A generally quiet term concluded this week with opinions on two major issues before the Court, election district gerrymandering and the citizenship question on the 2020 census. There’s no question that it is now the Roberts Court with the Chief Justice replacing now retired Justice Kennedy as the deciding swing vote. Roberts wrote the opinions in both of the term’s blockbusters, siding with the conservatives on gerrymandering, but joining, at least in part, the liberal justices on the census question.
Here are some sketches from this last week. More sketches from the term are posted in my archive. I’m off to Ireland for a two week vacation so any print orders will have to wait until the end of July. Have a great summer!
It’s Monday, April 1st, and surprise! I’m not at the Court. I meant to be there but with so much to do before heading up to Boston for the celebrity college admissions scandal, and low expectations of any really momentous opinions, I choose to play hooky. Nevertheless, here’s an April Fools banner.
The big arguments last week were a pair of gerrymandering cases, Rucho v. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek, that never made it to network prime time because of the Jussie Smollett breaking news. Again with the celebrities!
Tuesday’s gerrymander arguments were bookended by Administrative Law arguments on Monday, PDR Network v. Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, . . .
. . . and on Wednesday, Kisor v. Wilkie.
We also had an Admiralty Law case, The Dutra Group v. Batterton, argued last week, and though I didn’t sketch the argument I felt it was time for a maritime themed banner.
Spring is coming – slowly – to DC as the Supreme Court begins its March sitting.
March is gerrymander month at the court this term with an argument on race-based redistricting in Virginia on Monday, and two more to be argued next week.
On Tuesday, the Court announced opinions is three cases. The first, dealing with maritime law, was of limited interest . . .
. . . but the second, Nielsen v. Preap, significantly expands a mandatory-immigration-detention without-bond statute.
To signal the seriousness of the decision Justice Breyer announced from the bench his dissent, joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan.
Since Breyer also announced the opinion in Cougar Den I did not bother to draw him again. The Court then heard argument in Cochise Consultancy v. U.S.
Wednesday’s argument, like Monday’s, involved a question of race. In Flowers v. Mississippi a local district attorney tried the same defendant six times for murder. The first two verdicts were overturned because of prosecutorial misconduct. The third was overturned because during jury selection the DA struck all African-Americans from the jury pool. The fourth and fifth trials resulted in hung juries which brings us to the case before the Court where Flowers was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of four people during the robbery of a furniture store in the town of Winona, Mississippi. At this sixth trial all but one of the six African-Americas jurors in the pool were struck leaving a jury of 11 whites and one black. The question before the Court is whether race was a factor when the prosecutor used his peremptory strikes in violation of the Court’s opinion in Batson v. Kentucky.
At the very end of the argument in Flowers, just as the lawyer for the petitioner was about to cede her time for rebuttal, Justice Thomas chimed in with a question breaking a three year silence.
Nothing is more welcome on a broiling summer day in DC than the cool marble halls inside the Supreme Court building . Outside, by the plaza, camera crews waited under beach umbrellas for reporters with news of the Court’s latest opinions.
Of the five opinions announced today the most anticipated were two partisan-gerrymander cases. There was optimism at the beginning of the term, when the first gerrymander case was argued in October, that the Justices might at last come up with a solution to the problem of political redistricting. But the Court left it to another day, another term. Both cases were returned to the District courts.
I’m a little late getting these posted. The last week of arguments for the term was dominated by Wednesday’s Trump v. Hawaii, which I’ve already posted, but the justices also heard cases on Texas gerrymandering, Abbott v. Perez, and on the appointment of administrative law judges, Lucia v. SEC, as well as three others one of which saw Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein at the lectern.
The Court also announced opinions in three cases on Tuesday. In a departure from usual practice of having the more junior justice announce the first opinion, Justice Thomas announced Oil States Energy Services followed by Justice Gorsuch with the opinion in SAS Institute. It turns out that Gorsuch’s opinion referred to Thomas’ thus the need to go out of order; both are patent cases. And finally on Tuesday, Justice Kennedy delivered his first opinion of the term in an Alien Torts Act case, Jesner v. Arab Bank.