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Supreme Court Upholds Michigan Ban on Affirmative Action

In a 6-2 vote, the Supreme Court has upheld Michigan's ban on affirmative action in college admissions. The full opinion in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action is here.

The opinion holds that Michigan voters had the right to amend their constitution to prohibit public universities from considering race in admissions decisions.

Justices Sotomayor wrote the 58 page dissent, joined in by Justice Ginsburg. The Chicago Tribune discusses the dissent here. [More...]

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Opening SCOTUS Briefs In Hobby Lobby, Conestoga

Via Marty Lederman, the government's opening brief (PDF) in Hobby Lobby and the plaintiff's opening brief (PDF) in Conestoga. The government is the petitioner in Hobby Lobby and the Conestoga plaintiffs are the petitioners in their case.

Bone up as we will be discussing these issues during the week.

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Senior Federal Judge Ends His Popular Blog

Nebraska senior Federal Judge Richard Kopf, whose excellent blog Hercules and the Umpire I've written about a few times here and here, has decided to pack up his keyboard and quit blogging. I'm really sorry to see him go. His blog was immensely readable, sometimes serious, sometimes humorous. He has not been pressured to give up the blog, he's doing it voluntarily.

I'm sure many blogs would be willing to host him if he felt like writing a post or two, TalkLeft among them. I wouldn't care that he's not a "leftist," as he says.

Judge Kopf isn't taking the blog down, he's just not writing any more. If you haven't read him yet, go over and take a look. I think the judiciary would be much more transparent if more judges blogged. We, the public, tend to think of federal judges as being isolated in their ivory towers. It's nice to see a few that show their personality off the bench, and provide us with valuable legal insights while doing so.

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Federal Judiciary to Seek Mandatory Minimum Sentence Reform

The Federal Judicial Conference issued a press release today supporting the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 which would give federal judges discretion not to impose a mandatory minimum sentence.

Acting on the recommendation of its Criminal Law Committee, the Conference agreed to seek legislation, such as the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 (S. 619), which is designed to restore judges’ sentencing discretion and avoid the costs associated with mandatory minimum sentences.

The judges are also seeking legislation that would early termination of supervision for inmates who have been granted compassionate release.

[More...]

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Sequester Update: 87 U.S. Chief Judges Write Congress

Via Hercules and the Umpire, the blog of Nebraska Senior District Court Judge Richard Kopf, 87 of the nation's 94 Chief U.S. District Court Judges have written a joint letter to Congress warning of the impending disaster to befall our Judiciary as the result of flat funding followed by sequester cuts.

Judge Kopf reprints the letter (you can read the original here), and adds this comment:

As a former Chief District Judge, I know that you can almost never get 87 Chief District Judges to agree about when the sun comes up. The fact that 87 of them wrote the foregoing letter to Congress ought to make clear that the federal district courts are inches away from disaster. Congress is on the brink of intentionally wrecking the federal trial courts. Will sanity prevail?

Thank you Judge Kopf.

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Federal Courts Seek Emergency Funding

The federal courts are in a state of financial crisis due to sequester. Here is the letter the Federal Judicial Conference sent to the White House yesterday seeking emergency funding.

"The judiciary is confronting an unprecedented financial crisis that could seriously compromise the Constitutional mission of the United States courts," the letter states. "We believe our supplemental request meets the threshold for receiving an emergency designation."

Interesting inclusion on the cost of defending Dzokhar Tsarnaev and other threat cases in New York: [More....]

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Supreme Court Limits Warrantless Forced Blood Tests for DUI Suspects

The Supreme Court today ruled in Missouri v. McNeely (opinion here) that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Sotomayor. There were two concurring and one dissenting opinions.

While the court didn't say a warrant was needed, it made clear officers shouldn't assume one is not needed. Scotus Blog explains: [More...]

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Supreme Court Rules Against Warrantless Canine Sniffs at Homes

The Supreme Court has taken a step to keep the 4th Amendment from going to the dogs. It ruled today that police may not use the fruits of a warrantless dog search at the front door to a residence as probable cause for a search warrant. The case is Jardines v. Florida and the opinion, written by Justice Scalia, is here.

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Sequester and the Judiciary

Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic has an excellent article on the impact of the sequester on the federal judiciary. Already there are layoffs and furloughs at federal defenders' offices and courts are reducing staff. Law enforcement is also taking a hit.

The Federal Times reports 21,000 court employees could be affected.

U.S. marshals, who furnish courthouse security, and federal prosecutors face furloughs of up to 14 days by the end of September.

There are some exemptions: "Like members of Congress, judges cannot be furloughed. Also exempted are law clerks and other “chambers” staff employees."

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Supreme Court Rejects FISA Surveillance Challenge

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Alito, today ruled civil rights groups and lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees lacked standing to challenge the 1998 FISA Amendment that allowed their overseas conversations and e-mails to be intercepted. The case is Clapper v. Amnesty International, the opinion is here.

Split 5-4 on ideological lines, with conservatives backing the government and the liberal wing in the minority, the country's highest court said none of the three categories, including human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have legal standing to sue because they could not show they had suffered any injury.

The ACLU, which filed the lawsuit, says: [More...]

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Supreme Court Upholds Dog Search

The Supreme Court today issued its opinion in Florida v. Harris, ruling that extensive reliability evidence is not necessary for probable cause for a dog search. The opinion is here.

Justice Elena Kagan said the Florida court had gone too far, and suggested that proper training and certification of the dog — rather than how it has performed in the field — might be enough for law enforcement’s purposes.

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Supreme Court: Argument in Two Dog-Sniffing Cases

Update: Transcript of argument in Florida v. Jardines is here, and Florida v. Harris here. Washington Post recap here.

Will the Supreme Court keep the 4th Amendment from going to the dogs?

The Supreme Court held two hours of oral argument today on the constitutionality of using drug-sniffing dogs at private homes, and the reliability of the dogs. Background here and at Scotus Blog here. Wired reports here, and the LA Times here.

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A Dark Cloud On A Sunny Day

Obama and Roberts
Upholding ACA, laying groundwork to strike down New Deal

Yesterday, a happy day for many of us, where the Affordable Care Act was upheld in a 5-4 decision (PDF) authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, there is a dark cloud attached. The Chief Justice accepted the federal government's argument that Congress had exercised its taxing power in enacting the mandate. But rather than being a judicial minimalist and deciding only those constitutional questions that must be decided, the Roberts Court bulled on to decide issues that need not have been addressed—whether the mandate exceeded the Congress' Commerce and Necessary and Proper power.

And the Roberts opinion on the scope of the national government's power to address national problems is a shot across the bow to the Supreme Court's New Deal jurisprudence that underpins our modern national government.

(Continue reading below the fold)

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Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act

The opinion is here.

Here'a a new thread to discuss the Supreme Court decision and related topics. (I haven't read it yet, I just got out of court. I'll chime in later, I'm sure.)

BTD - Radio most of the day but I promise to discuss ACA here at Talk Left tomorrow if anyone is still interested.

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Decision Day for Health Care Law

BTD will be on the radio (please join him), and I'll be getting ready for court when the Supreme Court releases its historic decision on the Affordable Care Act. The decision will be available on the court's website.

According to C-Span, these are the four issues:

  • Whether the court has jurisdiction over a tax law that has yet to take effect,
  • Whether the individual mandate is constitutional,
  • Whether the court can strike down only part of the law without striking down the law in its entirety,
  • And whether the law's extension of Medicaid is constitutional.

Put even simpler, the decision will address jurisdiction, the individual mandate, the fate of the rest of the law — and separately, the Medicaid provision.

For the legal-minded among you, check out ScotusBlog. It's plain English version (which maybe should be called plain English for lawyers) is here. Here are some potential scenarios in plain English as to the effects of the ruling should it go one way or the other.

Here's a thread to discuss all aspects of the decision and the potential effects -- legal, economic, political, and personal.

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