SCOTUS Watch – Monday, June 29th – UPDATE: AZ redistricting win, Death drug loss, EPA back to drawing board

June is SCOTUS Decision month, when all eyes turn to the Supreme Court for rulings on the cases argued this term (before the court adjourns on June 30th for the summer). The calendar normally calls for orders and opinions to be released every Monday – 9:30am for orders and 10:00am for opinions. However, history has shown that additional “opinion days” are often added as the month unfolds and this year was no different as over the last two weeks we had Thursday and Friday opinion days. Today should be the last session of the term.

As always, the Moose News Network will cover the SCOTUS events with the help of SCOTUSblog and Twitter.

All eyes turn to the court

The Supreme Court will be in session this morning for orders and opinions starting at 9:30am Eastern. SCOTUSblog will liveblog at this link starting at 8:30am Eastern.

These are the cases heard in the current term but not yet decided:
DECIDED: The districts can be set by the commission. Decision (PDF). The “can citizens redistrict?” case, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (the Federal District Court upheld the redistricting, legislature appealed directly to Supreme Court)
DECIDED: Oklahoma drugs are not cruel. Decision (PDF). A death penalty case related to the drugs used, Glossip v Gross (Oklahoma wants to change its drug protocol, 10th Circuit ruled against the plaintiffs and for the state)
DECIDED: EPA must redo regulations looking at costs. Decision (PDF). Three suits against the EPA over its regulation of utilities and “failure” to consider costs, listed as Michigan vs. the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (The states are appealing a ruling upholding EPA rule making procedures)

A full list of pending cases (with links) is below the fold.

A closer look at the three cases left for this morning: Decisions in last 3 Supreme Court cases expected Monday


Amy Howe from SCOTUSblog on what’s left as of 6/23: And then there were seven: The remaining cases, in Plain English

The Justices don’t announce in advance which decisions they will issue, or how many. But given how important all seven of these cases are, we’re bound to get something good on Thursday morning. Stay tuned!


Update from USA Today on the 11 remaining cases: Half a dozen major cases await Supreme Court rulings

WASHINGTON — The future of same-sex marriage and President Obama’s health care law hang in the balance as the Supreme Court’s 2014 term draws rapidly to a close this month. But those aren’t the only big issues on the justices’ plate.

Fair elections, racial discrimination, clean air, capital punishment: All await rulings over the next two weeks as the court completes action on 11 cases remaining this term. The next decisions will come Monday morning.


Analysis from Al Jazeera from June 1st: Supreme Court to decide on 13 cases over next few weeks

June is the final month of the Supreme Court’s annual term before the summer recess begins. Over the next few weeks, the Court will make decisions on 13 major cases. Among the issues up for debate are same-sex marriage, the Affordable Care Act, and religious freedom.

From SCOTUSblog: October 2014 Term cases pending (oldest cases first)

Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, No. 13-1314 [Arg: 3.2.2015 Trans./Aud.]

Issue(s): (1) Whether the Elections Clause of the United States Constitution and 2 U. S. C. § 2a(c) permit Arizona’s use of a commission to adopt congressional districts; and (2) whether the Arizona Legislature has standing to bring this suit.

Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-47 [Arg: 3.25.2015 Trans.]

Issue(s): Whether the Environmental Protection Agency unreasonably refused to consider costs in determining whether it is appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities.

Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-46 [Arg: 3.25.2015 Trans./Aud.]

Issue(s): Whether the Environmental Protection Agency unreasonably refused to consider costs in determining whether it is appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities.

National Mining Association v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-49 [Arg: 3.25.2015 Trans.]

Issue(s): Whether the Environmental Protection Agency unreasonably refused to consider costs in determining whether it is appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities.

Glossip v. Gross, No. 14-7955 [Arg: 4.29.2015 Trans.]

Issue(s): (1) Whether it is constitutionally permissible for a state to carry out an execution using a three-drug protocol where (a) there is a well-established scientific consensus that the first drug has no pain relieving properties and cannot reliably produce deep, coma-like unconsciousness, and (b) it is undisputed that there is a substantial, constitutionally unacceptable risk of pain and suffering from the administration of the second and third drugs when a prisoner is conscious; (2) whether the plurality stay standard of Baze v. Rees applies when states are not using a protocol substantially similar to the one that this Court considered in Baze; and (3) whether a prisoner must establish the availability of an alternative drug formula even if the state’s lethal-injection protocol, as properly administered, will violate the Eighth Amendment.


  1. Also expected this morning are new orders: rejecting petitions and selecting cases for the fall term which begins in October 2015 (first day of arguments will be Oct. 5).

    We are also hoping to hear about the Texas abortion clinic closing. Justice Scalia has before him a request to postpone the 5th Circuit ruling that will close most abortion clinics in Texas. That ruling will go into effect on Wednesday, July 1st if the stay is not issued. Planned Parenthood will be appealing the 5th Circuit decision and has asked for the stay pending their appeal.

    • The court granted certiorari to the Fisher case. This is Fisher once again going after the University of Texas for denying her admission:

      The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition.

      I think Kagan was part of this case on the government’s side when it was first argued.

      I am not sure why this is not moot. Fisher has her degree (from another institution) and has started her career.

    • First case: Glossip by Alito. 5 to 4 in favor of continuing to use death drug. Oklahoma wins, humanity loses.

      The Court rules that the death-row inmates have failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits on their claim that the use of midazolam violates the Eighth Amendment.
      by Amy Howe 9:03 AM

      Sotomayor dissents, joined by RBG, Breyer, and Kagan.
      by Amy Howe 9:03 AM

      The Court tried to make the Glossip opinion narrower by emphasizing the deference given to district courts’ factual findings (the clear error standard). So it’s not 100% clear what effect this ruling will have on cases that have not yet gone through a hearing (e.g., cases at the motion to dismiss stage or summary judgment stage).
      by Tejinder 9:10 AM

      Sotomayor reading her dissent from the bench.

      The concurring opinions in Glossip (Scalia’s and Thomas’s) principally respond to Justice Breyer’s dissent. A very heated debate about the death penalty occurring in those separate opinions.
      by Tejinder 9:14 AM

    • Second case – Arizona, 5-4. RBG writing for majority.

      The decision of the three-judge panel is affirmed.
      by Amy Howe 9:26 AM

      The Arizona legislature does have standing.
      by Amy Howe 9:26 AM

      There are several dissenting opinions.
      by Amy Howe 9:26 AM

      The Court has several times refused to address the question whether partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution. This decision gives the states an opportunity to deal with partisan gerrymandering by giving an independent commission power to draw federal congressional districts.

      Chief dissents, joined by Scalia/Thomas/Alito.
      by Amy Howe 9:27 AM

      Kennedy joins majority.
      by Amy Howe 9:27 AM

      Ruling (still trying to sort it out):

      “We now affirm the District Court’s judgment. We hold,
      first, that the Arizona Legislature, having lost authority to
      draw congressional districts, has standing to contest the
      constitutionality of Proposition 106. Next, we hold that
      lawmaking power in Arizona includes the initiative process,
      and that both §2a(c) and the Elections Clause permit
      use of the AIRC in congressional districting in the same
      way the Commission is used in districting for Arizona’s
      own Legislature.”

      Voters can take away right to redistrict from a legislature that refuses to create fair and honest districts.

    • Final case: EPA by Scalia, 5-4

      The Court rules that the EPA interpreted the statute unreasonably when it deems cost to be irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plants.

      Justice Thomas concurs. Kagan dissents, joined by RBG, Breyer, and Sotomayor.
      by Amy Howe 9:37 AM

      The EPA must consider costs before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary; it will up to the agency to decide, within limits of reasonable interpretation, how to account for costs.
      by Amy Howe 9:37 AM

      This case arises from the EPA’s efforts to regulate pollution – and in particular mercury – from power plants. The question before the Court was whether, when determining whether to regulate the emissions from power plants, the EPA should take into account the cost to the plants of complying. States and industry groups had argued that the EPA must do so, while the EPA argued that it does not have to consider costs until later in the process, when it issues specific pollution standards. Today the Court agreed with the states and industry groups, holding that the EPA’s refusal to consider costs when deciding whether to regulate was unreasonable.
      by Tejinder 9:38 AM

      • The opinion remands the case to the D.C. Circuit for further proceedings. But from the opinion it seems likely that the agency will have to try again, finding some mechanism to consider costs, before it can act on this issue.

        The opinion states: “We need not and do not hold that the law unambiguously required the Agency, when making this preliminary estimate, to conduct a formal cost-benefit analysis in which each advantage and disadvantage is assigned a monetary value. It will be up to the Agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost.”
        9:41 AM

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