Justice Sotomayor’s Comments on Denial of Certiorari

Usually when the Supreme Court denies certiorari, there is no comment at all from the justices. No one has way of knowing why the case was denied or what the justices thought about lower courts’ the decision. On Monday, February 25, however, when the Supreme Court denied certiorari in the case of Calhoun v. United States, Justice Sotomayor (joined by Justice Breyer) issued a statement. Justice Sotomayor agreed with the Court’s decision not to take the case but she was so appalled by the facts of the case that she felt compelled to comment.

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Court to Review Campaign Finance Limits


McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission

On February 19, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear argument in a case challenging some of the contribution limits in federal campaign finance laws. (The lower court rejected the challenge.) One possible outcome of the case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is for the Supreme Court to declare some or all federal contribution limits unconstitutional. This possibility has drawn enormous attention.

But one point is worth keeping in mind when speculating about what the Court will do: The Court had no choice about whether or not to decide this case (a point also mentioned by Rick Hasen, proprietor of the Election Law Blog). There are a small number of types of cases, like this one, over which the Court has mandatory jurisdiction; in other words, parties can bring appeals to the Supreme Court as a right and the Court must decide them. The Court does not, of course, have to hear oral argument, and it often summarily affirms. But a summary affirmance is more consequential than a simple denial of certiorari, so as a practical matter, the justices may well have a lower bar for deciding to hear oral argument in such cases than they do for granting cert.

The Supreme Court and the public

On November 15 and 16, 2012, ISCOTUS and the Chicago-Kent Law Review co-sponsored a symposium on “The Supreme Court and the American Public.” The Symposium featured a keynote address by Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, a lunchtime address from Linda Greenhouse, former Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times, a journalists’ roundtable, and panels featuring academics from such institutions as Yale Law School and the University of Southern California, and George Washington University. Most of the proceedings were recorded and can be viewed here. Articles based on many of the presentations will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Chicago-Kent Law Review.

OyezToday is now ISCOTUSnow

Welcome to the new ISCOTUSnow. Through our free app and website, you will find Supreme Court opinions and oral argument audio and transcripts as soon as they are available to the public. In addition, ISCOTUSnow features videos of legal experts explaining the major issues in some of the Court’s most important cases, as well as commentary and links to other resources through this blog. As director of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law’s Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States (ISCOTUS), I expect to be a frequent contributor. — Carolyn Shapiro, ISCOTUS Director

Court Grants Review in Two Same-sex Marriage Cases

The Supreme Court today granted review in two same-sex marriage cases. The Court will consider a challenge to the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s ban on same-sex marriages (commonly known as Prop. 8). The Court could decide the cases several ways, but it will consider whether the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause requires that states permit same-sex marriage.

Court Considering Same-sex Marriage Challenges

At their conference today, the justices of the Supreme Court are considering which of several cases challenging restrictions on same-sex marriage the Court will review, setting the stage for what will likely be the most watched, and potentially most influential, decision this term. SCOTUSblog has an excellent overview of the cases the Court is considering, and the different questions each presents.

An announcement of which cases are granted could come today, or the Court will make the announcement along with its regular orders list Monday morning.

Court to Review Voting Rights Act

The Court on Friday agreed to review the Voting Rights Act, a landmark piece of legislation originally passed during the civil rights era. The Court will focus on whether a core provision of the act, requiring certain states with a history of racial discrimination to submit any changes in election laws to the Federal government for review, exceeds Congress’ authority.

The case is Shelby County v. Holder.