The 2017-2018 Supreme Court term in a snapshot:
Click here for the full report.
Decisions by date:
June 27, 2018 Decisions (the final two of the term):
June 26, 2018 Decisions (two):
The big news: Travel ban ruling in favor of Trump
The Supreme Court reversed the 9th Circuit's decision in Trump v. Hawaii which halted Trump's controversial executive order on immigration (the "travel ban"). The Court ruled the most recent version of the executive order (3rd) is not likely to violate federal law or the constitution.
June 25, 2018 Decisions (two):
June 22, 2018 Decisions (four):
The big news: 4th Amendment and cell phones
Today the Supreme Court ruled in Carpenter v. U.S. that the government will face a higher bar to get access to your cell phone location data. It will need to show probable cause in its need for the records (the 4th Amendment standard) instead of the lower bar under the Stored Communications Act.
June 21, 2018 Decisions (four):
The big news: states taxing online sales
The Supreme Court overturned major precedent today in ruling for South Dakota in South Dakota v. Wayfair. Before today's ruling, states could only collect tax on online sales if the seller had a physical presence in the state, but now the Court said an extensive virtual presence is sufficient. Field day for states ahead! Don't worry - Amazon already collects for state taxes, so you won't see cost increases on those orders.
June 18, 2018 Decisions (five):
The big news: political gerrymandering
The Supreme Court did not resolve how it will handle political gerrymandering cases. It decided Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone on alternative grounds. Perhaps a future case will prompt the response court-followers were hoping for.
June 14, 2018 Decisions (two):
June 11, 2018 Decisions (four):
This last sneaky fellow won't get an updated infographic because it was affirmed without an opinion.
Result: the Court affirmed the lower court ruling by default (through a 4-4 tie). The result leaves the lower court decision in place, which is a ruling in favor of the U.S. (i.e. the Indian tribes).
Recall the case here.
Justice Kennedy did not participate in the case because he had participated in an earlier part of the case (on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals).
June 4, 2018 Decisions (four):
May 29, 2018 Decisions (two):
May 21, 2018 Decisions (two):
May 14, 2018 Decisions (five):
April 24, 2018 Decisions (three):
April 17, 2018 Decisions (2 decisions and one case dismissal):
On April 17, 2018 the Court dismissed U.S. v. Microsoft as moot.
April 2, 2017 Decisions:
March 27, 2018 Decision:
March 21, 2018 Decisions (two):
March 20, 2018 Decision:
March 5, 2018 Decisions (two):
February 27, 2018 Decisions (three):
February 21, 2018 Decisions (four):
February 20, 2018 Summary Decision (decision without hearing arguments):
January 22, 2018 Decisions:
January 8, 2018 Decision:
The Supreme Court can decide on a case without hearing oral arguments and without even asking for briefing from the parties. The Court issued a "summary decision" on January 8, 2018, over a dissent from three Justices (Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch).
Tharpe v. Sellers
In 1991 Keith Tharpe was sentenced to death for murdering his sister-in-law. Years later, Tharpe's attorneys got an affidavit from one of the jurors indicating the juror had significant racial bias (e.g. the juror "wondered if black people even have souls."). A state court would not review the affidavit as evidence of racial bias, and neither would a federal district court. The federal appeals court also would not consider the evidence.
The Supreme Court reversed. It said the affidavit purporting to show racial bias should have been considered as evidence in the federal court case. Although the federal court may only overturn the refusal to consider the affidavit if there is "clear and convincing evidence" that refusing it was wrong, the Supreme Court found the affidavit was remarkable enough that it might have met that standard.
The lower federal courts must consider the affidavit, although the Supreme Court notes that relief for Thorpe from the death penalty is still a long shot.
November 8, 2017 Decision:
November 6, 2017 Decisions:
The Supreme Court can decide on a case without hearing oral arguments and without even asking for briefing from the parties. The Court issued two unanimous "summary decisions" on November 6, 2017.
Dunn v. Madison
Over 30 years ago, Madison was convicted of shooting a police officer in the back of the head twice. He was sentenced to death. More recently, he suffered several strokes and in 2016 he challenged his death sentence on the basis of mental incapacity.
The situation as presented to the Court was: Madison did not have memory of shooting the police officer. However he did understand that he is facing the death penalty as retribution for the crime.
The lower court (federal appeals court) ruled that Madison's lack of memory of the event means he is not competent to receive the punishment.
The Supreme Court disagreed. The Court said memory of the event is not essential. As long as he "rationally comprehend[s] crime and punishment," as the case here, he can be executed. Supreme Court precedent just requires that he understand the retributive purpose of his punishment.
Kernan v. Cuero
Cuero pled guilty to two felonies alleging he drove his truck into someone while on meth without a license and carrying a gun. The maximum punishment was just over 14 years.
After the court accepted his plea, the prosecution realized it made a mistake: the prosecution didn't list one of Cuero's prior convictions that would turn his case into one with a minimum of 25 years.
The court allowed the prosecution to add the prior conviction. Cuero (now facing a much longer punishment) was offered to withdraw his guilty plea and start over. He ended up pleading guilty again and got 25 years to life.
Cuero challenged the sentence, arguing the prosecution could not take away the original the 14-year deal. The lower court (federal appeals court) sided with Cuero, saying the prosecution broke a contract by taking away the original deal. It also said failure to honor the contract violated "clearly established Federal Law" as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Supreme Court got into this case to say: no, no. It's not a violation of federal law as determined by us, the Supreme Court. Offering Cuero to withdraw his plea and to start from scratch is acceptable under Supreme Court precedent.