This Week’s Brief: May 6

This week was a dead week for the Court. It did not release either Orders or Opinions on Monday, and it concluded all oral arguments for the term two weeks ago. The Court’s only proceedings consisted of its weekly private conference on Thursday. Nonetheless, I review some of the petitions the Court likely discussed in its conference, look ahead to next week (there is a possibility of Opinions on Monday!), and list some media references for further reading on the Court. Here is your Brief for the week of May 6.


Opinions: 0
Oral Arguments: 0
Cert. Grants: 0


The Court held no proceedings Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. It did not issue Orders from last Friday’s private conference on Monday, instead lumping them into the Orders list it will release this coming Monday, May 13.


The Court met for its weekly private conference, at which it routinely reviews the petitions on its docket and decides whether to grant certiorari for any of them. We can expect news from this conference in the Court’s Orders list on Monday, May 13, along with any Orders stemming from its private conference last week. Some high profile petitions awaiting action on Court’s docket include:

  • A challenge to an Indiana state abortion law, which (1) requires healthcare facilities to dispose of fetal remains in the same manner as human remains (i.e., burial or cremation), (2) prohibits abortions when the abortion is sought due to the race, sex, or disability of the fetus, and (3) requires abortion doctors to inform patients of that prohibition. The case is Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky, Inc.
  • A trio of cases concerning the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s push to whittle away at the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. The cases ask whether DHS’ decision to bring DACA to an end is judicially reviewable, and if so, whether it is lawful. The cases are DHS v. Regents of the University of CaliforniaTrump v. NAACP, and Nielsen v. Vidal.
  • A First Amendment religious objection to designing and creating a custom wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, a case akin to last term’s Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Comm’n. The case is Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries.
  • A First Amendment Free Speech claim that prison inmates have the right to include in a grievance filing threatening, abusive, and irrelevant language when such language is the subject of the grievance. The case is Dahne v. Richey.
  • A Fourth Amendment search and seizure case involving (1) whether a dog-sniff in the common area of an apartment constitutes a search, and (2) if not, whether the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule (which holds that evidence obtained illegally is inadmissible) applies. The case is Illinois v. Bonilla.

The Court held no proceedings on Friday.

Next Week’s Preview

On Monday, the Court at 9:30am EDT will release Orders from this Thursday’s private conference. At 10:00am, there is a possibility of opinions. The Court will meet for its next weekly private conference next Thursday, May 16.

Further Reading

For TheHill, Jacqueline Thomson discusses the Supreme Court’s recurring relists of the Indiana abortion case (Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky, Inc.) and the Oregon custom-designed same-sex-wedding-cake case (Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries). Thomsen writes that since the Indiana abortion statute “became law during [Vice President Mike] Pence’s governorship” of Indiana, it “add[s] another layer of political implications that the court often seeks to avoid.” For the Oregon case, recall the Court last term decided a mirror-image case on narrow grounds due to specific circumstances in that case’s lower stages of litigation. But since the Oregon case has no such special circumstances, Thomsen writes that this case “could end up issuing a precedent-setting decision that affects broader LGBT protections.”

For the Associated Press, Jessica Gresko writes about the situation in which Justice Clarence Thomas now finds himself, noting that with Justices “Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh now on the court, conservatives are firmly in control as the [Court] take[s] on divisive issues such as abortion, gun control, and LGBT rights.”

At NPR, Nina Totenberg talks about her interview with retired Justice John Paul Stevens and his forthcoming book, The Making of a Justice: Reflections on My First 94 Years. Totenberg writes about Stevens’ views on the changing nature of American life (including hot-button issues like guns and the Second Amendment) and the direction in which the Supreme Court is moving. Totenberg discusses everything from Stevens’ professional history, to his interpretation of the word “originalist” in the context of judicial philosophy, to his love of golf and pingpong.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Linda Greenhouse weighs in on the citizenship question on the 2020 census case, Dep’t. of Commerce v. New York, and argues that “validating the Trump administration’s cynical hijacking of the census would have a devastating effect on the integrity of the Supreme Court.”

And in a pointed op-ed for TheHill, Brent Budowsky stresses the potential fallout from Congress’ recent decision to hold Attorney General William Barr in Contempt for refusing to release an unredacted copy of the Russia Report by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Budowsky argues that the Court may be “forced to decide the constitutional balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government.” And while the judiciary “never relishes” the prospect of deciding between the other two branches, “the aggressive attempts by [President Trump] to undermine and destroy the long accepted duties and responsibilities of the legislative branch make this penultimate constitutional clash inevitable.”

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