Nine Down, Seventeen To Go

US Supreme CourtWe are on track for the busiest June in the Supreme Court’s history. So far this month, the High Court has issued nine opinions, which would normally be on the low side of the range Court watchers would declare typical and expected. However, there are still seventeen more cases on the docket. What’s more, the 2014-2015 Term is scheduled to end on June 29, two weeks from today. Spare a thought to the thirty or so law clerks working massive amounts of overtime to get all of these opinions cranked out over the next two weeks.

No major cases released today, contrary to my expectations — I’d expected either Reed or Walker, or both, to be decided today.

But perhaps predictably, an additional release dates on Thursday has been added. Don’t be surprised if we get another additional date next Thursday with so many cases coming down the pipeline. On my watch list are:

  • Glossip v. Gross: may a state administer the now-traditional three-drug cocktail as its protocol for execution by lethal injection consistent with the Eighth Amendment?
  • King v. Burwell: can the Federal government subsidize PPACA health insurance plans in states that have not opted to create their own exchanges?
  • Obergefell v. Hodges: does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to issue same-sex marriage licenses, or recognize such licenses when issued by a sister state?
  • Reed v. Town of Gilbert: may a city restrictively regulate signs guiding traffic towards the meeting-places of a church with a transient location in a way less permissive than it permits temporary political signs?
  • Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans: can a state decide to withhold specialty license plates from a group based on the state’s political decision to disapprove of the content that group’s desired plate?

I’m not likely to digest or report much on the remaining twelve cases, although of course at the Supreme Court level, there are no small cases. That’s more a matter of what I think will be interesting to write about in this forum than anything else.

In fact, I am more than a little bit interested in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project for professional reasons, because it will determine whether housing discrimination cases can rely upon disparate-impact theories, or whether a housing discrimination plaintiff must set forth individualized acts of discrimination by the defendant. This is not an issue that I think will be of generalized enough interest to merit a substantial write-up, although I could in theory be called upon to handle a housing discrimination case in my day job.

Also, the result in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will be important to the structure of politics in the next fifteen years, because it will decide whether or not independent commissions can be empowered by citizen initiative to draw Congressional election district boundary lines in an effort to curtail partisan gerrymandering. The methodology of getting to the result, though, is almost certain to be turgid and ultimately of less interest than the conclusion.

So while I might note the results in those two cases, I’m unlikely to do a digest of them. Other Court watchers, of course, should feel free to offer their own digests and analyses. As for today, SCOTUS released no significant opinions on my “watch list” and I’ll have to check back again Thursday morning. The Nine are the masters of their own calendar.


Burt LikkoBurt Likko is the pseudonym of an attorney in Southern California. His interests include Constitutional law with a special interest in law relating to the concept of separation of church and state, cooking, good wine, and bad science fiction movies. Follow his sporadic Tweets at @burtlikko, and his Flipboard at Burt Likko.

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4 thoughts on “Nine Down, Seventeen To Go

    • Glossip, King, Obergefell, and Walker are all pretty high-profile, and I rather suspect that all Nine of the Justices want to get those out of the way now rather than allow themselves to become issues during a Presidential election cycle.

      As for the other ones, they’re less politically explosive, so if they can’t finish their work, then those seem like better candidates for playing “judicial kick the can.”

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  1. Time pressure on the Arizona case from the election cycle as well. Presumably wouldn’t sit well to come out with a decision a year from now that says “The Congressional districts in Arizona and California are improperly drawn and need to be done over.” I’m still wondering whether the Arizona case is being held up by the lack of decision on cert for Hickenlooper v. Kerr (docket 14-460), the other citizen initiative case. It poses a much vaguer question about the reach of the citizen initiative.

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