Archive for the ‘Opinion Breakdown’ Category

BACKGROUND IN A NUTSHELL:  The Affordable Care Act requires that employers provide contraception, but gives religious employers an exception if they fill out some forms.  Religious employers don’t want to fill out the forms.

WHO WON? No one and everyone.  The parties worked out a resolution, so the case is getting remanded so it can settle.


IS IT WORTH READING? Sure, but don’t expect too much, as it is mostly an exercise in the Court disavowing their involvement whilst simultaneously patting themselves on the back.

ANY DISSENTS:  Not exactly.

BY WHO?  Sotomayor

IT IS WORTH READING?  Once again, it’s a whole lot of the Court reiterating that they did nothing, only this time the Court is also telling other people to do nothing.

SHOULD YOU CARE?  Yes, but not for the reason that you probably care.

WHY ARE YOU BEING A DICK ABOUT IT?  Settlement in this case is the best for everyone.  On a micro-level, this somewhat silly dispute gets resolved with both parties being appeased.  On a macro-level, this case should not be the kind of case that decides important issues like religious freedom, health care, contraceptives, and possible LGBT rights, because this deals with willingness to fill out paperwork.  When those battles need to be fought, they should be fought on their own merits.

BACKGROUND IN A NUTSHELL:  People successfully sued Iran and wanted money that was protected by sovereign immunity.  Congress lifted the protection

WHO WON? The people won 6-2


IS IT WORTH READING? Yes, but only to see how underwhelming it is.  Ginsberg finds a collection of loopholes supporting the action, all of which supporting Congress’ ability to basically do whatever they want.


BY WHO?  Roberts

IT IS WORTH READING?  Yes because Roberts is always at his feistiest when writing against Ginsberg on Constitutional issues.  Roberts thinks that Congress is treading on the Court here, and basically views this from the result of the case, whereas the majority views it from the procedure that got to the result.

SHOULD YOU CARE?  Hard to say.

WHY ?  This is a fairly unusual case that deals with terrorism, so let’s hope this doesn’t affect you personally.  This didn’t seem to hit the news too much, but I’m sure if Iran up and decided to take millions of our dollars, we’d probably be salty about it.

BACKGROUND IN A NUTSHELL:  Plaintiff was a police officer who was punished at work for accidentally engaging in political speech.

WHO WON? The police officer won 6-2


IS IT WORTH READING?  No.  Gist is that the Constitution prevents government action more than it protects the individual’s right to speech, so the City’s action was more the issue than the person’s right to speak.


BY WHO?  Who else, Thomas and Alito

IT IS WORTH READING?  No.  Assume the opposite of everything in the majority opinion, with Thomas’ usual flair for missing the point entirely.

SHOULD YOU CARE?  Probably not.

WHY NOT?  No real precedent was set, aside from resolving what happens when the government accidentally steps on your toes banning your speech.  If anything, this reserves your right to act more recklessly as a government employee, so go nuts out there.

WHAT HAPPENED:  The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a rule that prohibits trademarking any name that “disparages” any living or dead individual, belief or national symbol.  Two such entities that have had their trademarks rescinded by Federal Circuit Courts include THE SLANTS (the rock band shown above) and the WASHINGTON REDSKINS (image not shown as it is too offensive).

WHY IS THIS BEFORE ANY COURT:  The argument goes that the PTO’s denial of trademark protection violates the First Amendment.  For the Slants, their use of the term represents reclaiming offensive terminology.  For the Redskins, their use of the term represents sticking with racist words because it costs too much to change it.

WHAT WAS THE RULING:  The Slants won, and the Redskins lost.  The Redskins have now petitioned the Supreme Court to get priority review of their claim since they lost at the lower level.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  At the heart of it, the concern in this case is whether you can get priority use of an offensive term.  If that applies to you, you probably stink.

WILL THIS GO BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  More likely than not this will have some life at the Supreme Court next term.  There is a split in jurisdictions in regard to whether this rule is Constitutional or not, so that needs some clarity.  One interesting issue would be whether or not the Court makes a factual distinction between these two cases, or makes a rule that applies to all similar situations across the board.

WHAT HAPPENED:  Tom Brady (allegedly) cheated in the NFC Championship game.  The NFL (allegedly) gave him a fair punishment and then (allegedly) a fair opportunity to contest that punishment through (alleged) arbitration.   The (alleged) arbitration was led by Roger Goodell, the (allegedly) competent head of the NFL who also gave the punishment that was being reviewed through arbitration.

WHAT IS THIS BEFORE ANY COURT:  Brady argues that the arbitration proceedings were unfair because (1)  the NFL withheld evidence, (2)  Goodell was a biased arbitrator, and (3) the punishment after arbitration was not the same as the punishment before.  The NFL argues that even if you assume all those things are correct, the NFL players agreed to allow all of those things to happen under their arbitration agreement.

WHAT WAS THE RULING:  The Second Circuit reversed the District Court ruling in favor of Brady, thus reinstating Brady’s punishment under the collective bargaining act.  The Court held that even though the arbitration probably wasn’t the best example of Due Process in our Nation’s history, the Labor Relations Act gives employers/employees full discretion to craft their dispute-resolution programs.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  If you are a smarmy, handsome QB who plays for a team that historically bends the rules, you may not be given all the legal loopholes available to argue plausible deniability.

WILL THIS GET TO THE SUPREME COURT:  Probably not.  Even though the standard of review for this kind of case lends itself to two reasonable outcomes, as the Court gets higher, it is less inclined to overturn decisions based on how that Court would have ruled opposed to the original court.  The decision at this level was fairly well-reasoned, based on the law, and even though its patently unfair, makes sense in a vacuum.  Sorry Pats fans.  Consider this payback for cheating in Super Bowl XXXIX.


Background: Florida’s Death Penalty Statute asks the jury for a recommendation on death after the jury makes factual-findings. The Judge takes those findings and can make any decision within those findings.

Opinion can be found at

Sotomayor – Majority Decision (8-1)



The Florida statute is unconstitutional. Previous Supreme Court cases have required that any finding by the judge has to be supported by factual findings made by the Judge, which this does not. This case also gives too much power to the judge and not enough power to the jury, which is a violation of our decision in Ring. Finally, even though we’ve held that this statute was fine in 2002, logic and subsequent cases have washed away the logic of previous decisions. Kind of like boy bands and white-guy rap metal.

Breyer – Concurrence

Breyer joins the decision here out of practicality and not principal. Breyer sees bigger issues with the judge making the decision over the jury. This opinion reads like Breyer is saving his bullets for bigger decisions later on.

Alito – Dissent

All of this is wrong. Ring v AZ, which required juries make the death penalty decision, was wrong and this extension of Ring is also wrong. The majority is wrong that the judge takes precedence over the jury, and the defendant here is wrong because even if this process was faulty, it doesn’t change the fact that he would have been sentenced to die either way.