Rank #1: Venezuela v. Helmerich & Payne International - Post-Argument SCOTUScast
Rank #2: California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. ANZ Securities - Post-Argument SCOTUScast
Rank #3: Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt - Post-Argument SCOTUScast
Rank #4: Turner v. United States - Post-Argument SCOTUScast
Rank #5: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer - Post-Decision SCOTUScast
Rank #6: Evenwel v. Abbott - Post-Decision SCOTUScast
Rank #7: Gill v. Whitford - Post-Argument SCOTUScast
The questions before the Supreme Court are as follows: (1) Whether the district court, in holding that it had the authority to entertain a statewide challenge to Wisconsin's redistricting plan instead of requiring a district-by-district analysis, ran afoul of the Supreme Court’s 2004 decision in Vieth v. Jubelirer; (2) whether the district court violated Vieth when it held that Wisconsin's redistricting plan was an impermissible partisan gerrymander, even though it was undisputed that the plan complies with traditional redistricting principles; (3) whether the district court violated Vieth by adopting a watered-down version of the partisan-gerrymandering test employed by the plurality in the Supreme Court’s 1986 decision in Davis v. Bandemer; (4) whether the defendants are entitled to present additional evidence showing that they would have prevailed under the district court's test, which the court announced only after the record had closed; and (5) whether partisan-gerrymandering claims are justiciable.
To the discuss the case, we have David Casazza, Associate at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.
Rank #8: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association - Post-Argument SCOTUScast
Rank #9: The American Legion v. American Humanist Association - Post-Decision Podcast
In 1925, the American Legion erected a memorial cross (Peace Cross) in Bladensburg, MD, to honor 49 soldiers who died fighting in World War I. In 1961, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (Commission) acquired the land and has maintained the memorial using public funding. In 2014, the American Humanist Association (AHA) and other civil associations filed suit in District Court, alleging that the presence and publicly-funded maintenance of the Peace Cross violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. AHA sought relocation, demolition, or removal of the cross’s arms. The district court ruled in favor of the American Legion, applying the Supreme Court precedents Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) and Van Orden v. Perry (2005), concluding that the Peace Cross did not violate the Establishment Clause.
A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed that judgment, applying the same precedents as the district court--but concluding that the Peace Cross conveyed to a reasonable observer the impression of state endorsement of Christianity, and excessively entangled the Commission with religion. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to address the Establishment Clause issue.
By a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Fourth Circuit and remanded the case. In an opinion delivered by Justice Alito, the Court held that “[t]he Bladensburg Cross does not violate the Establishment Clause.” Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II–B, II–C, III, and IV, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Kavanaugh. Justice Alito’s opinion with respect to Parts II–A and II–D was also joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer and Kavanaugh, but not Justice Kagan. A concurring opinion was filed by Justice Breyer in which Justice Kagan joined. Justice Kavanaugh filed a concurring opinion and Justice Kagan filed an opinion concurring in part. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justice Gorsuch filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Justice Thomas joined. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Sotomayor joined.
To discuss the case, we have Christopher DiPompeo, Partner at Jones Day.
Rank #10: Iancu v. Brunetti Post-Decision Podcast
Business owner Erik Brunetti applied to register his clothing brand’s trademark, “FUCT,” (pronounced as the individual letters F-U-C-T) but was refused by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) because the Lanham Act prohibits registration of marks that consist of or comprise “immoral or scandalous” matter. The PTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board deemed the mark vulgar and indicated that it carried “negative sexual connotations,” and in association with Brunetti’s website imagery and products conveyed misogyny, depravity, and violence. Brunetti then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which held that the Lanham Act’s prohibition violated the First Amendment. The Supreme Court then granted certiorari to address the lower court’s invalidation of the federal statute.
By a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the Federal Circuit. In an opinion delivered by Justice Kagan, the Court held that the Lanham Act prohibition on the registration of “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks constitutes viewpoint discrimination that infringes the First Amendment.
Justice Kagan’s majority opinion was joined by which Justices Thomas, Ginsburg, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. Justice Alito filed a concurring opinion. Justice Breyer and Chief Justice Roberts filed opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part. Justice Sotomayor filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Justice Breyer joined.
To discuss the case, we have Thomas Berry, Attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation.
Rank #11: Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections
To discuss the case, we have Jack Park, who is Of Counsel at Strickland Brockington Lewis LLP.
Rank #12: Hernandez v. Mesa - Post-Decision SCOTUScast
Rank #13: Matal v. Tam - Post-Decision SCOTUScast
Rank #14: Fisher v. Univ. of Texas at Austin - Post-Decision SCOTUScast
Rank #15: Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt - Post-Decision SCOTUScast
Rank #16: Hurst v. Florida - Post-Argument SCOTUScast
Rank #17: McCoy v. Louisiana - Post-Decision SCOTUScast
In 2008, Robert McCoy was indicted on three counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of the mother, stepfather, and son of his estranged wife. McCoy pleaded not guilty, maintaining that he was out of state at the time of the murder. In 2010, his relationship with the court-appointed public defender broke down, and in March 2010 Larry English became McCoy’s defense attorney. English concluded that the evidence against McCoy was overwhelming and told McCoy that he would concede McCoy’s guilt in an effort to avoid the death penalty; McCoy adamantly opposed English’s strategy. At trial, English nevertheless indicated repeatedly to the jury that McCoy had caused the victims’ deaths and pleaded for mercy. McCoy protested unsuccessfully to the trial judge and was permitted to testify to his innocence, but was ultimately convicted and sentenced to death. The Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling that defense counsel had authority to concede guilt over McCoy’s objection as a strategy to avoid a death sentence. In light of a division of opinion among state courts of last resort on whether it is unconstitutional to allow defense counsel to concede guilt over the defendant’s intransigent and unambiguous objection, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari.
By a vote of 6-3, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Louisiana Supreme Court and remanded the case for a new trial. In an opinion delivered by Justice Ginsburg, the Court held that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to choose the fundamental objective of his defense and insist that counsel refrain from admitting guilt, even when counsel’s experience-based view is that confessing guilt offers the defendant the best chance to avoid the death penalty.
Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court, which was joined by the Chief Justice, and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch.
To discuss the case, we have Jay Schweikert, Policy Analyst with the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice.
Rank #18: Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District - Post-Decision SCOTUScast
Endrew F. is a student with autism who received annual IEPs from the Douglas County School District from preschool through the fourth grade. At that point, however, his parents felt his progress to be stagnating, and when the school district proposed a similar IEP for the fifth grade, Endrew’s parents moved him to a specialized private school where he made significant progress. School district officials thereafter presented Endrew’s parents with a revised IEP, but the parents considered it little better than the previous version. The parents sought reimbursement of private school tuition costs by filing an IDEA complaint with the Colorado Department of Education. Their claim was denied, however, and the denial was affirmed by both a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The Tenth Circuit concluded that under Rowley, the FAPE requirement was satisfied so long as the IEP conferred more than a minimal educational benefit.
By a vote of 8-0, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Tenth Circuit and remanded the case. Writing for a unanimous Court, Chief Justice Roberts indicated that to meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances,” a more demanding standard than the Tenth Circuit’s de minimis one. The Court then remanded the case for further proceedings under the corrected standard.
To discuss the case, we have Daniel Woodring, principal at Woodring Law Firm.
Rank #19: Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 - Post-Decision SCOTUScast
Under Illinois law, public employees are permitted to unionize; and if a majority of employees in a particular bargaining union vote to unionize, then that union is designated as the exclusive representative of all the employees in collective bargaining, even those members who choose not to join the union. Non-members are required to pay an “agency fee,” which is a percentage of the full union dues and covers union expenses “germane” to the union’s collective bargaining activities, but cannot cover any political or ideological projects sponsored by the union. Mark Janus works at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. The employees in his unit are represented by American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 (“the union”). Janus did not join the union because he opposes many of its positions, including those taken in collective bargaining, but was required to pay 78.06% of full union dues as an “agency fee”--a fee resulting in a payment of $44.58 per month, and about $535 per year.
Janus and two other state employees joined a lawsuit brought by the Governor of Illinois against the union in federal district court, seeking a declaration that the statutory imposition of agency fees was unconstitutional. The District Court dismissed the Governor for lack of standing, but proceeded to reject the claims of Janus and the other employees on the merits, finding their challenge foreclosed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed, but the Supreme Court granted certiorari to reconsider whether public-sector agency-fee arrangements are constitutional.
By a vote of 5-4, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Seventh Circuit and remanded the case. In an opinion delivered by Justice Alito, the Court overruled Abood and held that state extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public-sector employees violates the First Amendment; thus states and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees.
Justice Alito’s majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Gorsuch. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Kagan also filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor.
To discuss the case, we have Raymond LaJeunesse, Vice President & Legal Director, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.