CategoryFederal

SCOTUS issues two per curiam opinions, accepts new cases for review

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

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued orders on June 28 from its weekly conference, issuing two per curiam opinions and granting review in two cases for its upcoming October 2021 term.

The following two cases were decided without argument in per curiam rulings. A per curiam opinion is unsigned and delivered by the court as a whole.

  • In the case Lombardo v. City of St. Louis, Missouri, a case involving excessive force precedent, SCOTUS vacated the lower court’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings in a 6-3 opinion. Justice Samuel Alito filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.
  • In Pakdel v. City and County of San Francisco, California, a case concerning takings claims, the court ruled unanimously to vacate the lower court’s ruling and remanded the case.

To date, the court has issued 61 opinions this term. Two cases were decided in one consolidated opinion. Nine cases were decided without argument. Five cases argued during the term have yet to be decided.

The court accepted two cases to be argued during the 2021-2022 term:

  • City of Austin, Texas v. Reagan National Advertising of Texas Inc. concerns the constitutionality of a municipal sign code. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
  • Patel v. Garland involves judicial review of non-discretionary determinations in immigration proceedings. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

To date, the court has agreed to hear 21 cases during its 2021-2022 term. One case was dismissed after it was granted.

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Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #276: June 29, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • Changes in coronavirus restrictions in Washington
  • School mask guidance for the upcoming school year in New Jersey
  • Vaccine distribution
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies 
  • State-level mask requirements
  • Diagnosed or quarantined public officials
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

We are committed to keeping you updated on everything from mask requirements to vaccine-related policies. We will keep you abreast of major developments—especially those affecting your daily life. Want to know what we covered yesterday? Click here.

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Wednesday, June 30, nearly all statewide coronavirus restrictions on businesses and individuals will end. Capacity restrictions on indoor events with more than 10,000 attendees will remain in place after June 30. Those events will continue to be limited to 75% capacity through at least July 31. 

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): On June 28, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced new guidance from the New Jersey Department of Health and the New Jersey Department of Education for mask usage during the upcoming school year. Murphy said, barring changes to CDC guidance or health metrics, masks will not be required for students in schools. School districts can still require mask usage.

Texas (Republican trifecta): On Monday, June 28, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced he was allocating $94.6 million in federal COVID-19 CARES Act funds to the Higher Education Coordinating Board. The Board will use the money to increase student enrollment and help colleges and universities expand or start programs in fields experiencing labor shortages, including healthcare and logistics. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the June 24 edition of the newsletter. As of June 28, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,824 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 554 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since June 22, we have added seven lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional six court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Klaassen v. The Trustees of Indiana University: On June 21, a group of current and incoming Indiana University (IU) students sued the school, challenging its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The mandate requires that non-exempt students, staff, and faculty be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the beginning of the fall semester. According to IU, non-exempt students refusing vaccination will have their class registrations cancelled and will be barred from participating in any on-campus activities. IU recognizes certain medical, religious, and online student exemptions. The plaintiffs allege IU’s mandate violates their Fourteenth Amendment rights to bodily integrity and refusal of medical treatment. The students say the university is also violating state law, arguing that “state and local units are prohibited from requiring or issuing vaccine ‘passports’ that indicate an individual’s COVID immunization status.” James Bopp Jr., lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “They’re suing because they’re being stripped of their constitutional rights to make medical treatment decisions for themselves and to protect their own bodily integrity.” University spokesman Chuck Carney said, “The university is confident it will prevail in this case.” The case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana and has been assigned to Judge Damon R. Leichty, an appointee of President Donald Trump (R).

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the June 22 edition of the newsletter. Since then, a statewide mask order expired in Pennsylvania.

Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia

Read more: Politicians, candidates, and government officials diagnosed with or quarantined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • Federal
    • Three federal officials have died of COVID-19.
    • Sixty-five members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-one federal officials have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • Ten state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • Two hundred thirty-three state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Eighty-six state-level incumbents or candidates have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • Local
    • At least five local incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • At least 43 local incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • At least 26 local incumbents or candidates have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.

Since June 22, no candidates or officeholders have been diagnosed with, died from, or quarantined because of COVID-19.

This time last year: Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) moved the state into the third phase of reopening. Phase 3 allowed gatherings of up to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors. It also allowed entertainment businesses (like bowling alleys and movie theaters) and some larger events (like concerts and festivals) to reopen with restrictions.
  • Travel restrictions:
    • Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that eight more states had been added to a June 24 joint travel advisory requiring out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days. The eight states were: California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, and Tennessee.
    • Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced that visitors to Massachusetts from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and New Jersey would no longer need to self-quarantine for 14 days. The advisory to self-quarantine remained in effect for visitors from other parts of the country.
    • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) extended the mandatory 14-day quarantine for all out-of-state travelers.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Treasury Department and the IRS announced that the deadline to file taxes would not be extended beyond July 15. The IRS postponed the original April 15 deadline due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • School closures and reopenings:
    • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) released the “MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap,” a set of guidelines local districts could use to draft their own reopening plans for the fall. 
  • Eviction moratoriums:
    • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed a bill to extend the state’s moratorium on commercial and residential evictions through Sept. 30. The bill also gave renters until March 31, 2021, to pay outstanding balances. 


Eleven candidates running in Republican special primary for Ohio’s 15th Congressional District

Eleven candidates are running in the Republican primary to represent Ohio’s 15th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives on August 3, 2021. The special general election, which will be held November 2, 2021, was called after Steve Stivers (R) resigned his seat in the House to become the President and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, effective May 16, 2021. Mike Carey, Bob Peterson, and Jeff LaRe have led in endorsements and media attention.

Carey’s campaign has focused on his experience in the United States Army (where he served from 1989 to 1999), and his status as a self-described conservative outsider. President Donald Trump (R) endorsed him.

LaRe’s campaign has focused on his background in law enforcement and security services, as well as his experience serving in the Ohio House of Representatives, where he assumed office in 2019. As of the 2021 election, LaRe is the executive vice president of a security services company, the Whitestone Group, where he began working in 2000. Former Rep. Steve Stivers (R) endorsed LaRe.

Peterson’s campaign has focused on his farming background and experience serving in the Ohio state legislature, first in the House from 2011 to 2012, and then in the Senate where he assumed office in 2012 and served as the president pro tempore during the 133rd, 132nd, and the second half of the 131st General Assemblies. Peterson earned his B.S. in agriculture from Ohio State University, and his professional experience includes managing Peterson Family Farm. Ohio Right to Life PAC endorsed him.

Also running in the primary are John Adams, Eric M. Clark, Thad Cooperrider, Ruth Edmonds, Ron Hood, Tom Hwang, Stephanie Kunze, and Omar Tarazi.

The general election is rated Strong Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. The Republican nominee will face the winner of the Democratic primary between Greg Betts and Allison Russo in the general election.

Additional reading



Federal Register weekly update: 566 documents added

Photo of the White House in Washington, D.C.

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From June 21 through June 25, the Federal Register grew by 1,492 pages for a year-to-date total of 33,852 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 566 documents:

• 437 notices

• six presidential documents

• 41 proposed rules

• 82 final rules

One proposed rule from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service regarding animal handling and one final rule from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs concerning the administration of the department’s Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 21 significant proposed rules and 14 significant final rules as of June 25.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017: Changes to the Federal Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: Historical additions to the Federal Register, 1936-2019



U.S. Supreme Court issues rulings in three cases on June 25

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued rulings in three cases on June 25. One case—Transunion LLC v. Ramirez—was argued during the court’s March sitting, and two cases—Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining, LLC v. Renewable Fuels Association—were argued during the court’s April sitting.

Transunion LLC v. Ramirez concerned the standing of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit. The court reversed the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and remanded the case for further proceedings in a 5-4 ruling, holding that members of the class-action lawsuit whose credit files were not provided to third-party businesses did not suffer a concrete harm from TransUnion’s actions and therefore lacked standing to sue under Article III. Justice Brett Kavanaugh delivered the opinion of the court. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Justice Kagan filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor.

With a 6-3 opinion in Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court held that Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) are “Indian tribe[s]” under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA) and, as a result, are eligible for CARES Act funding. Justice Sonia Sotomayor authored the court’s majority opinion. Justice Neil Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan.

In the case of HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining, LLC v. Renewable Fuels Association, the court issued another 6-3 opinion, reversing the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit’s ruling. The lower court’s ruling held that a small refinery that previously received a hardship exemption may obtain an extension even if it experienced a lapse in exemption coverage during the previous year. Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the majority opinion. Justice Amy Coney Barrett filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Additional reading:



U.S. Supreme Court rules Federal Housing Finance Agency has unconstitutional structure

In Collins v. Yellen, the U.S. Supreme Court held that restrictions on the president’s authority to remove the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) violated the separation of powers. In its June 23 decision, the court also rejected the argument that the FHFA actions at issue in the case went beyond the agency’s legal authority.

Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion of the court, writing that the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) blocks shareholders from challenging FHFA decisions in court since the agency acted within the bounds of its powers. However, he also wrote that “the Constitution prohibits even ‘modest restrictions’ on the President’s power to remove the head of an agency with a single top officer.” The end of the opinion says that FHFA officers were properly appointed but that lower courts should resolve whether the unconstitutional restriction on the president’s removal power inflicted harm that gives the shareholders a right to request relief in federal court.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion arguing that actions taken by federal officials are not necessarily unlawful just because a restriction on the president’s removal power over them is unlawful in the abstract.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote an opinion concurring in part in which he argued that the distinction between unconstitutionally _appointed_ officials and unconstitutionally _insulated_ officials should not prevent the court from ruling that an official acted without constitutional authority.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment and Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined part II of her opinion. Kagan agreed with the majority that the FHFA did not exceed the limits of its powers, but she only agreed to hold the agency structure unconstitutional out of respect for precedent. Part II of her opinion agreed with the majority that it would be right to undo the FHFA’s actions only if the president’s inability to fire the director affected those actions.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, joined by Justice Breyer. Sotomayor agreed with the parts of the majority opinion upholding the FHFA’s actions under the HERA and discussing potential remedies following remand of the case. Regarding the constitutional question, she argued that the court misapplied the precedent from Seila Law (2020). She wrote, “The Court has proved far too eager in recent years to insert itself into questions of agency structure best left to Congress.”

The court’s decision to hold the structure of the FHFA unconstitutional articulated limits on the kinds of administrative agencies Congress may create and reaffirmed the court’s decision in Seila Law. Each of the Justices’ opinions referenced arguments from the debate surrounding presidential control over administrative officials across the federal government.

The case was consolidated with Yellen v. Collins.

To learn more about the case or executive control of agencies see here:

Additional reading:

Link to the U.S. Supreme Court decision:



SCOTUS issues rulings in four cases

The U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings in four cases on June 23. With the addition of these cases, the court has issued 56 opinions for its 2020-2021 term. Two cases were decided in one consolidated opinion, and seven cases were decided without argument. Eight cases argued during the term have yet to be decided.

Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. was a case argued before the court on April 28. It concerned Title 42 of the United States Code and whether Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) applies to students’ off-campus speech. In an 8-1 opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit’s ruling, holding that while public schools may have a special interest in regulating some off-campus student speech, the special interests offered by the Mahanoy Area School District were not sufficient to overcome B.L.’s interest in free expression in the case. Justice Stephen Breyer delivered the opinion of the court and Justice Clarence Thomas filed a dissent.

Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid was argued before the court on March 22. The case concerned the regulation of labor union organizers’ access to employees at worksites. In a 6-3 opinion, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that California’s access regulation constitutes a per se physical taking. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the court’s majority opinion. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Lange v. California was a case argued before the court on February 24. It concerned the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In a unanimous ruling, the court vacated the California First District Court of Appeal’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that under the Fourth Amendment, the pursuit of a fleeing misdemeanor suspect does not always or categorically justify a warrantless entry into a home. Justice Kagan authored the court’s majority opinion.

Collins v. Yellen was a case argued before the court on December 9, 2020. It concerned the extent of the president’s removal powers and control of independent federal agencies. In a 7-2 decision, the court held that restrictions on the president’s authority to remove the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency violated the separation of powers. The court also rejected the argument that the FHFA exceeded its authority as conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored corporations that deal in mortgages. Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion of the court. Justice Sotomayor wrote an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, joined by Justice Breyer.

Additional reading:



National Republican Congressional Committee overtakes Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in fundraising, according to June FEC filings

Six party committees have raised a combined $337 million over the first five months of the 2022 election cycle. In May, the committees raised $65 million, according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. Here’s a closer look at May’s fundraising numbers:

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) raised $14.1 million and spent $6.1 million in May, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $9.9 million and spent $6.0 million. So far in the 2022 election cycle, the NRCC has raised 5.0% more than the DCCC ($59.2 million to $56.3 million). The NRCC overtook the DCCC fundraising lead this month. In April, the DCCC led by 2.7% ($46.3 million to $45.1 million).

The senatorial committees raised less than their house counterparts last month, with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) raising $10.4 million and spending $3.9 million and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) raising $7.2 million and spending $7.3 million. The gap between the NRSC’s and DSCC’s total fundraising is the widest of the three committee pairs we track. The NRSC has raised 10.9% more than the DSCC so far in the 2022 election cycle ($40.7 million to $36.5 million). The NRSC fundraising lead widened between April and May. In April, the NRSC led by 3.4% ($30.3 million to $29.3 million). 

At this point in the 2020 election cycle, the NRSC also led the DSCC in fundraising but by a wider 24.3% margin ($28.9 million to $22.6 million). The DCCC led the NRCC in fundraising by a 32.3% margin ($49.2 million to $35.5 million).

Between the national committees, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) raised more in May and the Republican National Committee (RNC) spent more. The DNC raised $12.1 million and spent $8.7 million, while the RNC raised $11.1 million and spent $22.7 million. The DNC has raised 9.9% more than the RNC ($75.9 million to $68.7 million), down from the 10.1% margin in April.

At this time in the 2020 election cycle, the opposite was true. The RNC led the DNC in fundraising by 75.9% ($76.4 million to $34.3 million).

So far in the 2022 election cycle, the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC have raised 0.03% more than the RNC, NRSC, and NRCC ($168.6 million to $168.5 million), down from the Democrats’ 4.7% lead in April.

Additional reading:



Federal Register weekly update: Lowest weekly page total since March

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From June 14 through June 18, the Federal Register grew by 934 pages for a year-to-date total of 32,360 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 492 documents:

• 413 notices

• 12 presidential documents

• 24 proposed rules

• 53 final rules

One final rule issued as a correction to a rule regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) pilot records was deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 20 significant proposed rules and 13 significant final rules as of June 18.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Additional reading:

Historical additions to the Federal Register, 1936-2019



U.S. Supreme Court issues opinions in three cases on June 21

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued opinions in three cases on June 21 and released orders in pending cases from its June 17 conference. The court did not accept any new cases for the upcoming 2021-2022 October term.

United States v. Arthrex Inc. (Consolidated with Smith & Nephew Inc. v. Arthrex Inc. and Arthrex Inc. v. Smith & Nephew Inc.) concerned the appointment of administrative patent judges (APJs) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

In a 5-4 opinion, SCOTUS concluded that the unreviewable authority of APJs during inter partes review is incompatible with their appointment by the Secretary of Commerce to an inferior office. The lower court’s judgment was vacated and the case was remanded for further proceedings. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the court’s majority opinion. 

Goldman Sachs Group v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement Sys. concerned class action lawsuits pertaining to securities fraud and demonstrating the element of materiality in such cases. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

In an 8-1 opinion, SCOTUS held that (1) the generic nature of a misrepresentation is often important evidence of price impact that courts should consider at class certification, including in inflation-maintenance cases, and (2) defendants bear the burden of persuasion to prove a lack of price impact by a preponderance of the evidence at class certification. The lower court’s judgment was vacated and the case was remanded for further proceedings. Justice Amy Coney Barrett authored the court’s majority opinion. 

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

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the district court’s injunction was consistent with established antitrust principles, upholding the lower court’s ruling in the case. Justice Neil Gorsuch penned the majority opinion.

To date, the court has issued 52 opinions for the term. Two cases were decided in one consolidated opinion. Seven cases were decided without argument. Twelve cases argued this term have yet to be decided.

Additional reading:

United States v. Arthrex Inc.

National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement System

Supreme Court cases, October term 2021-2022