UPDATED Saturday 7:49 a.m.   Relying upon the history, dating back to America’s founding, of the right of conscience, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis asked the Supreme Court on Friday night to protect her from taking an official action that she regards as an indication that she supports same-sex marriage, an act that would violate her faith.   She wants that temporary shield from issuing any marriage licenses while she pursues an appeal first in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and, if she loses there, the Supreme Court.  A key issue, her application argued, is a new one: whether she has a right to avoid all licensing, avoiding any discrimination, to follow her faith principles.  She also contended that couples seeking to marry in her county suffer no harm from her policy, because they can drive in thirty minutes or less to several neighboring counties where licenses are now available.  Her application, including lower court orders, is here.  The Supreme Court has the option, before acting, of seeking a response from  the couples who sued.


UPDATED Friday 10:52 p.m.   The application (Davis v. Miller, 15A250) has now been filed at the Court.  The blog will provide a copy as soon as it becomes available.


A county clerk in Kentucky who stopped issuing any marriage licenses to avoid doing so for same-sex couples — an action that she says would violate her religious beliefs — is taking her case to the Supreme Court.  On Friday, the clerk’s lawyers formally notified a federal judge that they were pursuing an emergency order from the Supreme Court that would allow her to continue her “no licenses” policy.

This would mark the first time that the Court has been asked to take any action on the spreading resistance, based on religious opposition, to the June 26 ruling opening marriage rights to same-sex couples. Continue reading »


More than two years after a federal judge took away most of the Supreme Court’s power to prohibit all picketing, protests, and other demonstrations on the plaza in front of its building, a federal appeals court revived that authority on Friday in a lengthy opinion.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a sixty-five-year-old federal law that restricts what the public may do on what the judges called the Court’s “elevated front porch.”  That is the oval terrace officially known as “the plaza.”  It is the space between the public sidewalk and the majestic marble steps that lead up into the Court building.

Continue reading »


Charlotte Garden is an Associate Professor at Seattle University School of Law and Litigation Director of the Korematsu Center for Law & Equality.

Across America, an intense debate is taking place over how states should structure their labor relations, and especially the extent to which state and local government employees should have the right to elect unions to represent them in collective bargaining. This debate has taken place against a constitutional backdrop that allows states considerable choice among different labor relations models, ranging from no collective bargaining at all to extensive bargaining over most working conditions. States like California that opt for robust collective bargaining regimes also decide whether or not workers may be contractually required to pay their share of union representation costs, known as agency fees. But that may change this Term in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. A holding for the petitioners in Friedrichs would invalidate agency fee provisions in countless longstanding contracts, undermine public workplace relationships, weaken unions’ abilities to represent workers, and destabilize settled law. Continue reading »

Friday round-up

By on Aug 28, 2015 at 9:31 am


  • Anthony Franze and Reeves Anderson conducted their annual review of amicus practice at the Court for The National Law Journal; they conclude that it was another record-breaking year for amici, which has essentially become the “new norm.”
  • In both The Hill and American Thinker, Sean Roman Strockyj urges the Court to deny review in a case involving efforts to transfer the remains of Jim Thorpe from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma.
  • At casetext, Colin Starger characterizes last Term’s decision in Ohio v. Clark as the “latest salvo in [a] longstanding doctrinal war over the meaning of the Confrontation Clause and the reach of the Crawford line of cases.”
  • In The New York Times, Adam Liptak reports on recent studies which analyze overlap between the Court’s opinions and briefs submitted to the Court in those cases; he notes that Justice Clarence Thomas’s majority opinions had the highest overlap rate in the Roberts Court era, while Justice Elena Kagan had the lowest.
  • In The National Law Journal (subscription or registration required), Tony Mauro reports on Kagan’s interview with legal writing guru Bryan Garner; Kagan told Garner that she “thinks American law schools—including those in the top tier—need to ‘think in a deep way’ about how to help their students become better writers.”

If you have or know of a recent (published in the last two or three days) article, post, or op-ed relating to the Court that you’d like us to consider for inclusion in the round-up, please send it to roundup [at] scotusblog.com.

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David B. Rivkin, Jr., and Andrew M. Grossman practice appellate litigation in the Washington, D.C., office of Baker & Hostetler LLP. They filed an amicus brief in support of certiorari in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association on behalf of the Cato Institute, where Mr. Grossman is an adjunct scholar.

Whatever the fate of mandatory “fair share” payments that nonmembers are often required to make to fund public-sector unions’ collective bargaining activities, Friedrichs will likely mark the end of requirements that dissenting workers take action to “opt out” of funding public-sector unions’ political and ideological activities, the subject of the second question that the Court agreed to consider. Although less prominent than the forced-payments issue, ending opt-out requirements would correct a serious anomaly in the Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence, one that facilitates tens of millions of dollars annually in union political spending of funds obtained through inertia, trickery, and coercion. Continue reading »

Thursday round-up

By on Aug 27, 2015 at 9:47 am

As Lyle Denniston reported yesterday for this blog, Nebraska has filed a petition for rehearing en banc in the Eighth Circuit, asking the full court to declare a challenge to its ban on same-sex marriage moot and thereby “keep seven Nebraska couples from pursuing their case further and seeking to recover the money they spent for their lawyers’ fees.”  Howard Wasserman weighs in on the rehearing request at PrawfsBlawg. Continue reading »

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Catherine Fisk is the Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association presents two issues: (1) whether to overrule Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, and hold that the First Amendment prohibits school districts and teachers’ unions from requiring teachers to pay the union their fair share of the cost of union representation services; and (2) whether the First Amendment requires any government employee who wishes to join a union to opt into membership rather than, as the law currently requires, to opt out.  The Court ought not decide either issue because both depend on facts not in the record.  If it does decide the case, it cannot rule for the petitioners without substantial violation of the First Amendment rights of unions and their members. Continue reading »

The state of Nebraska, arguing that the Supreme Court’s June ruling opening the right to marry to same-sex couples settled the issue nationwide, urged a federal appeals court on Tuesday to reopen that state’s case and keep seven Nebraska couples from pursuing their case further and seeking to recover the money they spent for their lawyers’ fees.

Nebraska is one of several states that previously banned same-sex marriage that have been trying to persuade lower federal courts that the Justices’ ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges made all similar cases moot — that is, no longer live disputes.  Couples who sued in many states are now pursuing further orders, including an award of lawyers’ fees.  In response, Nebraska’s lawyers have now gone further than other states have, seeking en banc review of the dispute by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Continue reading »


Wednesday round-up

By on Aug 26, 2015 at 7:32 am


  • Jessica Gresko of the Associated Press reports that both same- and opposite-sex couples are using excerpts from Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that states must allow same-sex couples to marry, in their wedding ceremonies.
  • At Cato at Liberty, Ilya Shapiro and Josh Blackman weigh in on the challenge by the Little Sisters of the Poor to the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control mandate, in which Cato recently filed an amicus brief; they urge the Court to consider an additional question – whether the responsible departments of the federal government “have the interpretive authority and ‘expertise’ to resolve this ‘major question’ of profound social, ‘economic and political significance.’”

If you have or know of a recent (published in the last two or three days) article, post, or op-ed relating to the Court that you’d like us to consider for inclusion in the round-up, please send it to roundup [at] scotusblog.com.

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William Messenger is an attorney with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.  He argued on behalf of the petitioners in Harris v. Quinn.

The First Amendment generally forbids the government from forcing citizens to support a private organization’s speech and expressive activities. Yet, roughly forty years ago, the Supreme Court held in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that the government can force public employees to financially support some types of union speech, but not other types. Specifically, Abood held that employees could be forced to subsidize union collective bargaining with the government, but not union political activities intended to influence government policy. Continue reading »

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