media firms owned by women or minorities, and asked SCOTUS whether the 3rd Circuit was right to block some of the FCC’s choices on those grounds.

In a 9-0 decision, the court reversed the 3rd Circuit’s judgment, holding that the FCC’s rule changes were not arbitrary or capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. Justice Brett Kavanaugh delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion.

Facebook v. Duguid

This case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and concerned the definition of an automated telephone dialing system (ATDS) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The case was argued before SCOTUS on Dec. 8, 2020.

Social media website Facebook allows users to receive text message alerts when their accounts are accessed from unknown devices or browsers. Noah Duguid did not have a Facebook account and never consented to receive those alerts. He sued Facebook after receiving multiple text messages and attempting to opt-out. Duguid claimed Facebook violated the TCPA’s ban on calling or sending text messages to cell phones using an ATDS. The U.S. district court dismissed the lawsuit. On appeal, the 9th Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling.

In a unanimous opinion, SCOTUS reversed the 9th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that a device must be able to store or produce a telephone number using a random or sequential number generator in order to be considered an automated telephone dialing system under the TCPA. Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion.

To date, the court has issued opinions in 25 cases this term. Five cases were decided without argument. 

Additional Reading:



SCOTUS accepts case, issues opinion

On March 29, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) released orders from its conference that was held on Friday, March 26. The court issued an opinion in one case that was not argued before the court and accepted one case to its merits docket for the 2021-2022 term.

The court accepted and issued a per curiam ruling in the case Mays v. Hines, which originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Per curiam decisions are unsigned. The court reversed the 6th Circuit’s ruling that granted a new trial to Anthony Hines, who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to the death penalty. Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion.

As of March 29, the court had issued opinions in 22 cases for the 2020-2021 team. Five cases were decided without argument.

SCOTUS accepted a new case to be argued during the upcoming October Term for 2021-2022, Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C. The case originated in the 6th Circuit and concerns whether a state official may intervene in a case to defend a state law that has been invalidated by a federal circuit court and Fourteenth Amendment protections related to a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion procedure. 

As of March 29, the court had agreed to hear 11 cases during the next term.

Additional Reading:



Bold Justice: SCOTUS concludes March sitting

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We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

Court announcements

On March 19, the court postponed hearing the case Terry v. United States, removing it from the April argument session. The Biden administration had changed the U.S. Department of Justice’s position in the case, so the court appointed a lawyer to argue in place of the U.S. government and rescheduled the oral argument.

On March 25, the court rescheduled argument in Terry for May 4, the only case to be argued during the court’s May sitting.

March sitting

The Supreme Court continues its March argument session this week, hearing cases remotely and streaming live argument audio to the public. The court is conducting proceedings this way in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19. 

SCOTUS will hear arguments in four cases for a total of three hours of oral argument. Click the links below to read more about these cases:

March 29

Between 2006 and 2010, Goldman Sachs Group (“Goldman”), a multinational investment banking firm, made public statements about its business practices. A group of Goldman shareholders (“Shareholders”) alleged in U.S. district court that the statements were false because Goldman made them while knowing it had several undisclosed conflicts of interest. According to the 2nd Circuit opinion in the case, Goldman was publicly marketing risky financial products as ordinary asset-backed securities while internally, the company was allowing a hedge fund client access to create the products. Then, both Goldman and the client bet against the products, meaning that they would profit off of the transaction performing poorly or failing. Meanwhile, the shareholders experienced financial losses on the transactions. 

In 2010, Goldman disclosed its conflicts of interest. In 2011, the Shareholders filed a class action complaint against Goldman. On remand for further proceedings from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, the district court certified the class, allowing the complaint to continue. Goldman requested the certification be reversed. On appeal, the 2nd Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment.

The questions presented: 

“1. Whether a defendant in a securities class action may rebut the presumption of classwide reliance recognized in Basic Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988), by pointing to the generic nature of the alleged misstatements in showing that the statements had no impact on the price of the security, even though that evidence is also relevant to the substantive element of materiality.

“2. Whether a defendant seeking to rebut the Basic presumption has only a burden of production or also the ultimate burden of persuasion.”

March 30

Sergio Ramirez acted as a representative for a class action lawsuit against credit report agency TransUnion. Ramirez alleged that TransUnion willfully violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act when the company indicated on his credit report that his name appeared on a government list of individuals prohibited from conducting business in the United States. 

A jury in U.S. district court awarded more than $60 million in damages to the class members. On appeal, the 9th Circuit upheld the district court’s judgment but reduced the per-member punitive damages amount. TransUnion appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The questions presented: Whether Article III of the U.S. Constitution or Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Procedure authorize a damages class action lawsuit where the majority of the class was not actually injured, even if the class representative suffered an atypical injury.

March 31

National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston (Consolidated with American Athletic Conference v. Alston) came to the court from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The cases concern federal antitrust law and the NCAA’s compensation rules. 

In 2014, a class of Division 1 (“D1”) student-athletes, collectively referred to as “Alston” and as “student-athletes”, filed several antitrust complaints against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) and 11 D1 conferences with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging the NCAA’s compensation rules for student-athletes. The NCAA claimed the challenge was settled in O’Bannon v. NCAA. The Northern District of California ordered the NCAA to make its compensation rules less restrictive for student-athletes and concluded the compensation rules were unlawful restraints of trade under the Sherman Act. On appeal, the 9th Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion, its injunction, and its assessment of liability. The NCAA appealed to the Supreme Court. 

The questions presented: 

  • In NCAA v. Alston: Whether the 9th Circuit erred in its ruling that the NCAA eligibility rules for student-athletes’ compensation violate federal antitrust law.
  • In American Athletic Conference v. Alston: “Whether the Sherman Act authorizes a court to subject the product-defining rules of a joint venture to full Rule of Reason review, and to hold those rules unlawful if, in the court’s view, they are not the least restrictive means that could have been used to accomplish their procompetitive goal.”

Opinions

SCOTUS issued two opinion(s) since our March 22 issue. The court has issued 21 opinions so far this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

On March 25, the court issued an opinion in the consolidated cases Ford Motor Company v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court and Ford Motor Company v. Bandemer, which originated from the Montana and Minnesota Supreme Courts, respectively. These cases concerned state court jurisdiction related to the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.

In both cases, plaintiffs were involved in car accidents in Ford vehicles (one in Montana and one in Minnesota) and later filed liability claims against the manufacturer. Ford filed for dismissal in the cases, arguing the state courts didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the cases. Both the Minnesota and Montana state supreme courts ruled that state courts were an appropriate forum for the cases. Ford appealed to SCOTUS for review.

In an 8-0 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state courts’ rulings, holding that the connection between the plaintiffs’ liability claims in the two cases and Ford’s activities in both states allowed the state courts to have jurisdiction. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the majority opinion, her first of the term. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch filed concurring opinions. Justice Clarence Thomas joined Gorsuch’s concurrence. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case since the case was argued prior to her joining the court. Click here to read more about the outcome of these cases.

The court also issued an opinion in Torres v. Madrid, a case originating from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit that concerned a claim of excessive force against police officers and whether the use of physical force to restrain a person constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment

While attempting to arrest an individual at an Albuquerque apartment complex, New Mexico state police officers Richard Williamson and Janice Madrid approached Roxanne Torres in the parking lot to discover her identity. Thinking the police were carjackers, Torres got in her car and attempted to drive away. The officers ordered her to halt and shot her twice. Torres drove from the scene and was treated at a hospital for her injuries. Later, Torres was arrested and pleaded no contest to three crimes related to the event. Torres filed a civil lawsuit against the officers in U.S. district court claiming they had used excessive force and violated her Fourth Amendment rights. The district court ruled the officers were entitled to qualified immunity and there had been no seizure because the detention was unsuccessful–i.e., Torres left the scene. The 10th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling, joining an existing circuit split on this question of law.

In a 5-3 opinion, SCOTUS vacated the 10th Circuit’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, ruling that using physical force on an individual with the intent to restrain is a seizure, even if the individual does not submit and is not subdued. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the majority opinion. Justice Neil Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. Click here for more information about the ruling.

Grants

SCOTUS accepted two cases since our March 22 issue which will be scheduled for argument during the upcoming October 2021-2022 term. The court has granted review in 10 cases for the term, which is scheduled to begin on October 4, 2021. 

In 2013, brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated two homemade bombs at the Boston Marathon. Tamerlan died days later in a confrontation with police. In 2015, Dzhokhar was indicted on and convicted of 30 criminal charges related to the bombings. He was sentenced to death for several of the offenses.

Dzhokhar appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, alleging the jury- and venue-selection processes in his case violated his constitutional rights to due process, an impartial jury, and a reliable sentencing ruling. He also claimed that the U.S. district court judge erred in applying the death penalty for some of the convictions. The 1st Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part the district court’s ruling. The court rescinded the death sentences and remanded the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

The questions presented to the court are: 

“1. Whether the court of appeals erred in concluding that respondent’s capital sentences must be vacated on the ground that the district court, during its 21-day voir dire, did not ask each prospective juror for a specific accounting of the pretrial media coverage that he or she had read, heard, or seen about respondent’s case.

“2. Whether the district court committed reversible error at the penalty phase of respondent’s trial by excluding evidence that respondent’s older brother was allegedly involved in different crimes two years before the offenses for which respondent was convicted.”

  • Servotronics, Inc. v. Rolls-Royce PLC concerns private, commercial arbitration proceedings outside of the United States and whether such proceedings are considered a foreign or international tribunal under the law. Three federal circuit courts have ruled they are not considered an international tribunal and two have ruled that they are, creating a circuit split. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Justice Samuel Alito, who has disclosed owning Boeing stock, was recused from the case.

Rolls-Royce PLC (“Rolls-Royce”) manufactured and sold an engine to the Boeing Company (“Boeing”) that was incorporated into Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft. During testing, an engine malfunction damaged the plane. Boeing sought compensation from Rolls-Royce and the parties settled. Rolls-Royce, in turn, sought compensation from the engine valve manufacturer, Servotronics, Inc. (“Servotronics”), in an arbitration court in Birmingham, England.

Servotronics filed a subpoena–an order requiring testimony or information–with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to compel Boeing to provide documents for the arbitration proceedings. The Northern District of Illinois at first granted and then voided the subpoena, after Boeing and Rolls-Royce petitioned the court to deny the request. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld the ruling, holding that U.S. district courts are not authorized to compel discovery, i.e. grant a subpoena, in private foreign arbitrations. 

The questions presented to the court are: “Whether the discretion granted to district courts in 28 U.S.C. §1782(a) to render assistance in gathering evidence for use in ‘a foreign or international tribunal’ encompasses private commercial arbitral tribunals, as the Fourth and Sixth Circuits have held, or excludes such tribunals without expressing an exclusionary intent, as the Second, Fifth, and, in the case below, the Seventh Circuit, have held.”

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • March 29: 
    • SCOTUS will release orders. 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 30: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 31: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • April 2: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

SCOTUS trivia

SCOTUS has released 21 opinions so far this term. SCOTUS issued its first opinion in 1791–what was the name of that case? 

a) Best v. Warms

b) Barnes v. West

c) West v. Barnes

d) Kramer v. Kramer

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 22 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.

Vacancies

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

Put on your best grunge flannels and cue up Peter Gabriel’s classic “In Your Eyes” on the boombox, because it’s time to travel back to a bygone era known as 1989 to 1993. This edition of Bold Justice takes a look at President George H.W. Bush’s (R) judicial nominees.

During his term of office, President Bush made 197 successful judicial appointments where the nominee joined the court. Of those appointments, 188 were Article III judges. Among the most notable of these are Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and David Souter.

When President Bush assumed office in January 1989, he inherited 37 life-term vacancies out of 757 total Article III judgeships (4.89%), the lowest vacancy percentage of all presidents since the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan (R) in January 1981. 

Of his Article III appointees–not including Supreme Court nominations–Bush appointed 42 judges to the United States Courts of Appeal, 148 judges to U.S. district courts, and one judge to the U.S. Court of International Trade.



New York Court of Appeals justice retires, creating midterm vacancy

On March 23, 2021, State of New York Court of Appeals Justice Paul Feinman retired from the court, citing health concerns. 

Justice Feinman joined the State of New York Court of Appeals in 2017. He was appointed to the court by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Feinman was the first openly gay judge confirmed to serve on the state’s highest court.

Before serving on the state supreme court, Feinman was a judge with the New York County Supreme Court, Civil Term in the 1st Judicial District from 2008 to 2017. He was also appointed to the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department in 2012. From 1996 to 1997 and again in 2001 to 2003, Feinman served as a judge with the New York City Civil Court. From 1997 to 2000, he served as a judge with the New York City Criminal Courts.

The seven justices of the New York Court of Appeals serve 14-year terms. They are appointed by the governor from a list of candidates provided by a judicial nominating commission, pending confirmation from the New York Senate.

The current chief justice of the court is Janet DiFiore, who was appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2015. 

The other five active justices of the court are:

• Jenny Rivera – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2013

• Eugene Fahey – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2015

• Michael Garcia – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2016

• Rowan Wilson – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2017

• Leslie Stein – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2015

Justice Leslie Stein is scheduled to retire from the court on June 4, 2021, and Justice Eugene Fahey has scheduled his retirement for December 31, 2021.

In 2021, there have been 11 supreme court vacancies in nine of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements. 

Additional Reading:



SCOTUS issues opinions in cases argued last October

The U.S. Supreme Court issued opinions on March 25 in cases argued at the start of the 2020 term. The only remaining undecided case from the October sitting is Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc.

Consolidated cases Ford Motor Company v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court and Ford Motor Company v. Bandemer originated from the Montana and Minnesota Supreme Courts, respectively, and concerned state court jurisdiction related to the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.

In an 8-0 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state courts’ rulings, holding that the connection between the plaintiffs’ liability claims in the two cases and Ford’s activities in both states allowed the state courts to have jurisdiction in the cases. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the majority opinion of the court, her first of the term. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch filed concurring opinions. Justice Clarence Thomas joined in Gorsuch’s concurrence. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case since the case was argued prior to her joining the court.

Torres v. Madrid concerned a claim of excessive force against police officers and whether the use of physical force to restrain a person constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. 

In a 5-3 opinion, the court vacated the 10th Circuit’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, ruling that using physical force on an individual with the intent to restrain is a seizure, even if the individual does not submit and is not subdued. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Neil Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. 

To date, the court has issued opinions in 21 cases this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

Additional Reading:



SCOTUS to hold argument session in May

The U.S. Supreme Court on March 25 scheduled one case for argument on May 4, the second year in a row the court will hear arguments in May. During the 2019-2020 term, the court heard 13 cases in May.

The case, Terry v. United States, was originally scheduled for argument on April 20. The Biden administration had changed the U.S. Department of Justice’s position in the case after the case was scheduled, so the court appointed a lawyer to argue in place of the U.S. government and rescheduled the oral argument.

Terry is the only case currently scheduled for the May sitting. The court is scheduled to hear 14 cases during its April sitting, set to begin on April 19.

Additional Reading:



U.S. Supreme Court begins March argument sitting

This week, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) begins its March sitting. The court will hear cases remotely and provide audio livestreams of oral argument, continuing its safety protocols implemented at the start of the term in accordance with public health guidance related to COVID-19. 

This week, SCOTUS will hear three hours of oral argument in three cases:

• March 22: Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid came to the court from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The case concerns the regulations governing labor union organizers’ access to employees at worksites.

• March 23: United States v. Cooley originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and concerns the scope of law enforcement officers’ search-and-seizure authority.

• March 24: Caniglia v. Strom concerns the scope of police officers’ authority for search and seizure and as community caretakers. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit. 

Next week, SCOTUS will hear three hours of oral argument in four cases. After the March sitting, the court is scheduled to hear arguments in 15 cases before the end of the term. To date, the court has heard arguments in 50 cases. 

Additional Reading:



Bold Justice: SCOTUS begins March sitting

Bold Justice by Ballotpedia

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

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

Opinions

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. 

Grants

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.

Vacancies

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! 

Contributions

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



SCOTUS Public Information Office makes COVID-related announcements

On March 19, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Public Information Office announced that the court will hear arguments remotely and provide live audio streams to the public during its upcoming April argument session. The decision was made in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19. To date, all arguments have been conducted remotely this term. 

The court is scheduled to hear 12 hours of oral argument in 14 cases between April 19 and April 28. One case originally scheduled for argument during the April sitting, Terry v. United States, has been postponed.

On March 5, the court’s Public Information Office said 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.

Additional Reading:



SCOTUS releases April argument calendar

Image of the front of the United States Supreme Court building.

On March 12, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) scheduled its April argument sitting for the 2020-2021 term. The court will hear 13 hours of oral argument in 15 cases between April 19 and April 28. 

To date, all cases that have been accepted for argument during this term have been scheduled. Three cases originally scheduled for argument were removed from the calendar. In total, the court has agreed to hear 63 cases.

The following list organizes the cases by their scheduled argument dates:

April 19, 2021

  • Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation (Consolidated with Alaska Native Village Corporation Association v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation)
  • Sanchez v. Mayorkas

April 20, 2021

  • Greer v. United States
  • United States v. Gary
  • Terry v. United States

April 21, 2021

  • City of San Antonio, Texas v. Hotels.com, L.P.
  • Minerva Surgical Inc. v. Hologic Inc.

April 26, 2021

  • Americans for Prosperity v. Becerra (Consolidated with Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra)
  • Guam v. United States

April 27, 2021

  • HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining, LLC v. Renewable Fuels Association
  • United States v. Palomar-Santiago

April 28, 2021

  • Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.
  • PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey

Additional reading: