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.
As always, the Moose News Network will cover the SCOTUS events with the help of SCOTUSblog and Twitter.
The Supreme Court will be in session this morning for opinions starting at 10:00am Eastern. SCOTUSblog will liveblog at this link starting at 9:30am Eastern.
There are 3 cases pending:
– WIN for women’s reproductive rights!!
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt
Whether, when applying the “undue burden” standard of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Fifth Circuit erred in concluding that this standard permits Texas to enforce, in nearly all circumstances, laws that would cause a significant reduction in the availability of abortion services while failing to advance the State’s interest in promoting health – or any other valid interest.
– WIN for victims of domestic violence
Voisine v. United States
Two men from Maine are challenging their convictions for possessing guns under a federal law that is intended to keep guns out of the hands of people who have previously been convicted of domestic violence. Their claim is that the conviction under state laws is not the same as a conviction under federal law that would trigger the ban.
– McDonnell v. U.S.
Whether “official action” under the controlling fraud statutes is limited to exercising actual governmental power, threatening to exercise such power, or pressuring others to exercise such power, and whether the jury must be so instructed; or, if not so limited, whether the Hobbs Act and honest-services fraud statute are unconstitutional.
A full list of pending cases (with links) is below the fold.
USA Today analysis:
The court now faces three issues of huge social importance: Abortion, immigration and affirmative action.
Those are the highlights from among 19 cases left to be decided before the end of June. They include a second tier of closely watched cases, including one that could set a higher bar for public corruption, another that could help ease Puerto Rico’s crushing debt and a third that could affect drunk drivers who refuse breath or blood tests. […]
DECIDED – Affirmative action. A former white student’s challenge to the University of Texas’ use of racial preferences in admissions dates back the longest. The case was heard in early December, after being returned to the Supreme Court for a second go-round. In 2013, the justices demanded tougher judicial scrutiny of the school’s use of race, but an appeals court again sided with UT.
Unlike the other cases, this one will be decided by just seven justices, because Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself after working on it as U.S. solicitor general. Without the risk of a tie, advocates and opponents of affirmative action anticipate a ruling for or against the policy — perhaps with repercussions for other universities as well. The betting line tilts slightly against UT.
Abortion. Another case from Texas challenges a state law that imposed major restrictions on abortion clinics, ostensibly to protect women’s health. The law requires clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers and forces doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals — rules that threaten to leave only nine fully functioning abortion clinics in a state with 5.4 million women of reproductive age.
Two lower federal courts have upheld the law, but abortion rights proponents say it places too great a burden on women seeking abortions, without a justifiable health benefit. They may have a winning hand if Justice Anthony Kennedy joins the court’s four liberals against one or both restrictions. A substantive ruling could represent the most significant abortion decision by the court since 1992.
PUNTED – Immigration. Case number three from Texas is President Obama’s effort to overturn lower court rulings that have blocked him from offering more than 4 million undocumented immigrants a chance to remain in the country without fear of deportation. It represents his last chance to help the parents of those brought to the country as children who have already won such a reprieve.
Texas led a group of 26 states against the plan, complaining that it would have to pay for driver’s licenses if the parents dodge deportation proceedings. Obama’s best chance appears to be the hope that a majority of justices will decide the cost of licenses does not give Texas sufficient standing in court. Otherwise, a 4-4 tie would uphold the verdict of the lower courts, and the program would be dead.
Recap on Wednesday, 6/22/2016, by Amy Howe on the remaining cases, In Plain English, before last Thursday’s session. From her list, the remaining cases:
Voisine v. United States (argued February 29, 2016). Stephen Voisine and William Armstrong, the other petitioner in this case, both pleaded guilty in state court to misdemeanor assaults on their respective domestic partners. Several years later, each man was charged with violating a federal law that prohibits the possession of firearms and ammunition by individuals who have previously been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Voisine and Armstrong contend their state convictions (which the First Circuit affirmed) do not automatically qualify as misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence because the state-law provisions can be violated by conduct that is merely reckless, rather than intentional.
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (argued March 2, 2016). This is a challenge to the constitutionality of two provisions of a Texas law regulating abortion in that state. One provision requires doctors who perform abortions to have privileges to admit patients to a local hospital; the other requires abortion clinics to have facilities that are comparable to outpatient surgical centers. Texas contends that these new laws are constitutional because they were intended to protect women’s health, while the challengers argue that the law was actually intended to close most clinics and therefore limit women’s access to abortions. The Fifth Circuit upheld the new requirements, although they have not yet gone into effect yet.
McDonnell v. United States (argued April 27, 2016). Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell is challenging his convictions for violating federal laws that make it a felony to agree to take “official action” in exchange for money, campaign contributions, or anything else of value. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, and so the Justices agreed to weigh in. He argues that merely referring someone to an independent decision maker – in his case, in an effort to help promote a Virginia businessman’s nutritional supplement – doesn’t constitute the kind of “official action” that the statute bars. The stakes are high for McDonnell: the Supreme Court agreed to allow him to stay out of prison while it heard his appeal, but that would change if he loses.
Speculation is that Breyer will be writing Whole Woman’s Health (he has only written 6) and Kagan will write Voisine. The Chief will probably write McDonnell so that he can take a bow for further blurring the lines between bribery and official acts, a precedent he started with Citizens United.
From SCOTUSblog: October 2015 Term cases pending (oldest cases first)
Voisine v. U.S., No. 14-10154 [Arg: 2.29.2016]
Issue(s): (1) Whether a misdemeanor crime with the mens rea of recklessness qualifies as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” as defined by 18 U.S.C. §§ 921(a)(33)(A) and 922(g)(9); and (2) whether 18 U.S.C. §§ 921(a)(33)(A) and 922(g)(9) are unconstitutional under the Second, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments and the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution.
Issue(s): (1) Whether, when applying the “undue burden” standard of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a court errs by refusing to consider whether and to what extent laws that restrict abortion for the stated purpose of promoting health actually serve the government’s interest in promoting health; and (2) whether the Fifth Circuit erred in concluding that this standard permits Texas to enforce, in nearly all circumstances, laws that would cause a significant reduction in the availability of abortion services while failing to advance the State’s interest in promoting health – or any other valid interest.
Issue(s): Whether “official action” under the controlling fraud statutes is limited to exercising actual governmental power, threatening to exercise such power, or pressuring others to exercise such power, and whether the jury must be so instructed; or, if not so limited, whether the Hobbs Act and honest-services fraud statute are unconstitutional.