The US Supreme Court issued three decisions this week. In the first, Moore v. Texas, the Court reversed the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on a death penalty case that had already come before the Court once, during its 2016 term. This time, the Court made its decision without oral argument. In a per curiam (unsigned) opinion, the Court held that the Texas court's redetermination that the defendant in that case does not have an intellectual disability and is thus eligible for the death penalty is inconsistent with with the Court's earlier decision in the same case.
United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Calls for Return to Originalism in First Amendment Jurisprudence
On Tuesday, February 19, 2019, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari in Katherine Mae McKee v. William H. Cosby, Jr., 586 U.S. ___ (2019), a lawsuit concerning Katherine McKee's claim against Bill Cosby for defamation where Cosby's lawyers released a letter allegedly damaging McKee's reputation for truthfulness and honesty. The First Circuit found McKee became a limited-purpose public figure when she made sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby and, as such, would need to prove that the statements in the letter were both false and made with actual malice. United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, writing a concurring opinion in the Supreme Court's denial of certiorari, called for a reconsideration of the doctrinal basis for First Amendment cases concerning defamation and libel.
United States Supreme Court to Hear Case Challenging Wisconsin Law Permitting Warrantless Blood Draws From Unconscious Drunken Driving Suspects
On Friday, January 11, 2019, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Gerald P. Mitchell v. State of Wisconsin (Docket No. 18-6210). The case questions whether a civil implied-consent statute in Wisconsin, permitting police officers to draw the blood of an unconscious driver, without consent, is constitutional.
In an order issued today, the US Supreme Court has granted the Trump administration's request to stay orders in two cases filed in federal district courts within the 9th Circuit to block the administration's policy banning most transgender people from serving in the military from going into effect. The Court's decision permits the ban to be temporarily implemented while the cases progress through the appeals process and any Supreme Court review. The Court denied the Trump administration's request to bypass the appellate process completely, but provides a preview of how the Court will likely rule if it hears these cases on the merits.
U.S. Supreme Court Remands Case to Eighth Circuit to Consider Whether Mandatory State Bar Association Fees Involve Compelled Association and Compelled Speech
On Monday, December 3, 2018, the United States Supreme Court vacated the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals's decision in Fleck v. Wetch, No. 16-1564 (8th Cir. 2017) and remanded the case to the 8th Circuit to decide whether mandatory state bar association fees translate to compelled association and compelled speech.
The US Supreme court will not hear two cases stemming from state efforts to prevent Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving funding under Medicaid. Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Alito voted to hear the cases, but Chief Justice Roberts and the newly-confirmed Justice Kavanaugh voted with the Court's liberal justices to turn the cases away; four votes are needed to hear a case. This split among the conservative wing of the Court may reflect Chief Justice Roberts' intention to keep the Court out of hotly contested issues, and of Justice Kavanaugh's willingness to follow along, at least for the time being.
The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has ruled against the Trump administration's attempt to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA permits approximately 600,000 unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the US as children to remain in the country legally by seeking permission from the Department of Homeland Security every two years. Though the Trump administration had asked the US Supreme Court to weigh in on the case pending in the 9th Circuit before the appellate ruling, now that the appellate court has issued its decision, it is even more likely that the Supreme Court will take up the matter in 2019.
Supreme Court Rules State and Local Governments Are Covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Regardless of Their Size
In its first decision from this term, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled earlier today that state and local governments must follow labor laws that ban age discrimination regardless of the number of their employees. Plaintiffs in Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido were two former Arizona firefighters who argued that the Mount Lemmon Fire District laid them off in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Because the fire department had fewer than 20 employees, the defendant argued that they were too small to qualify as an employer who had to comply with the law.