Weekly Roundup—October 21, 2016

Did you miss your Supreme Court news this week? Let our Weekly Roundup help. (To stay on top of the latest Supreme Court happenings, follow @ISCOTUS on Twitter.)

With no oral arguments this week, the only news from the Supreme Court were the orders from last week’s Conference that the justices issued on Monday. They did not grant any new cases. One case in which they denied certiorari is Elmore v. Holbrook, in which a Washington man pled guilty to the rape and murder of his stepdaughter and was sentenced to death. Justice Sotomayor wrote a dissent to the cert denial, joined by Justice Ginsburg, in which she provided a lengthy argument that Elmore’s attorney did not do enough in defending his client. In particular, the defense lawyer failed to investigate and present evidence of the brain damage and cognitive deficits Elmore suffered as a result of exposure to toxins at a young age, evidence that he argued, and Justice Sotomayor agreed, should have been considered in his sentencing. Read more about Justice Sotomayor’s dissent on this blog and catch up on this week’s order list from Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog.

Of the cases the justices are still considering, perhaps the most closely watched is Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., a Virginia school board’s request to review a decision that requires the board to allow a transgender student to use the boys’ bathroom at his school.

Lyle Denniston of Constitution Daily wrote an interesting article this week on another pressing issue: the delayed confirmation of Merrick Garland. Denniston noted that federal law stipulates that the Court can perform its duties as long as there are six sitting Justices. Yet, with only eight Justices, the court is acting  cautiously when deciding to take on cases that may lead to a 4-4 vote, he noted, and thus allowing more lower courts decision to define the law of the land.

Justice Sotomayor provided her own insight into this issue on Monday. CBS News reports that Sotomayor has stated that it is much more difficult for the Justices to do their job without a court of nine, and deadlocked cases can leave an uneven ruling of law on pressing issues throughout the country.  On a more humorous note, Justice Sotomayor said that although Justice Scalia’s death was like that of losing a family member, “there are things he’s said on the bench where if I had a baseball bat, I might have used it.”

Finally, the Supreme Court was the first topic of discussion at Wednesday’s presidential candidate debate. Chris Wallace asked both candidates their view on the Court and how the Constitution should be interpreted. Both candidates described the types of justices they would seek, but largely focused on the issues of abortion and guns. Trump insisted his opponent was in favor of late-term abortions and opposed gun rights. Clinton defended Roe v. Wade and insisted that the Second Amendment allowed for reasonable regulation of guns.

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