Friday, January 6, 2023
Each week, the Appellate Advocacy Blog Weekly Roundup presents a few tidbits of news and Twitter posts from the past week concerning appellate advocacy. As always, if you see something during the week that you think we should be sure to include, feel free to send a quick note to either (1) Dan Real at [email protected] or on Twitter @Daniel_L_Real or (2) Catharine Du Bois at [email protected] or on Twitter @CLDLegalWriting.
Happy New Year from The Weekly Roundup!
US Supreme Court Opinions and News
- Justice Roberts’s 2022 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary was released on December 31, 2022. Find reviews and analysis of the report from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg.
- In December, the Supreme Court announced that this year it will resume the tradition of announcing opinions from the bench. The practice has been suspended since the beginning of the pandemic. The last opinion delivered from the bench was Kansas v. Garcia, delivered March 3, 2020. Opinion announcements will not be livestreamed but will be recorded and available at the National Archives at the beginning of the next Term, which was the pre-pandemic tradition. See reports from The New York Times, CNN, SCOTUSBlog, and Bloomberg Law.
- This week, the Biden Administration filed a response in the case challenging its student loan forgiveness plan. The Court will hear two challenges: one by states arguing that the plan will harm companies that service the loans and the other by individuals arguing that the plan will harm them because they are excluded from the plan. The administration’s response argues that the challenging parties have failed to show the requisite harm to establish standing and that the administration is within its authority to implement the plan. Late last year, the Court issued an injunction blocking the administration from implementing the plan to forgive up to $20,000 per borrower. Oral argument is set for February 28, 2023. See reports from CNBC and The New York Times.
- The Court ruled that Title 42, the pandemic-era restrictions on migration along the southern border, must stay in effect pending a ruling. The decision overturns a lower court decision to remove a stay issued against the Biden administration’s attempt to lift Title 42 restrictions. The Court is set to hear argument only on the question of whether the 19 states could pursue their challenges. See reports from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
- The Supreme Court is set to become the subject of a new primetime legal drama. See descriptions and discussion of the new ABC pilot, “Judgement,” from The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Deadline.
Appellate Court Opinions and News
- The Ninth Circuit ruled that wearing a MAGA hat is free speech. The plaintiff claimed that a school principle violated his first amendment rights by disciplining him for wearing the hat at a teacher-only training session. The court determined that wearing the hat had not caused actual disruption and that evidence that some faculty members were offended was not sufficient justification to infringe the plaintiff’s rights. The court ruled, however, that the plaintiff could not sue the school district for dismissing the harassment complaint. See the ruling and reports from Reuters and CBS News.
- The Eleventh Circuit upheld a Florida school board’s transgender bathroom policy that segregates bathrooms by sex. A transgender student challenged the policy because it discriminates against transgender students. The court ruled that the policy survives constitutional review because it has the legitimate objective of protecting students’ privacy and shielding their developing bodies from the opposite sex. The dissent recognizes that “[t]he bathroom policy categorically deprives transgender students of a benefit that is categorically provided to all cisgender students—the option to use the restroom matching one’s gender identity.” See the ruling and reports from Reuters and Bloomberg Law.
State Court Opinions and News
- The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that the ban on non-unanimous jury verdicts applies retroactively to all convictions in Oregon. The April 2020 Supreme Court case, Ramos v. Louisiana, outlawed convictions based on divided verdicts but the Court declined to apply the ban retroactively, leaving that decision to the states. (See The Weekly Roundup’s coverage here and here.) With the Oregon ruling, hundreds of Oregon felony convictions became invalid. The Oregon court recognized that the policy of allowing non-unanimous verdicts was intended to minimize the voice of non-white jurors and that it “caused great harm to people of color” and “undermined the fundamental Sixth Amendment rights of all Oregonians.” See the ruling and a report from The Oregonian.
This week, a couple of state courts have contributed to the still developing national abortion landscape:
- The South Carolina Supreme Court struck SC’s 6-week abortion ban on state constitutional grounds, finding the that the “state constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman’s decision to have an abortion” and that the 6-week ban was an unreasonable invasion of privacy. See the ruling and reports from CNBC and The New York Times.
- Meanwhile, in Idaho, the state supreme court upheld Idaho’s near total abortion ban, finding that the Idaho constitution did not include a right to the procedure. Idaho has three abortion bans, one of which bans abortion from conception. See the ruling and reports from The New York Times and Politico.
Other Appellate News
- The Eleventh Circuit has held that “and” means “and” not “or” in an analysis of the First Step Act, a law giving offenders a “safety valve” that allowed them to escape certain mandatory minimum sentences. The “safety valve” applies only if certain conditions are met. The list of conditions is connected with the word “and,” which generally means that all conditions must be met. This interpretation significantly limits when an offender would be excluded from enjoying the “safety valve.” However, Florida prosecutors argued that, in this case, “and” meant “or.” The Eleventh Circuit disagreed, applying the common definition of “and.” For those of us who enjoy statutory interpretation and language analysis, the ruling is worth a read. See also reports from Georgia Public Broadcasting and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.