Justice Breyer had the opinions in both cases announced today, Venezuela v. Helmerich & Payne International and Bank of America Corp. v. City of Miami ( note, Justice Sotomayor was absent from the bench ).
And although one courtroom sketch covered both opinions, I also did my usual SCOTUSblog banner sketch.
A pair of civil jurisdiction cases on the next to last argument day of the Supreme Court’s term promised little in the way of news, but for a ringtone that sounded early into the first argument. Cell phones are not permitted in the courtroom, except maybe for the Justices. And sure enough, it was Justice Breyer’s phone that rang.
So that was the news of the day. Here are my sketches from the arguments, Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California and BNSF Railway v. Tyrrell, as well as the opinion in Lewis v. Clarke announced by Justice Sotomayor.
It’s been a strange Supreme Court term, like a meal that doesn’t satisfy. With only eight members on the bench after Justice Scalia’s death the odds were good that the last blockbuster opinion of the term would fall to a tie.
But, once again, Justice Kennedy was the fulcrum that allowed the Court to do some heavy lifting. In a 5-4 opinion authored by Justice Breyer in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt the lie was exposed that Texas’ restrictive abortion clinic regulations were enacted to protect women’s health.
That left the dissenters arguing only on procedural grounds that Whole Woman’s Health had lost an earlier round and should never have got another bite of the apple.
Oh, and there was also the unanimous opinion in McDonnell v. United States. It’s perfectly okay now, through gifts and cash, to purchase access to politicians, even if it stinks.
On Wednesday the Supreme Court released three opinions, two of which made news, one of which – Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission – I sketched. I would’ve sketched the opinion in Bank Markazi v Peterson, that upheld a law directing Iranian assets to go to victims of terrorism, except I really couldn’t see much of Justice Ginsburg’s tiny figure hunched behind the bench as she delivered the opinion.
Sketches of the argument in Birchfield v. North Dakota, actually three cases concerning state laws that make it a crime to refuse a warrantless blood-alcohol test when stopped for DUI, are below.
. . . Nobody likes towers, apparently.” said Justice Breyer during yesterday’s argument in T-Mobile South v. City of Roswell.
The city council of Roswell, Georgia – which has more cell towers than square miles – denied a request by T-Mobile to erect a cell phone tower in a residential area. No reason for the decision was given in the city’s letter of denial though the meeting minutes were supplied within a few weeks.
T-Mobile’s lawyer told the Court that the explicit reasons “supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record” should accompany the city’s decision.
The Solicitor General’s lawyer said that it is sufficient that the reasons for the denial may be found in the minutes.
And the lawyer for the City of Roswell suggested an interesting approach in that he supported the SG’s argument that the reasoning can be found in the minutes but added that the letter of denial was not actually the decision. The decision by the city council, he argued, was not taken until the minutes were approved. The earlier letter of denial was merely a notification.
There was, of course, much more to the argument than what I’m capable of reporting. For more see Miriam Seifter’s analysis on SCOTUSblog.