This morning, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 opinion, with a scathing dissent from Justice Scalia. But the case, Maryland v. King, is not one of the big marquee cases of this Term, nor was the line-up predictable. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy held that the Fourth Amendment allows a state to take a DNA sample using a cheek swab from all individuals arrested for serious crimes. He was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and by Justices Alito, Breyer, and Thomas. Justice Scalia, who dissented orally this morning after Justice Kennedy announced the opinion, was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor.
The difference in the line-up today and in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders is interesting. In that case, in which the Court upheld the routine strip search of non-violent arrestees (at least under some circumstances), Justice Scalia was in the majority upholding a state practice against a Fourth Amendment challenge, while Justice Breyer was the scathing dissenter. All the other votes tracked today’s case.
If you’re looking to refresh your memory on some of the big cases still awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision, take a look at the videos provided by Chicago-Kent’s Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States (ISCOTUS).
Discover information on the politics, the background, and the issues involved in the two same-sex marriage cases before the Supreme Court in our Deep Dive. These videos discuss the basics of both Hollingsworth v. Perry (the Prop 8 case) and United States v. Windsor (the DOMA case).
Professors Carolyn Shapiro (ISCOTUS Director and Associate Professor of Law) and Sheldon Nahmod (Distinguished Professor of Law) discuss the details in Fisher v. University of Texas.
As we enter June, we also enter the final month, for all intents and purposes, of October Term 2012 (OT 2012) of the Supreme Court (I say “for all intents and purposes” because although the Court’s Term will not actually end until the opening of OT 2013 on October 7, 2013, the Court traditionally issues it final decisions in argued cases during the last week of June). Thus far, the Court has issued opinions in 45 argued cases, as well as 4 per curiam opinions in cases decided without argument.
The Supreme Court today issued opinions in two cases involving procedures for habeas corpus, specifically in the context of individuals who are challenging their state-court convictions or capital sentences. Habeas allows these individuals to allege that their convictions are invalid due to constitutional defects in the trials. Winning such a claim is very, very difficult. The legal doctrine is very restrictive, thanks to both Congress, which passed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) in 1996, and to years of highly restrictive Supreme Court precedent. Today, however, both cases inched open doors for habeas petitioners.
Today, the Supreme Court issued decisions in four cases. All but one were unanimous as to result, and that one, City of Arlington v. FCC, though important in administrative law, is not a case most members of the public are likely to be following. This may lead some people to wonder what the Supreme Court is doing and when they will issue decisions in the big cases from this Term — the gay marriage cases (Perry and Windsor), the affirmative action case (Fisher), and the Voting Rights Act case (Shelby County), to name a few.
The short answer is that the dispositions of these cases will almost certainly be announced before the end of June, when the Court goes into summer recess. I say “almost certainly” because there is at least one other, very remote, possibility: Occasionally a case is held over for reargument in the fall. This happened with Citizens United.
At this time of year, the Court generally announces (or “hands down”) opinions on Mondays (next week it will be Tuesday due to Memorial Day), and it sometimes adds an additional hand-down days, usually Thursdays, towards the end of the Term. But the Court never announces ahead of time what opinions it will be issuing on a particular hand-down day. So between now and the end of June, every hand-down day has the potential to be a biggie.
If you follow us on Twitter (@ISCOTUS) or Google+ or like us on Facebook (and we hope you will!), you’ll see regular postings about interesting news, commentary, and resources we’ve found around the web. But once a week, we’ll compile all of them into a single post for ISCOTUSnow.