What may be the most highly watched case of the term — Masterpiece Cakeshop, involving nondiscrimination laws and same-sex couples — will be argued on December 5. Before then, we also have important cases involving Dodd-Frank whistleblowers and privacy rights in phone records.
[Update: PBS Newshour, Analysis: 3 cases that make December a blockbuster month for the Supreme Court]
There are important patent cases on Monday, November 27. They will not be of interest or easy to follow for the casual observer, but if you’re interested in PTO procedures or patent law, see the case pages here and here.
Tuesday, Nov 28
The first case today is a technical issue of civil procedure for class actions under the Securities Act.
However, the second case, Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers, could significantly expand or contract the rights of whistleblowers under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Wednesday, Nov 29
Carpenter v. United States raises important issues about privacy rights in the vast amount of data that is stored by companies we rely upon for modern technology. A 1986 federal law, the Stored Communications Act, allows phone companies to turn over records to law enforcement without a warrant. Now, of course, phones transmit much more information than anyone could have anticipated three decades ago. The Court has accepted cert. on the question “Whether the warrantless seizure and search of historical cellphone records revealing the location and movements of a cellphone user over the course of 127 days is permitted by the Fourth Amendment.” A useful overview is here, and be sure to follow the link there to the EFF brief.
This is the only case scheduled for today. No change to the usual one-hour argument has been ordered, but it may run a little long.
Tuesday, December 5 — Masterpiece Cakeshop
This may be the most anticipated case of the term, involving nondiscrimination laws and the rights of same-sex couples and private businesses. Briefly, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission determined that a bakery violated state law when it refused to prepare a cake for a same-sex wedding. The baker claims that his First Amendment rights should bar the state from enforcing its nondiscrimination laws. A great deal has been written about this case in non-legal forums, but before attending arguments, it would be wise to review the Scotusblog overview, Mary Bonauto’s article, and the couple’s petition for cert.
This case is sure to draw a huge crowd, probably with lines forming the night (or afternoon) before. On the other hand, I would expect demonstrations and press conferences outside the courthouse before, during, and after arguments. So plan to get there exceedingly early if you want to attend the arguments, but you also could just take in the events outside.
This is the only case scheduled for argument today. The Court has not extended argument time, but it also has not (as of Nov 20) acted on the Solicitor General’s motion to split time with the bakery. Regardless of how the Court divvies up the time, I would expect arguments to run at least a little past the usual hour.