TagSupreme Court

SCOTUS accepts three new cases for its 2022-2023 term

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) accepted three cases on March 28 for argument during its October 2022-2023 term. To date, the court has agreed to hear arguments in nine cases next term.

National Pork Producers Council v. Ross concerns the constitutionality of the conditions California’s Proposition 12 imposes on pork producers nationwide in order to sell pork in the state. The questions presented to the court are: “1. Whether allegations that a state law has dramatic economic effects largely outside of the state and requires pervasive changes to an integrated nationwide industry state a violation of the dormant Commerce Clause, or whether the extraterritoriality principle described in this Court’s decisions is now a dead letter. 2. Whether such allegations, concerning a law that is based solely on preferences regarding out-of-state housing of farm animals, state a Pike claim.” The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Cruz v. Arizona concerns the proper application of U.S. Supreme Court precedent during state capital cases’ sentencing and appellate review. The court was asked to consider the following question: “Whether the Arizona Supreme Court’s holding that Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.1(g) precluded post-conviction relief is an adequate and independent state-law ground for the judgment.” The case came to the court from the Arizona Supreme Court.

Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. v. Goldsmith concerns the definition of a transformative work for purposes of the fair use defense under federal copyright law. The question presented in the case asks: “What does it mean for a work of art to be “transformative” as a matter of law under the Copyright Act?” The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

The court will begin hearing cases for its 2022-2023 term on Oct. 3, 2022.

Additional reading:



U.S. Supreme Court blocks Wisconsin state legislative maps

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision on March 23 adopting Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) state house and senate redistricting maps and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Supreme Court found that the Wisconsin Supreme Court erred in its analysis of precedent on how the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause should apply in race-based districting cases.

In its opinion, the Supreme Court wrote: “The question that our [Voting Rights Act of 1965] precedents ask and the court failed to answer is whether a race-neutral alternative that did not add a seventh majority-black district would deny black voters equal political opportunity. Answering that question requires an ‘intensely local appraisal’ of the challenged district.” The Supreme Court ruled the state supreme court did not conduct the appraisal correctly, writing, “When the Wisconsin Supreme Court endeavored to undertake a full strict-scrutiny analysis, it did not do so properly under our precedents, and its judgment cannot stand.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote an opinion dissenting from the court’s judgment, joined by Justice Elena Kagan. In her dissent, Sotomayor wrote: “The Court’s action today is unprecedented…Despite the fact that summary reversals are generally reserved for decisions in violation of settled law, the Court today faults the State Supreme Court for its failure to comply with an obligation that, under existing precedent, is hazy at best.” Sotomayor said because the state court “rightly preserved the possibility that an appropriate plaintiff could bring an equal protection or [Voting Rights Act] challenge in the proper forum,” she “would allow that process to unfold, rather than further complicating these proceedings with legal confusion through a summary reversal.”

The Wisconsin Supreme Court must now reconsider the case and decide how to redraw the state’s legislative districts. According to the U.S. Supreme Court opinion, the state court “is free to take additional evidence if it prefers to reconsider the Governor’s maps rather than choose from among the other submissions. Any new analysis, however, must comply with our equal protection jurisprudence.”

The case is the fourth legal challenge to district maps to reach the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2020 redistricting cycle. In a 5-4 order on Feb. 7, the court allowed a proposed Alabama congressional redistricting map to be implemented while under challenge in federal court for illegal racial gerrymandering in the case Merrill v. Milligan. The court issued orders on March 7 in two redistricting cases, Moore v. Harper in North Carolina and Toth v. Chapman in Pennsylvania, upholding the enacted congressional maps in both states.

Additional reading:



SCOTUS issues opinions in two cases

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued rulings in two cases on March 3: United States v. Zubaydah and Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C.

In Zubaydah, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s ruling in a 7-2 vote and remanded the case for further proceedings. SCOTUS held that the 9th Circuit erred by ruling that state-secrets privilege did not apply to information that could confirm or deny the existence of a CIA detention site in Poland in regard to Zubaydah’s discovery application. Justice Stephen Breyer authored the court’s majority opinion. Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Click here for more information about the ruling. 

In Cameron, the court ruled 8-1 to reverse the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the 6th Circuit erred in denying Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s motion to intervene and defend Kentucky House Bill 454. Justice Samuel Alito delivered the majority opinion, and Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion. Click here for more information about the ruling. 

To date, the court has issued decisions in 11 cases this term. Between 2007 and 2020, SCOTUS released opinions in 1,062 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 cases per year.

Additional reading:



Biden nominates Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court

President Joe Biden (D) announced on Feb. 25 he would nominate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Stephen Breyer. In a statement, the White House said: “Jackson is an exceptionally qualified nominee as well as an historic nominee, and the Senate should move forward with a fair and timely hearing and confirmation.”

Jackson currently serves as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She was nominated to the post by Biden in April 2021, and was confirmed with a 53-44 Senate vote on June 14, 2021. She was elevated to the position from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, where she served as a judge from 2013 to 2021. She has also worked in private practice, as a federal public defender, on former President Barack Obama’s Sentencing Commission, and as a law clerk for Breyer.

Breyer announced his retirement on Jan. 27, saying it would take effect at the end of the court’s 2022 summer recess, which typically takes place in late June or early July. SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe called Breyer “a devoted pragmatist and the senior member of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing.” Regarding Breyer’s decision to retire, Howe wrote: “Although Breyer is apparently in good health and by all accounts enjoys his job, Democrats began calling for him to retire shortly after the 2020 election so that President Joe Biden could nominate a younger judge to take his place.”

Following Breyer’s retirement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that “President Biden’s nominee will receive a prompt hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and will be considered and confirmed by the full United States Senate with all deliberate speed.” 

Jackson’s path to the bench will first require consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which typically culminates in public hearings. If approved by a vote of the committee, her nomination will then be put up to a confirmation vote before the full Senate. Her confirmation vote can take place before Breyer leaves the court, with her swearing-in delayed until his departure.

Jackson’s confirmation vote will be the first to take place in a Senate with a 50-50 partisan split. In recent years, U.S. Supreme Court confirmation votes have grown more partisan. Since Justice Samuel Alito’s confirmation in 2006, nominees have received an average of 4 yes votes from senators who don’t caucus with the President’s party. Since 1967, when the Senate held its first roll call confirmation vote after Hawaii became the 50th state, the overall average of opposition party confirmation yes votes is 29. These averages do not include votes cast by independent or third-party senators.

Additional reading:



U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether veterans may challenge VA decisions based on illegal regulations

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear George v. McDonough in an order released on Jan. 14, 2022. The case concerns whether veterans may challenge U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) decisions based on regulations that are found to be in violation of the plain text of governing statutes. If the U.S. Supreme Court rules that veterans may challenge VA decisions based on regulations that are later found to be invalid, veterans whose disability claims were denied on those grounds may seek to have the agency revise its decisions.

The VA denied Kevin George’s 1970s disability claim based on a regulation that did not require the agency to prove that his military service did not aggravate his condition. Decades later, a court ruled that the regulation was invalid because it violated the unambiguous text of the relevant statute. George sought to have the VA reconsider his claim following the court ruling, arguing that reliance on the faulty regulation constituted “clear and unmistakable error” (CUE).

The Federal Circuit held that George could not show that the VA committed CUE in his case because the agency applied the law as it was understood at the time. George appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that when federal courts interpret an unambiguous statute they establish what the law always meant instead of changing the meaning.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to schedule oral argument in the case during its October 2021-2022 term

Additional reading:



U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether federal courts have jurisdiction over challenges to the structure of the Federal Trade Commission

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Axon Enterprise, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission in an order released on Jan. 24, 2022. The case concerns whether federal courts have the authority to review constitutional challenges to the structure of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if plaintiffs have not first raised such challenges during agency adjudication proceedings. If the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Axon, then people may challenge administrative agencies in federal court without first going through administrative proceedings.

The dispute that led to this case began when Axon Enterprise, Inc., a police body camera company, acquired a competitor in 2018 and the FTC opened an antitrust investigation. The FTC ordered Axon to undo the acquisition and to give the competitor company Axon’s intellectual property. 

Axon sued, arguing that the FTC violated the company’s due process rights, that the FTC’s structure violates Article II of the U.S. Constitution by providing improper insulation from the president, and that Axon’s acquisition did not violate antitrust law.

A district court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit both ruled that when Congress created the FTC’s administrative review procedures it implied that district courts did not have authority to review constitutional challenges to the agency before the agency considered those challenges through adjudication.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to schedule oral argument in the case during its October 2022-2023 term

Additional reading:



U.S. Supreme Court to determine the regulatory jurisdiction of the EPA under the Clean Water Act

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency in an order released on Jan. 24, 2022. The case concerns the proper test for determining whether wetlands are “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (CWA). If a majority of justices interpret the CWA in the same way, then the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and federal courts might know more about how to decide what land is subject to regulation.

The dispute that led to this case began when Chantell and Michael Sackett purchased a residential lot near a lake in Idaho and used gravel and sand to fill the lot and get it ready for home construction. The EPA ordered the Sacketts to remove the fill and return the lot to its natural state, arguing that the lot contained wetlands subject to regulation under the CWA. The Sacketts sued in 2008 and argued that the EPA lacked jurisdiction over their property. The dispute has worked its way through the federal courts for the fourteen years following that initial lawsuit.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the EPA in 2021, holding that the CWA covers the Sacketts’ property. The Sacketts appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking for clarification about which wetlands are covered by the CWA.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to schedule oral argument in the case during its October 2022-2023 term. 

Additional reading:



SCOTUS accepts first cases for its 2022-2023 term

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) accepted three cases for argument during its October 2022-2023 term on Jan. 24. These are the first cases SCOTUS has granted for its next term scheduled to begin on Oct. 3.

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard (consolidated with Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina) concerns the legality of institutions of higher education using race as a factor in admissions decisions. The questions presented to the court in the case are: “1. Should this Court overrule Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), and hold that institutions of higher education cannot use race as a factor in admissions? 2. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act bans race-based admissions that, if done by a public university, would violate the Equal Protection Clause. Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244, 276 n.23 (2003). Is Harvard violating Title VI by penalizing Asian-American applicants, engaging in racial balancing, overemphasizing race, and rejecting workable race neutral alternatives?” The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.

Axon Enterprise, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission concerns whether federal courts have the authority to review constitutional challenges to the structure of the Federal Trade Commission before plaintiffs raise such challenges during agency adjudication proceedings. The court was asked to consider the following question: “Whether Congress impliedly stripped federal district courts of jurisdiction over constitutional challenges to the Federal Trade Commission’s structure, procedures, and existence by granting the courts of appeals jurisdiction to ‘affirm, enforce, modify, or set aside’ the Commission’s cease-and-desist orders.”

Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency concerns how to interpret the Clean Water Act to decide what land falls within the EPA’s wetland regulatory jurisdiction. The question presented in Sackett asks: “Whether the Ninth Circuit set forth the proper test for determining whether wetlands are ‘Waters of the United States’ under the Clean Water Act.”

Both Axon and Sacket came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Last week, SCOTUS accepted one additional case for its current term. The court granted Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta on Jan. 21. The case concerns state authority in Indian Country and the scope of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the case McGirt v. Oklahoma (2020).

To date, the court has accepted three cases for its 2022-2023 term. The court has agreed to hear 65 cases during its current 2021-2022 term and so far has issued decisions in eight of those cases.

Additional reading:



U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announces retirement

Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Justice Stephen Breyer announced Wednesday he will retire at the end of the 2022 term this October.

Breyer, a Bill Clinton (D) appointee, has served on the court since 1994. He is one of three justices on the nine-member court to be appointed by a Democratic president.

Breyer’s retirement will be President Joe Biden’s (D) first opportunity to nominate a member to the court; both Donald Trump (R) and Barack Obama (D) nominated three SCOTUS justices while in office. Biden’s nominee will need to win the approval of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full U.S. Senate before taking office.

Democrats currently hold a 50-50 majority in the full Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris (D) able to cast a tie-breaking vote. Control of the committee is split 11-11. Under the organizing resolution the U.S. Senate adopted at the beginning of the current Congress, a tied vote in committee will not prevent a nomination from advancing to the full Senate.

President Biden will not need to wait for Justice Breyer’s retirement to take effect before selecting a nominee, giving Democrats time to confirm a successor ahead of the November elections. In the 15 Supreme Court vacancies that have opened since 1975, an average of 76 days elapsed between the outgoing justice leaving office and a successor taking their place.

Three of these vacancies lasted for only a few hours each; the successor was sworn in the same day the retiring Justice officially left office. The longest vacancy under this definition was 422 days, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Additional reading:



SCOTUS continues in-person arguments in January and February

Image of the front of the United States Supreme Court building

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) announced on Dec. 6 that it will continue hearing oral arguments in person for its January and February sittings. The court began hearing in-person arguments at the beginning of its 2021-2022 term in October, after hearing arguments via teleconference for the entirety of its 2020-2021 term in accordance with precautions taken due to COVID-19.

Though arguments will be heard in the courtroom, the court remains closed to the public. Argument audio will be streamed live to the public, and audio files and argument transcripts will be posted on the court’s website following oral argument each day.

The Supreme Court’s January sitting is scheduled to begin on Jan. 10, 2022. Eight cases have been scheduled for a total of eight hours of oral argument.

Jan. 10

Jan. 11

Jan. 12

Jan. 18

Jan. 19

To date, SCOTUS has agreed to hear 50 cases during the term. Four cases were dismissed, and one case was removed from the argument calendar. Nine cases have not yet been scheduled for argument.

Additional reading: