This Week’s Brief: March 9

After two busy weeks, the past seven days were much quieter. The Court is now between its February and March sittings, so no cases were argued this week. The Justices released an orders list on Monday, adding an Eighth Amendment case to next term’s docket. The Court allowed the Trump Administration to temporarily enforce its “remain in Mexico” policy after lower courts had issued preliminary injunctions. Finally, Justice Sotomayor announced that she will recuse herself from one of the two “faithless elector” cases to be argued in April. Here’s your brief for the week of March 9.


This Week:
Decisions: 0
Cases Argued: 0
Cert. Grants: 1 (for O.T. 2020)
GVRs: 1

O.T. 2019:
Cases Decided: 14
Cases Remaining: 56
Weeks Left in Term: 15


The Court released an orders list on Monday. The Court added Jones v. Mississippi for O.T. 2020, which asks whether it violates the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment to sentence a juvenile to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The Justices granted, vacated, and remanded Pierson v. United States in light of last term’s decision in Rehaif v. United States. And they allowed the U.S. Solicitor General to participate in oral argument on March 30 in Torres v. Madrid, an unreasonable search and seizure case.


The Court issued a miscellaneous order on Tuesday in Chiafalo v. Washington, the “faithless elector” case. Chiafalo had been consolidated with Colorado Dep’t. of State v. Baca, and the two would have been argued and decided together. But Justice Sotomayor announced that she will recuse herself from Baca while remaining on the bench for Chiafalo. Thus, the two cases—though presenting identical questions of law—will be decided separately, with all nine Justices taking part in Chiafalo and only eight in Baca.


Wednesday afternoon, the Court granted the Trump Administration’s request to temporarily enforce the recent Migrant Protection Protocols, commonly known as the “remain in Mexico” policy. The policy allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to send immigrants who seek asylum back to Mexico as they await their immigration hearings. In April, a federal district court in San Francisco, CA issued a nationwide injunction against the policy. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit declined to stay the injunction but scaled back its scope to cover only California and Arizona. DHS then went to the Supreme Court, seeking a temporary stay of the injunction. The Court granted that request on Wednesday, allowing DHS to enforce the policy until the conclusion of the litigation over the merits of the policy. Only Justice Sotomayor voted to deny the stay request.


The Court held no proceedings on Friday.

Some high-profile petitions the Justices are considering are:

  • Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky, Inc. This case challenges an Indiana state abortion law that requires women who seek an abortion to, among other things, undergo a fetal ultrasound eighteen hours before the abortion is performed. The question presented is whether such an ultrasound requirement violates a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment rights.
  • Arlene’s FlowersInc. v. Washington. This case is a mirror-image to that of Masterpiece CakeshopLtd. v. Colorado, on whose merits the Court punted in 2018. The questions before the Court are (1) whether a state violates a floral designer’s Free Exercise and Free Speech rights by forcing her to create custom floral arrangements celebrating same-sex weddings or by acting based on hostility toward her religious beliefs; and (2) whether the Free Exercise Clause’s prohibition on religious hostility applies to the executive branch.
  • United States v. California. This case involves the Trump administration’s challenge to California’s statewide “sanctuary” law. The law prohibits state law-enforcement officers from providing information about immigrants (both legal and illegal) to federal immigration officials. The question before the Court is whether federal immigration law preempts California’s sanctuary law—and others like it in cities and states around the country—under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
  • Worman v. Healey. This case concerns a Massachusetts state law that bans, inter alia, semiautomatic “assault weapon[s]” and magazines capable of accepting 10+ rounds of ammunition. The question presented is whether that law violates the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
  • Malpasso v. Pallozzi. This is a constitutional law case asking whether a state law that categorically prohibits residents from carrying handguns outside the home for self-defense violates the Second Amendment.
  • Reisman v. Associated Faculties of the University of Maine. This case mixes labor unions with the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The question presented is whether it violates the First Amendment to designate a labor union to represent and speak on behalf of public-sector employees who object to its advocacy.
  • Territory of Guam v. Davis. This case concerns a unique Fifteenth Amendment challenge to a political referendum Guam undertook under the 2000 Plebiscite Law. The federal territory allowed only “native inhabitants of Guam” to vote on the island’s future political status with the United States. The question presented is whether the Fifteenth Amendment permits Guam to invite only “native inhabitants of Guam” to participate in a potential political-status plebiscite that would yield only a nonbinding, symbolic expression of self-determination preferences.
  • Collins v. Mnuchin. This case concerns a constitutional challenge to the structure of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), a mirror-image case to that of Seila Law v. CFPB, the challenge to the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The questions presented in Collins are (1) whether the structure of the FHFA violates the separation of powers, and if so (2) whether the actions of the FHFA must be annulled and the statute creating its structure struck down.
The Week Ahead

The Court is midway through its inter-sitting recess, so no cases will be argued. The only official proceeding that has been scheduled is a private conference on Friday.

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