TBA Law Blog

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Posted by: Kate Prince on Apr 15, 2021

A group of Democratic lawmakers today introduced legislation that would expand the U.S. Supreme by four justices, the ABA Journal reports. The bill, called the Judiciary Act of 2021, was introduced by Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, Sen. Edward Markey, D-MA, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-GA, and Mondaire Jones, D-NY. “Thirteen justices for 13 circuits is a sensible progression,” Nadler said of the legislation. The Supreme court has had nine justices since 1869, according to Reuters. At other times, Congress has changed the size of the high court, ranging from six to 10 justices. President Joe Biden has previously indicated he is not a fan of “court packing.”

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 9, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court last week announced that it will close out oral arguments for the current session as it began, in teleconference sessions with justices and lawyers participating remotely. The public information office said the argument sessions scheduled for later this month and on May 4 will be held telephonically in keeping with COVID-19 public health guidance. Under usual court tradition, oral arguments would not resume until next October, but there is no word yet what plans are in place for the 2021-2022 term, CNN reports. The justices have not conducted arguments in their courtroom since March 2020. They heard their first case by teleconference last May.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 9, 2021

President Joe Biden signed an executive order today establishing a commission to study whether to add seats to the Supreme Court and other reform proposals, The Hill reports. The Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States will be chaired by former White House counsel Bob Bauer and Cristina Rodríguez, a Yale law school professor and former deputy assistant attorney general, and be comprised of 36 members. The group is tasked with examining the genesis of the reform debate and the court’s role in a constitutional system. It also is asked to analyze a number of reform proposals regarding the membership and size of the court, length of service for justices, the process for choosing cases, and current rules and practices. Read more from the executive order and the White House press release.

In related news, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer warned this week that adding justices to the high court would cause “eroding” of trust in the court. In a two-hour address at Harvard Law School, he said public acceptance of court decisions, and more fundamentally, the rule of law, is threatened by such reform proposals. SCOTUSblog has more and a link to a video of the speech.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Apr 6, 2021

Tennessee yesterday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate a 48-hour waiting period for abortions while the case challenging it makes its way through the appeals process, Reuters reports. The 2015 law requires women to wait at least 48 hours before moving forward with an abortion. It was struck down by a district court judge in October who said the law placed an unconstitutional burden on women. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February denied the state’s request to stay the lower court’s order, but the appeal was allowed to proceed. In its filing with the high court, the state noted that 14 other states have similar laws, but that “Tennessee is the only state in the nation that cannot enforce its law because of a federal judicial decree.” It further defended the law, saying that “some women will choose abortion without making an ‘informed and deliberate’ decision ... and some will later come to regret that irreversible decision.”

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 5, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court last Thursday made it easier for businesses to annoy consumers with phone calls or text messages when it rejected a lawsuit accusing Facebook Inc. of violating a federal anti-robocall law. Facebook argued that the texts contained security-related messages tied to a user’s account and cell phone number and therefore were not covered by the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The court ruled unanimously for Facebook saying the messages did not fit within the technical definition of the type of conduct barred by the law, Reuters reports. Privacy advocates criticized the ruling, saying any company could steer clear of liability under the law as long as they use similar technology.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Mar 30, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday reinstated the death sentence of Tennessee inmate Anthony Hines, reversing a lower court decision that Hines had received inadequate defense counsel, The Hill reports. Hines was convicted of the 1985 murder of a maid, but was granted a new trial by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit last year. The appeals court ruled that Hines’ lawyer had failed to advance an alternative legal theory that pinned the murder on another man. SCOTUS reversed that ruling in an 8-1 decision, which found that any shortcomings in Hines’ defense failed to clear the high legal hurdle needed to set aside his conviction. The justices also ruled that the 6th Circuit failed to take into account evidence supporting Hines’ guilt, including “His flight in a bloody shirt; his possession of the victim’s keys, wallet, and car; his recurring association with knives; or his ever-changing stories about tussling with imaginary assailants.”      

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Mar 26, 2021

Just in time for the final rounds of March Madness, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a high-stakes battle between the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and a legal class of student-athletes from the top revenue-producing sports of football and men’s and women’s basketball. At the heart of the case is whether the NCAA will be allowed to preserve the amateur nature of college sports and distinguish it from pro sports, the ABA Journal reports. The NCAA argues that lower courts have erroneously redefined amateurism to find antitrust violations with restrictions on education-related compensation of student athletes. The student athletes argue the NCAA is seeking “nothing less than an outright exemption” from federal antitrust law. The case is set for argument on March 31.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Mar 26, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a woman shot by police while fleeing has the same Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable seizure as a person who is detained, the ABA Journal reports. The 5-3 ruling saw Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett Kavanaugh join with the court’s more liberal justices. In the majority opinion, Roberts wrote, “The application of physical force to the body of a person with intent to restrain is a seizure, even if the force does not succeed in subduing the person.” However, he stressed the decision is narrow and does not apply to every physical contact between a government employee and a member of the public. “A seizure requires the use of force with intent to restrain. Accidental force will not qualify … Nor will force intentionally applied for some other purpose,” Roberts wrote.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Mar 10, 2021

Members of the Democratic Women's Caucus have introduced legislation to create a monument in honor of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the U.S. Capitol or on capitol grounds, WSMV reports. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, has introduced a companion bill in the Senate. Ginsburg died in September 2020 at age 87 after serving for 27 years on the high court.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Feb 22, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear arguments in a case testing whether police may enter a home without a warrant when pursuing someone suspected of committing a misdemeanor offense. The case concerns retired California real estate agent Arthur Lange, whose garage was entered by a police officer without a warrant following a vehicle pursuit instigated by the officer after hearing loud music and erratic horn honking from Lange's car. Lange is appealing a driving under the influence conviction. The ABA Journal has more on the case.

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