On Monday the justices heard argument over whether an antitrust lawsuit brought by iPhone users unhappy that apps may only be purchased through the Apple store can move forward. Apple claims it does not have a monopoly because it is the app developers who set the prices.
Tuesday saw argument about who owns Oklahoma brought by members of the Muscogee Creek Nation.
Wednesday’s only case was about seizure of assets upon criminal conviction in state court and whether that violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines.
Just posting November’s SCOTUS sketches ( I missed the first couple days, so starting on October 31 ) without comments except to note that the election day SCOTUSblog banner at the end of this post is a work of “artistic license.” We know, from his confirmation hearing testimony, that Justice Kavanaugh does not vote, and I expect that may be the case for other justices as well.
An unusual start to the new term of what can now be truly called the Roberts Court. After Justice Kennedy’s retirement the Chief Justice, who on the bench occupies the center chair, now also becomes the center of gravity of the Court as the most likely swing vote.
Last week saw eight justices on the bench. After a weekend Senate confirmation vote followed by a swearing in at the Court, Justice Kavanaugh took his seat on the bench this Tuesday to hear arguments. After the drama of the past weeks it almost felt “normal’. No protesters in the courtroom, nor even on the plaza when I arrived early Tuesday morning though some did show up later.
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.
On the last argument day of the term the Justices heard the challenge to Trump’s travel ban. Line sitters had been camped out on the sidewalk since Monday.
As expected the courtroom was packed. If you look closely at the above sketch you can see Lin-Manuel Miranda seated in the right side background (he’s the one with the goatee).
In case you needed a reminder that this Tuesday was the tax filing deadline, which as it turned out was extended 24 hours because of an IRS computer glitch, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two tax related cases this week.
South Dakota v. Wayfair, argued on Tuesday, could impact anyone who buys or sells goods shipped to another state. Currently out-of-state retailers are not required to collect sales tax unless they have a physical presence in the buyer’s state. But in the brave new world of e-commerce and virtual stores a majority of justices may be prepared to reverse the Court’s earlier position.
The other tax case is more peripheral and limited to railroad pensions. Argued on Monday, Wisconsin Central Ltd. v. United States seemed to turn on the definition of “money.” Are railroads and their employees, who are covered under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act instead of Social Security, required to pay taxes on compensation received in the form of stock options? In other words, are stock options money? That led the justices to hypothesize about compensation in the form of bottles of wine, baseball tickets and bushels of wheat.