On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Glossip v. Gross. The case turns on the efficacy of the first drug in Oklahoma’s three-drug execution protocol, the subject of controversy after a highly publicized botched execution last year; critics claim that this drug is unable to reliably produce the deep, coma-like unconsciousness necessary to avoid the pain and suffering that can result from the administration of the second and third drugs, and that the protocol violates the Eighth Amendment because of this. Oral arguments were expected to be revealing as to whether the court will focus narrowly on the specific execution method in question or range more broadly over important constitutional issues related to the death penalty.
Kent S. Scheidegger, Legal Director & General Counsel, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation
On March 9, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association, a case which concerned the Administrative Procedure Act, or APA. The question was whether the rule announced by the D.C. Circuit in its earlier case Paralyzed Veterans of America v. D.C. Arena L.P. was consistent with the APA. Under the Paralyzed Veterans rule, an agency must use the APA’s notice-and-comment procedures when it wishes to issue a new interpretation of a regulation that deviates significantly from one the agency has previously adopted.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Sotomayor, the Court held by a vote of 9-0 that the Paralyzed Veterans rule conflicted with the text of the APA and improperly imposed procedural requirements on agencies beyond those authorized by the statute. The Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan joined Justice Sotomayor’s opinion in full, and Justice Alito joined it except for part III-B. Justice Alito also filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas filed opinions concurring in the judgment. The judgment of the D.C. Circuit was reversed.
To discuss the case, we have Andrew Hessick, who is a Professor of Law at the University of Utah College of Law.
On April 21, 2015, the Supreme Court decided Oneok, Inc. v. Learjet. The question in this case is whether the Natural Gas Act preempts state-law antitrust claims which challenge industry practices that directly affect the wholesale natural gas market when those claims are asserted by litigants who purchased gas in retail transactions.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Breyer, the Court held by a vote of 7-2 that although the Natural Gas Act occupies the field of matters relating to wholesale sales and transportation of natural gas in interstate commerce, the state law antitrust claims in this case may nevertheless proceed and are not preempted. Justice Breyer’s opinion for the Court was joined in full by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan, and by Justice Thomas except as to Part I-A. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, which Chief Justice Roberts joined. The judgment of the Ninth Circuit was affirmed.
To discuss the case, we have Daniel Lyons, who is an Associate Professor of Law at the Boston College Law School.
On April 28, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Obergefell v. Hodges. This highly anticipated case concerned two questions. The first, is whether states are required by the Fourteenth Amendment to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The second question is whether states are required by the Fourteenth Amendment to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who were lawfully married in a different state.
To discuss the case, we have John Eastman, who is the Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service at Chapman University Fowler School of Law.
The long-anticipated gay marriage cases have now been argued in the Supreme Court. The questions presented are: whether the Fourteenth Amendment "require[s]" a "state to issue a marriage license to two people of the same sex", and/or "to recognize amarriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed" in another state or jurisdiction. Join a special Courthouse Steps edition of Teleforum as we discuss the oral argument: Which advocate seemed to fair best? Who fielded the most difficult questions? Which justices seemed most skeptical of which side of the argument? What are the possible outcomes of the case, and what are the implications of those possible outcomes?
Dr. John C. Eastman, Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service, Chapman University School of Law