Supreme Court Times II
Bill Long 9/17/08
The Supreme Court's 2008-09 Term
[For 2007-08 case summaries, click here.]
Oral arguments for the 2008-09 Supreme Court term begin Monday, October 6, 2008. The purpose of this page is to summarize some significant cases for the first three months of the term. A second page, to be written sometime in December 2008, does the same for cases to be argued from Jan. - April 2009. For those who are new to this page, welcome. It is intended to provide "plain language" summaries of all the cases on the current docket of the US Supreme Court. I will write two essays per case: (1) About two to four weeks before oral argument I will summarize the facts of the case, the decision below and what is at stake in the case; then (2) Shortly after the decision is handed down, I will quote from the opinion or syllabus to the decision to summarize the Supreme Court's holding in the case as well as the chief points of its legal argument. The goal of this page is to give you concise (less than 1200 word), clear, and informed summaries of all the cases. The page is meant especially for students, journalists, busy attorneys and adults who want to be informed of the workings of the Court but who don't really have the time to delve into great detail on each case. I usually provide links for each case, however, if you want to explore it in greater detail.
Cases to be Argued Oct. - Dec. 2008
Thirty-nine cases are set for oral argument in Fall 2008. Links to each are on the left. In one sentence, here is what each is about.
1. The Altria case has to do with whether a person can challenge a federal law concerning labels on cigarette packages under a state consumer protection law. Dec. 15, 2008 decision (5-4), affirming that ability, is here.
2. In Locke, the Court must decide whether non-union members of a bargaining unit can be required to pay for litigation expenses of the union outside of the jurisdiction where the union Local resides.
3. The issue in Vaden is under what circumstances a federal court may order arbitration of state-law claims, that may have a federal component, in an underlying lawsuit.
4. In Herring, the Court considers whether evidence gathered through an apparently innocent police mistake must be excluded under the Fourth Amendment.
5. The Gant case explores the contours of the "search incident to arrest" exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement.
6. Kennedy explores whether a person has to fill out a "qualified domestic relations order" under ERISA in order to change beneficiaries on pension benefits.
7. The Winter case considers damage to marine life through sonar released during naval training exercises. Here is the summary of the decision favoring the Navy.
8. Summers is an environmental case from the Ninth Circuit that explores whether certain Forest Service regulations curtailing notice/ comment and appeal rights are justiciable once the underlying controversy has been resolved.
9. Crawford probes whether a worker has a claim for retaliation under Title VII when she didn't file the complaint against the harasser.
10. Bartlett explores the contours of sec. 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
11. Pearson deals with the doctrine known as "consent once removed" in Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure law.
[The Moore case was not argued orally. It is about whether a judge has discretion to consider the disparity between sentencing Guidelines for crack and powder cocaine in sentencing a defendant. In a per curiam decision, the Court said that it did--and remanded the case to the Eight Circuit to reconsider its earlier decision.]
12. Waddington is a criminal law case having to do with the constitutionality of Washington State's accomplice law jury instructions.
13. Hedgepeth also has to do with jury instructions--in this case an instruction in which there was a typographical error.
14. Ice, an Oregon case, explores the reach of the Apprendi doctrine, in this case whether the judge or the jury gets to decide whether concurrent or consecutive sentences are to be meted out to a defendant.
15. The Wyeth case, like Altria, explores issues of federal preemption of state tort law with respect to labeling of potentially dangerous drugs.
16. Ysursa deals with whether a political contribution prohibition in a right to work state law violates the First Amendment, as it relates to contributions of non-state employees.
17. Carcieri treats a difficult issue in "Indian Law"--regarding the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to establish trust lands without State consent.
18. The FCC case has to do with the regulation of indecent speech on TV--in this case some words by Cher and Nicole Richie.
19. At issue in Eurodif is whether a certain type of contract (SWU) for enriching uranium falls under our "antidumping" statute.
20. Jimenez explores the "one-year" window of time which a defendant has to bring a habeas corpus appeal in a federal court.
21. The Negusie case asks whether there is an "involuntary persecutor" exception to the immigration law requiring persecutors to be denied asylum in the United States.
22. The issue in Van de Camp is the scope of prosecutorial immunity for administrative acts in a case (the DA not telling line attorneys regarding rewards available to "snitches").
23. The Chambers case deals with whether failure to report back to prison after furlough or work detail constitutes an "escape" that is a "violent felony" under the Armed Career Criminal Act for purposes of sentencing enhancement.
24. The Hayes case examines whether a crime of domestic violence must include a "domestic relationship" as an element in the statute in order to be eligible for sentence enhancement if subsequently the defendant was caught with a firearm.
25. Melendez-Diaz explores whether criminal defendants have the right to confront at trial forensic analysts who prepared reports about contents of baggies allegedly containing cocaine or other drugs.
26. Bell deals with issues in federal habeas corpus law.
27. The Summum case from Utah is an interesting one about free speech--placement of some philosophical principles of Summum in a public space.
28. In Kansas, the Court needs to decide if it accepts the report of the Special Master who recommended CO pay KS more than $35 million in damages and interest for taking water illegally from KS by siphoning off water from the Arkansas River while it flowed through CO.
29. The Penn Plaza case deals with the enforceability of an arbitration clause in a collective bargaining agreement in which the union members give up rights to bring age-discrimination cases in courts in favor of submitting them to arbitration.
30. The Entergy case is a consolidated case which discusses the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to require power plants to retrofit their cooling systems better to protect marine life.
31. In Fitzgerald the issue is whether a person may bring a sec. 1983 14th Amendment claim when the underlying case is brought under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
32. The Philip Morris case deals with the Supreme Court's cap/multiple on punitive damages in a lung cancer death due to cigarette smoking.
33. Haywood explores the constitutionality of a NY state corrections law permitting inmates only to bring monetary damage claims and not claims against corrections officials in their personal capacity.
34. In Peake, the VA seeks clarification on the role of incomplete information given to a claimant--whether it is per se prejudicial or not.
35. Linkline deals with whther AT & T's high wholesale prices to Linkline for DSL transport services state a claim under sec. 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
36. Arizona probes the scope of legitimate search under the Fourth Amendment when a person is stopped while driving.
37. Cone deals with an issue of federal habeas corpus law relating to when a claim from below has been procedurally defaulted.
38. The Ashcroft case considers whether a person detained in a Brooklyn detention facility in the wake of 9/11 can bring a claim against the highest federal officials (former AG Ashcroft) for violating his constitutional rights.
39. Hulteen, the final case argued in 2008, deals with whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is retroactive--in terms of calculating pension benefits for women who took pregnancy leaves before the effective date of the Act.
40. Coeur Alaska deals with the permitting process for discharging metal tailings under the Clean Water Act.
41. Elahi concerns the ability of the estate of a murdered man to garnish Iranian assets in the US when he has won an unrelated case against an instrumentality of the Iranian Government in a US Court.
42. Harbison, a capital punishment case, is about whether federal law requires the appointment of counsel for state clemency proceedings.
43. Montejo, a criminal law case, deals with whether an indigent defendant must "accept" the appointment of counsel in order for additional rights, under the 1986 Michigan v. Jackson case, to attach.
44. The Brillon case considers the "speedy trial" provision in the Sixth Amendment.
45. In Knowles the Court will consider what ineffective assistance of counsel means under the Sixth Amendment.
46. Puckett has to do with the standard of review appellate courts should use when the government has reneged on a signed promise to a criminal defendant.
47. Boyle discusses the level of organization needed in a group or association to qualify it as an "enterprise" under the RICO statute.
48. Corley discusses whether a delay of more than six hours between arrest and presentment to a federal magistrate for an unreasonable purpose violates 18 USC sec. 3501(c).
49. Ventris concerns the admissibility of a confession made to a jailhouse informant after a person had obtained a lawyer in a case.
50. Nken deals with a provision of a recent federal immigration law relating to the quantum of evidence needed to stay a proceeding for removal.