June 21, 2016

Supreme Court Update II June 2016

The Supreme Court will finish its 2015-16 term at the end of this month. Since last Tuesday, the Supreme Court has released opinions in eight cases, but it did not address those most politically controversial.

Among those decided were three criminal law cases, covering the admissibility of evidence obtained as a result of an unconstitutional search, the extraterritoriality of RICO, and the standard for establishing the interstate commerce element of a federal criminal law. The court also upheld the expedited patent review process created in the 2011 America Invents Act and rejected a Department of Labor overtime regulation for failing to explain a change in longstanding policy.

Eight cases remain to be decided. The court will next issue opinions on Thursday, June 23. Here are some of the more notable decisions still expected.





Immigration Executive Action

In U.S. v. Texas, the court is expected to decide the 28-state challenge to President Obama’s executive amnesty program. If the Supreme Court upholds the lower courts’ injunction, the program will expire with the president’s term and remain another one of Obama’s illegal executive actions struck down by the courts. If the court approves the amnesty program, the president would be able to implement the program in the final months of his administration, making it more difficult for the next president to reverse.


Affirmative Action in University Admissions

This will be the second time the court has decided Fisher v. University of Texas, the challenge to UT’s use of racial preferences in college admissions. In 2013, the court found that the Fifth Circuit failed to apply the appropriate legal standard when it upheld the partial use of race in admissions. The court sent it back to the Fifth Circuit for reconsideration, and the circuit court upheld the admissions practice a second time. The Supreme Court is now reviewing the Fifth Circuit’s decision again. Justice Kagan has recused herself from this case, leaving seven justices to decide.


Restrictions on Abortion Facilities

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is a challenge to a Texas law that requires abortion clinics to meet standards for ambulatory surgical centers, and doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital. At issue is whether the Supreme Court should apply a higher level of scrutiny to health regulations on abortion facilities.

Blood Alcohol Testing without a Warrant

In three cases coming from North Dakota and Minnesota, the court is deciding whether states may criminalize refusal to take a Breathalyzer test in the absence of a warrant. Three men argue that the laws violated their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. Ten states in addition to North Dakota and Minnesota impose criminal penalties for refusing a blood-alcohol test.


Appeal of Gov. McDonnell’s Public Corruption Conviction

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was convicted of public corruption crimes for accepting gifts in exchange for various political activities, such as arranging a meeting for an aide and attending a luncheon. At issue in the appeal is whether these routine political activities constitute “official action” that would impose liability under federal public corruption laws. And if so, whether the laws are so vague as to be unconstitutional. 

Issue Tag: Judiciary