U.S. Supreme Court – What’s Left?

June 15, 2015

On June 15 the U.S. Supreme Court issued decisions in Baker Botts L.L.P. v. ASARCO, No. 14-103, Reyes Mata v. Lynch, No. 14-185, and Kerry v. Din, No. 13-1402. The cases dealt, respectively, with: (1) a law firm’s right to get fees from a reorganized debtor for work associated with defending a fee application (No Go); (2) a procedural issue in immigration law; and (3) a woman’s liberty interest in having her “civil servant in the Taliban regime” Afghani husband get priority immigrant status. “No go” on the last one, too, and Justice Scalia—writing for himself, the Chief Justice, and Justice Thomas—beat up on the dissent. (Justices Kennedy and Alito concurred, but did not agree with Justice Scalia’s reasoning or his need to reach the liberty question.)

The Court routinely ends its term in June. Decision days are scheduled for June 22 and June 29 (both Mondays), as well this Thursday, June 18. So what’s left? Here’s a list of the remaining 17 cases.* All cases are linked to SCOTUSblog, and each link includes information and analysis. I’ve made predictions in nine cases. In the rest, I don’t know enough to form any opinion. (We’ll test my predictions at the end of the month.)

Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, No. 13-1314. What does “legislature” mean? The people we elected, who sit in Phoenix effing up our state? Or, we the people? That’s the question, and the answer will be … the 90 people who are effing up our state, 5-4 along the usual lines. Independent redistricting commissions are so over!

Glossip v. Gross, No. 14-7955. This case addresses 8th Amendment cruel and unusual punishment issues arising out of a three-drug lethal injection protocol. The Court is out of step with the public on the death penalty, but it’ll walk the same path it’s been traveling for years. Expect a 5-4 decision in favor of governmental entities.

Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises, No. 13-720. Friends Steve Kimble and Bob Grabb are the plaintiffs. I wrote about this case in Spiderman Goes to the Supreme Court back in December. Based on what I read after the oral argument, I think Marvel wins, 6-3 or 7-2. Hope I’m wrong!

King v. Burwell, No. 14-114. King is the Obamacare subsidies case, and a Big Dog case. I think the Chief writes the opinion for a six-person majority which includes the likely suspects and Justice Scalia, who will own his “look at the whole law” statements. Do please set up a net under the limb I’m hanging onto!

Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556. This is the same sex marriage case, and another Big Dog case. Two issues are before the Court: (1) Must states license same sex marriages; and (2) Must states recognize same sex marriages which are licensed in other states. On the second issue I’m confident that the Court says yes, 5-4; on the first issue I’m out on that limb again—hurry up with the net already—but will go with yes, again by 5-4.

Reed v. Town of Gilbert, AZ, No. 13-502. This case deals with a sign ordinance, and a church. Expect the ordinance to be tossed, 9-0.

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, No. 13-137. Courts use disparate treatment and disparate impact analyses to resolve discrimination claims. Disparate treatment gets proven with evidence of wrongful acts, while disparate impact may be proven without evidence of bad motives. Disparate impact does not sit well, for pure motives don’t matter. The Court will be deciding whether disparate impact is alive and well in housing discrimination world. The split will be 5-4 in favor of abolishing disparate impact cases.

Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-47. Did the EPA unreasonably refuse “to consider costs in determining whether it is appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities?” This Court will vote 5-4 against the EPA. Duh!

Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, No. 14-144. License plates with messages are really dumb, as I noted in Musings on the First Amendment in March. Are the messages government speech, which is totally protected by the First Amendment? No, 9-0!

The other cases are: Brumfeld v. Cain, No. 13-1433; City of Los Angeles v. Patel, No. 13-1175; Davis v. Ayala, No. 13-1428; Horne v. Department of Agriculture, No. 14-275; Johnson v. U.S., No. 13-7120; Kingsley v. Hendrickson, No. 14-6368; McFadden v. U.S., No. 14-378; and Ohio v. Clark, No. 13-1352.

*The same sex marriage and EPA cases each have multiple, related cases. One set of opinions will issue in each instance.

P.S. From 9:26 p.m. on June 17, Tucson time, I noted that SCOTUSblog.com mentioned “seventeen decisions to go, with the next show set for Thursday.” Pot’s right!


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