A Brave New World: Weekly Brief for April 13

Editor’s Note: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court remains closed to the public. The building is open for official business only. Some March and April oral arguments have been rescheduled for teleconference in May, and filing deadlines for petitions have been extended. The Justices are conducting their private conferences remotely. Orders and opinions continue to be issued as scheduled, but the Justices will not take the bench.

The Supreme Court is entering a Brave New World (putting aside Aldous Huxley’s unnerving depictions of a utopian future). On Monday, the Court announced that it will hear oral arguments via teleconference in ten cases that had originally been postponed due to COVID-19. In the process, the Court will make the argument’s audio live to the entire American public for the first time in history. This week’s brief is short, but it details the Court’s symbolic gesture.


This Week:
Decisions: 0
Opinions Relating to Orders: 0
Cases Argued: 0
Cert Grants: 0

O.T. 2019:
Cases Decided: 23
Cases Remaining: 48
Weeks Left in Term: 10*

* This number reflects the date at which the Supreme Court’s term usually ends (the last week of June). However, it’s likely O.T. 2019’s end date will be later due to measures taken in response to COVID-19.


The Court announced that ten cases that had been scheduled for oral argument in March and April will be argued via teleconference in May. For the first time in its 231-year history, the Court will livestream oral arguments to the entire public. An audio feed will be distributed to CSPAN, AP, and Fox, who will then broadcast the arguments live on major cable networks. The Court also released the calendar for the May arguments, which is as follows:

One notable case that was not included is Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc., a major internet copyright dispute. The Court has not yet issued guidance about when (or how) the remaining cases will be argued.


The Court held no proceedings Tuesday through Thursday.


The Court conducted its weekly, private (tele-)conference on Friday. The Justices reviewed the petitions on their docket and debated whether to grant review for any of them. Out of an abundance of caution, only Chief Justice Roberts was actually present in the Supreme Court building; the other eight Justices took part in the conference over the phone. We can expect news from this conference in the Court’s next orders list on Monday. Some high profile cases the Justices are considering include:

  • 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.
  • McKesson v. Doe. This is a First Amendment case stemming from a Louisiana protest in which some protesters resorted to violence. The question presented is whether the First Amendment permits a state to sue the leader of a protest for criminal negligence, even where the leader does not necessarily instigate the violence.
  • 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

On Monday, the Court at 9:30am EDT will release orders from Friday’s conference, and there is a possibility of opinions at 10:00am. There is also a possibility of opinions on Thursday. On Friday, the Court will meet for its next weekly conference.

Photo Credits: Pixabay

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