TagSupreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court grants expedited review of case on census count

On October 16, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted Trump v. New York for expedited review and scheduled oral argument for November 30, 2020. The case came on a writ of certiorari to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. It concerns congressional apportionment following the 2020 U.S. Census. The U.S. government is asking the Supreme Court to consider if the president can order the U.S. secretary of commerce to exclude individuals residing unlawfully in the U.S. from the census’ apportionment base.

On July 21, 2020, President Donald Trump (R) issued a memorandum to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The memorandum said it was the policy of the United States to exclude individuals living unlawfully in the U.S. from the census apportionment base. A coalition of state and local governments sued the government in U.S. district court, arguing the policy violated the U.S. Constitution and laws governing the census and apportionment. The government argued (1) the court did not have jurisdiction to review the claims and (2) the policy was legal. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of the coalition, holding the president exceeded his authority in issuing the memorandum. The government appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The government presented the following two questions to the court:

  1. Does the coalition of state and local governments have the legal right—or standing—to challenge the memorandum?
  2. Does the president have the authority to exclude individuals unlawfully residing in the U.S. from the apportionment base?

The census aims to provide a complete count of the U.S. population along with demographic data. The 2020 census is being conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Statistical information on the population collected through the census every 10 years is used for congressional apportionment and the distribution of federal funds.

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SCOTUS to hear case concerning Fourth Amendment

On Oct. 19, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) granted review in the case “Lange v. California” for a total of one hour of oral argument during its October Term for 2020-2021. The case originated from the California First District Court of Appeal. “Lange v. California” has not yet been scheduled for argument.

The case:  While Arthur Lange was driving home on the highway in Sonoma, California, California Highway Patrol Officer Aaron Weikert pursued Lange with the intention of conducting a traffic stop. Weikert followed Lange home and activated his overhead lights once Lange pulled into his home’s driveway. Lange pulled into the garage and the garage door began closing behind him. Weikert approached Lange and stopped the garage from closing with his foot. He questioned Lange and asked if Lange knew Weikert was following him. Lange stated that he did not know Weikert was following him. Weikert stated he smelled alcohol on Lange’s breath and charged Lange with driving under the influence.

At trial, Lange claimed that Weikert’s entry into Lange’s home violated the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution since Weikert did not have a warrant to enter Lange’s home, and the court moved to suppress a video recording of the incident. The trial court concluded that the officer had probable cause, denied the motion to suppress, and issued a conviction for Lange. Following that action, a civil court ruled that Lange’s arrest was unlawful, while an appellate court ruled that the arrest was lawful. On appeal to the California First District Court of Appeal, the court affirmed the conviction.

The issue: Whether the pursuit of a person whom a police officer has probable cause to believe has committed a misdemeanor categorically qualifies as an exigent circumstance sufficient to allow the officer to enter a home without a warrant.

The Supreme Court began hearing cases for the term on Oct. 5, 2020. The court’s yearly term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October the following year. The court generally releases the majority of its decisions in mid-June.

As of October 19, 2020, the court had agreed to hear 39 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Senate Judiciary Committee to vote on Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination Oct. 22

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on whether to advance Judge Amy Coney Barrett‘s nomination for consideration before the full Senate. Twenty-two senators currently sit on that committee, including 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

President Donald Trump (R) nominated Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 29 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18. Barrett’s confirmation hearings were held Oct. 12 – 15 before the Senate Judiciary Committee. On day one of the hearings, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) provided opening statements, followed by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) then introduced Barrett. After the introductions, Barrett gave her opening statement. The day ended with Barrett’s introduction to the committee by professor Patricia O’Hara, which was delayed due to technical difficulties during the initial introductions.

Day two of the hearings consisted of senators questioning Barrett for 11 hours, with each senator allotted 30 minutes. Recurring themes in the questioning included abortion, the Affordable Care Act, election disputes, legal access to firearms, and same-sex marriage. On day three of the hearings, senators continued to question Barrett for nearly nine hours—with each senator allotted 20 minutes. Recurring themes in the questioning included abortion, election administration, immigration, and presidential power.

On the fourth and final day of hearings, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-10 to hold a committee vote on Barrett’s nomination. Most Democrats voted by proxy because they did not appear in person. The committee also heard witness testimony. Witnesses in support of Barrett’s confirmation included the American Bar Association, former Judge Thomas Griffith, a law school professor, a former student, and a former mentee and employee of Barrett. Witnesses opposed to Barrett’s confirmation included the president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a medical doctor, a small business owner and activist, and a nonprofit leader.

The average vacancy length on the Supreme Court since 1962—when defined as the length of time elapsed between a justice’s departure date and the swearing-in of their successor—is 88 days. Four 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 in 2016.

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Supreme Court announces it will use teleconferencing to hear oral arguments for November, December sittings

The Supreme Court of the United States announced on October 9, 2020, that it will hear oral arguments via teleconference for its November and December sittings. Currently, eight arguments are set for November, and ten are set for December.

The court previously heard oral arguments via teleconference in May and October of this year after closing to the public indefinitely on March 12, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The live audio from the arguments was made available to the public for the first time in the court’s history; previously, the court released audio and transcripts of oral arguments on Fridays.

The arguments will follow the same format the court used formerly, including rules dictating which Justices will ask questions based on seniority.

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U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear case challenging Chevron deference

On October 5, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge against Chevron deference brought by the Children’s Hospital Association of Texas. The association had asked whether courts should give Chevron deference to agency legal interpretations that are different from previous agency interpretations.

Chevron deference is an approach to judicial review that compels federal courts to yield to a federal agency’s reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous or unclear statute instead of using the courts’ own interpretation. Judicial deference is one of the five pillars key to understanding the main areas of debate about the nature and scope of the administrative state.

The challenge to Chevron came out of a decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The association argued in its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court that the D.C. Circuit should not have upheld the rule under Chevron. The petition says, “the court of appeals chose to ‘skip’ Chevron step one, brushed aside canons of statutory construction, and looked past what it acknowledged was a legal error in a key premise of the agency’s rulemaking—the agency’s insistence that its new regulation merely clarified, and was consistent with, existing policy. In numerous ways, this ruling conflicts with decisions from other circuits and this Court.

Judge Karen Henderson, a George H.W. Bush appointee, wrote the opinion for the D.C. Circuit saying, “The familiar Chevron framework guides our review.” She held that the statute was clear, so the court needed only to decide whether the agency’s interpretation was reasonable. Henderson wrote that the rule was consistent with the Medicaid law and upheld it.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of the case, the 2019 decision of the D.C. Circuit will remain in effect.

To learn more about Chevron deference or judicial deference, see here: