In the last two weeks of March, the Court will hear an extremely important case involving First Amendment claims in the abortion context, another gerrymandering case, and other cases.
Tuesday, March 20
[Monday’s cases involve technical issues of limited interest or accessibility for the casual observer.]
Abortion is before the Court today, and this always draws a large line for the arguments and a spirited set of crowds out front. National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra involves the California Reproductive FACT Act, which, briefly, requires licensed medical clinics to post information regarding free and low-cost abortion services available through the state and requires pregnancy counseling services that are not licensed medical centers to state in all advertising that they are not healthcare providers. The clinics claim this is a form of compelled speech that violates the First Amendment. California asserts that this falls within the scope of constitutionally permissible regulation of professional services, and is needed to inform women of available services and to prevent women from being confused as to the nature of the “clinic.”
Interestingly, in a number of states, the mandated speech goes the other way, requiring abortion clinics to post information designed to dissuade women from choosing to abort. There’s an interesting article in Slate exploring the problems that could arise for such laws if the clinics were to win this case. Scotusblog also offers a symposium of competing views. And, of course, there are a huge number of amici briefs.
The Solicitor General submitted an amicus brief supporting neither side. It then sought (and was granted) leave to participate in oral arguments, and both sides agreed to give up 5 minutes each. Very unusual!
The case is scheduled for the usual hour, but it is the only case on the docket today and will probably run a little long. Lines will form early–probably days early… But there will also be protests and press conferences happening out front, which are interesting to observe or join.
Wednesday, March 21
Upper Skagit Indian Tribe v. Lundgren is a technical issue of state court jurisdiction and tribal sovereignty. Briefly, both the Lundgrens and the tribe assert ownership over a strip of land. The Lundgrens brought suit to “quiet title” (have a court decide who has ownership) and the tribe asserted the state court had no jurisdiction over the dispute.
These arguments will be difficult to follow, but it is worth reading up on the case and attending if these issues interest you. A key concept is “in rem” jurisdiction — not jurisdiction over the party, but over a thing (in this case, not the tribe but a piece of land). Start with the overview here, then read the Washington Supreme Court decision, and then select some briefs to read as well.
Wednesday, March 28
[Monday’s and Tuesday’s cases are not recommended. However, Tuesday’s cases involve sentencing guidelines (Hughes and Koons); specific and technical issues regarding them, but still may be of interest to some.]
Partisan gerrymandering is once again before the court this morning. Benisek v. Lamone has been before the Supreme Court before; in 2015, the plaintiff won the right to a 3-judge panel, and now, the decision of that panel is up for review. The case involves the Maryland 6th, which had been a “safe” Republican seat until redistricting rendered it a “likely” Democratic seat. (Oyez overview; Common Cause fact sheet.) In addition to the links above, read at least a couple of the many briefs filed in the case before attending.