The Week Ahead – March 6, 2017

On Monday morning, the Court issued orders and announced two opinions from the bench. The most notable order was its decision in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. to remand to the lower courts in light of the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind guidance related to transgender students’ bathroom access. This order does not end the litigation, however. Instead, it will be up to the lower courts to now evaluate the statutory and constitutional arguments in the absence of administrative guidance. Both sides had asked the Court to hear the case despite the change in the federal government’s position, as SCOTUSblog described.

In Beckles v. United States, the Court, in an opinion by Justice Thomas, held that void-for-vagueness challenges do not apply to the advisory sentencing guidelines. Justice Sotomayor and Ginsburg concurred in the judgment, and Justice Kagan did not participate. And in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, the Court held 5-3, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy and joined by the four liberal justices, that Colorado’s rule against the admissibility of evidence related to jury deliberations could not stand where a juror stated that he was relying on racial stereotypes or discriminatory views. There were also several opinions issued with the Orders List. Notably, in a unanimous, per curiam opinion, the Court remanded Rippo v. Baker because it said that the lower court used the wrong standard in determining whether there was an unconstitutional risk of bias on the part of a judge in a capital murder trial. (The judge was under investigation and ultimately was indicted for bribery.)

Although the Court will not hear oral arguments this week, two of the justices will maintain high profiles at two separate events, both to be held on Friday. Chief Justice John Roberts will appear at an event in New York commemorating Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Henry Friendly, The New York Law Journal reports. Friendly served on the 2nd Circuit from 1959 to 1986, and he was chief judge from 1971 to 1973. Roberts clerked for Friendly from 1979 to 1980. Judge Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and President Obama’s pick to replace Justice Scalia, also clerked for Friendly and will be at the event as well.

Also on Friday, Justice Sotomayor will speak at Stanford University. She will converse with M. Elizabeth Magill, Dean of Stanford Law School, and she will answer questions posed by students. The law school’s Office of the President is hosting the event with senior class presidents of 2017.

Those interested in reliving relatively recent Supreme Court history can catch the finale of the ABC miniseries When We Rise. The series, which is available on Hulu, includes a finale that, as The Advocate explains, focuses on “how activists fought for and won marriage equality in the United States, beginning with the passage of Proposition 8, which sparked a new generation of advocates, and the legal fight leading up to the Supreme Court,” and includes Debra Winger playing Justice Elena Kagan. The legal fight over California’s Proposition 8 (which outlawed same-sex marriage after the California Supreme Court recognized it as required under the state constitution) was the 2013 case of Hollingsworth v. Perry. (The Court did not reach the merits in Hollingsworth, which left standing a lower court determination striking down Proposition 8 on very narrow grounds.) Hollingsworth was decided at the same time as United States v. Windsor, in which the Court struck down the portion of the federal law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. Two years later, the Supreme Court declared marriage equality the law of the land in Obergefell v. Hodges.

To stay up to date on news about Judge Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, check out ISCOTUSnow during the week for “The Gorsuch Report: the Latest News on the Nomination Process.”

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