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Tag Archives: First Amendment
In setting up the federal judiciary, the Framers wanted to separate the judiciary from politics to a certain degree. By giving judges and justices an unlimited term, judges would be free from having to decide cases on what is currently popular. Not that the courts would be absolutely immune from politics, but the influence of politics on the courts would be that elections to the “political” branches would be in the choice of new judges and justices to fill vacancies. The courts would be “conservative” in the sense of reflecting the values of the time at which judges or justices were appointed with a gradual change reflecting changes in those values over time through the appointment of new judges and justices. (On the Supreme Court, nine of seventeen Chief Justices served more than a decade, and thirteen of seventeen served more than six years. Of the Associate Justices sixty-eight of one hundred have served more than ten years, and another thirteen have served more than six years.)
The fact that federal judges do not have to stand for election does not mean that judges are not political or aware of politics. To ask that judges not view close legal issues through a certain political philosophy and that judges not be aware of the potential impact of decisions on elections is asking too much. However, the Supreme Court wants the public to perceive that they are above politics and would prefer that the Supreme Court rank somewhat low on the list of important issues in any election. This desire to “lay low” has been reflected in pushing off the arguments on the most controversial cases until after the election (or even later for cases that might currently reflect a 4-4 split). Even in terms of which cases are being granted for review later this year, the Supreme Court was avoiding cases that were likely to generate headlines. That changed yesterday when the Supreme Court issued its order reflecting which cases it had just accepted for full review. While none of the cases on the list are surprises in terms of the Supreme Court granting review, two of the cases are highly controversial — one dealing with transgender rights and the other with sex offenders and the First Amendment — and most expected the Supreme Court to push a decision on reviewing those two cases until after the election, particularly with the election controlling who gets to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court.
On Monday, the Supreme Court will meet in what is commonly called “The Long Conference” — reflecting the fact that its been three months since the Justices last met to consider petitions for review (officially petitions for a writ of certiorari) creating a long list of cases to consider. Maybe Monday afternoon, maybe later in the week, the Supreme Court will announce which cases it will hear arguments on. The following Monday (October 3), the new term officially begins and the Supreme Court will issue an order list which will, at the very least, contain a long list of the cases that it has decided not to review on the merits.
Predicting which cases the Supreme Court will actually take is almost impossible. The Supreme Court receives almost 10,000 petitions per year but only grants full review on about 70-80 cases. Of course, a lot of the petitions are clearly long shots — many written by the petitioners themselves — that simply assert error in the lower courts without giving any reason why the case matters to anybody other than the petitioner. But even after eliminating the chaff, there are way more cases that raise significant issues than the Supreme Court will take.
The Supreme Court recessed for the summer after their last conference (the wrap-up conference) on Monday afternoon. After the order from that conference was issued on Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court has filled twenty-nine of the thirty argument slots for the fall. (A little below average as they normally have some carry-over for the January argument session. )
Monday featured three significant opinions — the Texas abortion case, Governor McDonnell’s corruption case, and an interesting case involving gun control and domestic violence. These cases saw some interesting combinations of Justices as very different judicial philosophies combine to reach the same result.
The Supreme Court ended the argument portion of its term this week. After taking its last two week recess, the remainder of this term will be about attempting to issue opinions in the argued cases. The question remains how many of these cases will end up in 4-4 split or be rescheduled for reargument in 2017. Both this week’s one opinion and the last argument of the term had a strong First Amendment component.