June 20, 2013

Live-blogging the Supreme Court opinions.

Possible excitement this morning. I'm hanging out here, waiting for the latest news.

UPDATE 1: The first case is Descamps: "The modified categorical approach does not apply to statutes that contain a single indivisible set of elements." Kagan, the least senior Justice, wrote the opinion. "In Plain English, it is now harder for the government to use the facts of a prior conviction to enhance a federal criminal sentence." This case has 1 dissenter: Alito.

UPDATE 2: Here's the PDF of the Descamps opinion. From the Alito dissent:
Suppose that a defendant in Massachusetts was charged with breaking into a structure like the Lozman floating home. In order to convict, would it be necessary for the jury to agree whether this structure was a “building” or a “vessel”? If some jurors insisted it was a building and others were convinced it was a vessel, would the jury be hung? The Court’s answer is “yes.” According to the Court, if a defendant had been charged with burglarizing the Lozman floating home and this Court had been sitting as the jury, the defendant would have escaped conviction for burglary, no matter how strong the evidence, because the “jury” could not agree on whether he burglarized a building or a vessel.
This is not unlike the question of Alito and the Phillie Phanatic's glove that we were bandying around earlier this morning.

UPDATE 3: The second case of the day is American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant: "The Federal Arbitration Act enforces a class action arbitration waiver; cannot defeat the waiver on the ground that individual arbitration is too expensive." It's 5-3 and written by Scalia, who is the most senior Justice, other than the Chief, so only more Scalia opinions or opinions by the Chief remain to be announced today.

UPDATE 4: Presumably, no Fisher (affirmative action) case today, since we think we know that Kennedy has that opinion, and he's junior to Scalia.

UPDATE 5: The next case is written by the Chief: Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc. "The Court holds that the policy violates the First Amendment by compelling affirmation of a belief outside the scope of the program." The federal law in question required organizations to have a policy against prostitution and sex trafficking to receive funding for anti-AIDS programs.

UPDATE 6: Excitement time over. Take a deep breath. No same-sex marriage. No affirmative action. No Voting Rights Act. These will all need to wait until next week. Monday will be nerve-wracking. 

UPDATE 7: Here's the PDF of the AID case. Scalia and Thomas dissent, so I will take a look at that... in a new post.

17 comments:

Simon said...

It's quite amazing that a significant fraction of Americas are, right now, fixated on an almost completely plain white screen, in complete silence broken only by the occasional stylized keystroke.

Bob Ellison said...

We need better names for court cases. Descamps and Brown are boring. We should call them things like Purple Polka-Dotted Lizard and More Than a Million Angels.

Simon said...

@Bob:
"['Scalia] inject[ed] levity into what was otherwise a pretty dull case,' said Jan Chilton…. 'One of the two principal cases that everyone in our case was citing was Newman vs. Piggie Park, and of course everybody just shortened that to Piggie Park. [Scalia] piped up in the middle of my argument and said something like, "It would improve the solemnity of the occasion if we referred to the case as Newman rather than Piggie Park." And, of course, everybody chuckled.'"
http://www.memphisdailynews.com/editorial/ArticleEmail.aspx?id=34188

Bob Ellison said...

Simon, that's a great story!

Dopey said...

I note from the bloggers' comments that men in shorts are permitted in the visitors' gallery. Will Althouse go to Washington to drive these creatures from the temple of justice?

Dopey said...

I note from the bloggers' comments that men in shorts are permitted in the visitors' gallery. Will Althouse go to Washington to drive these creatures from the temple of justice?

sane_voter said...

According to Scotusblog, there are now 11 cases left to decide.

Lem said...

Monday will be nerve-wracking

Did anybody else catch that?

I think it was a slider.

MadisonMan said...

I did not know that the cases were released according to the seniority of the author. So I learned a small factoid today.

Simon said...

American Express is a casebook editor's dream—a majority and a dissent from two of the court's most vivid writers, directly, and engagingly, engaging.

RecChief said...

your analysis of the Descamps decision in update 2 simply points our what a lot of people think about the judicial system in this country: you lawyers argue over little stuff like was it a building or a vessel, but can't get to the part about the burglary. In other words, why should the thief get off because of that? Isn't theft still theft no matter where it occurs?

Ann Althouse said...

"In other words, why should the thief get off because of that?"

Well, only Alito is worried about that. If you think that's a ridiculous hypothetical, then you're on the same page as the rest of the Court.

Which is to say: Your criticism of "you lawyers" seems off base.

You should aim your criticism solely at Alito.

RecChief said...

but alito is characterizing what the rest of the court is saying in the majority decision. Is Alito mischaracterizing the majority decision?

The reason that this strikes a note with me is because of a child's death in my home state a few years ago. a two year old died, but both the mother and her live in boyfriend (tried separately) were acquitted. Please explain to this humble former infantryman how this is justice? It strikes close to Alito's dissent, no?

Ann Althouse said...

"but alito is characterizing what the rest of the court is saying in the majority decision. Is Alito mischaracterizing the majority decision?"

He's making up a hypothetical that it would seem is too far-fetched to bother the majority, and I take you to be saying that lawyers get caught up in picky things that normal people wouldn't obsess about.

Am I mischaracterizing your criticism?

Richard Dolan said...

There is often an inverse relationship between the importance of a SCOTUS decision to the lives of most people, and the play the decisions get in the press. Of the three decided today, the AID case (dealing with the First Amendment's limitations on Congress' power to impose condition on grantees who accept federal funding) will get the most play, but it will have almost no practical impact on anyone.

In contrast, Amer Exp v. Italian Colors will have a very substantial impact but garner almost no press.

Calypso Facto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RecChief said...

"He's making up a hypothetical that it would seem is too far-fetched to bother the majority, and I take you to be saying that lawyers get caught up in picky things that normal people wouldn't obsess about."

I don't think it is far fetched at all, having sat on a jury a time or two, as well as the anecdote that I listed (although that is slightly different). My point was that the judicial system does obsess about details such as Alito's hypothetical to the point of losing sight of what is being decided. Jury instructions come from the Judge, who was a lawyer at one point. just my two cents.