Supreme Court

Coming Soon from SCOTUS: Blockbuster Rulings on Gay Marriage, Obamacare, and More

The Supreme Court enters the final stretch of its 2014-2015 term.



The U.S. Supreme Court has entered the final stretch of its 2014-2015 term. Between now and the start of July, when the justices depart for their summer break, the Court is expected to issue its final batch of opinions in argued cases. That process starts today at 10 a.m. ET, when the Court is expected to issue one or more decisions. A few weeks ago, I previewed the biggest cases to watch in June. Here the cases that still remain undecided from that list:

Glossip v. Gross

The state of Oklahoma employs a three-drug protocol when carrying out the death penalty via lethal injection. The first drug is supposed to render the prisoner totally unconscious and insensate. The second drug is a paralytic. The third drug does the killing. But what if there is a lack of medical consensus about whether or not the first drug actually renders the prisoner unconscious and insensate? What if paralyzed prisoners sometimes suffer excruciating pain in the final minutes before death? Would that lack of medical certainty about the drug's effects violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against imposing cruel and unusual punishments?

Glossip v. Gross centers on such concerns. At issue is Oklahoma's use of the drug midazolam to render prisoners unconscious during execution. According to the petitioners, midazolam "is not approved or used as a standalone anesthetic during painful surgeries, because it is inherently incapable of reliably inducing and maintaining deep, comalike unconsciousness." The Supreme Court is tasked with determining whether or not the lower court got it wrong when it allowed Oklahoma to continue using this potentially unreliable drug.

Horne v. United States Department of Agriculture

The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment requires the government to pay just compensation when it takes private property for a public use. Yet according to a federal regulation designed to "stabilize" the raisin market, raisin farmers such as Marvin and Laura Horne are required to physically surrender a portion of their crop to federal officials each year without receiving just compensation in return. For example, in 2003-2004, the USDA demanded 30 percent of the annual raisin crop, which amounted to 89,000 tons. In return, the federal government paid nothing back to raisin farmers.

Do the USDA's actions violate the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment? The Supreme Court will decide in Horne v. USDA.

Obergefell v. Hodges

Do state legislatures have the lawful power to prohibit gay marriage? Or do state bans on gay marriage violate the 14th Amendment, which forbids the states from denying the equal protection of the laws to any person within their respective jurisdictions? In Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court confronts the possibility of legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

King v. Burwell

The question before the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell is whether the Obama administration illegally implemented the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) when the IRS allowed tax credits to issue to certain persons who bought health insurance on federally established health care exchanges. According to the text of the ACA, such tax credits should only issue in connection with purchases made via an "Exchange established by the State." According to the Obama administration, however, the phrase "established by the State" is actually a "term of art" that encompasses exchanges established by both the states and by the federal government. The legal challengers, by contrast, maintain that the statutory text is clear and that the health care law means what it says. Depending on how the Court sees it, the long-term survival of Obamacare could be at risk.

NEXT: A.M. Links: Dylann Roof's Racist Manifesto, SCOTUS Set to Release Blockbuster Rulings, Obama Appears on WTF Podcast

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  1. According to the Obama administration, however, the phrase “established by the State” is actually a “term of art” that encompasses exchanges established by both the states and by the federal government.

    “Term of art”, or “reasonable mistake of law”?

    1. So, they just threw a qualifying phrase in that doesn’t mean anything? Lawyers admitting, in the Supreme Court, that they just throw random meaningless language into legal documents, then.

      1. Law on your side bang on the law, facts on your side bang on the facts, neither bang on the table. Lawyers get paid to pretend they believe and try to convince others to believe whatever argument benefits their client. It’s just the nature of the profession.

    2. It’s gonna come down to semantics. If they really meant only the states, then it should’ve been worded “established by the States” plural, or “established by a particular State”.

      As it is, though… creepy wording is creepy.

  2. I have butterflies in my tummy!

    1. Your fiance/husband (?) is a Monarch?!!!

      1. The Monarch, Switzy. You’ve just unmasked our dear Nicole as Dr. Girlfriend. That explains so much.

      2. “I’m not into CosPlay, I’m into CosBusiness.”

  3. You just know they will wait until the very end of the term to release the headline grabbing opinions…

  4. Horne v. United States Department of Agriculture

    You already know how this one is going to turn out. I’ll be shocked if it’s more than 7-2.

  5. Will 3 gay guys be allowed to get married?

    Can a father marry his son? Or two sons?

    May 2 straight guys and 2 gay females form a marriage unit?

    If not, why not?

    1. Can raccoon marry a wet paper bag?

      Will three bus stops be able to bareback in front of an underage storm drain?

      May two straight guys hire a Jenga set to perform a contract murder?

      If not, why not?!?!?!?!?

      1. Stupid unnecessary laws.

      2. Can raccoon marry a wet paper bag?

        Can the state require a rabies test prior to such marriage given that raccoons are reservoir for the disease?

        1. No, that would be discriminatory.

        2. It’s this sort of nonsense that make 91% of Americans reject the libertarian brand.

          1. I’m scared to imaging what Hihnfected Warty Hugeman stories would be like.

    2. How many times are you going to ask the same stupid fucking question and never follow up?

      1. He keeps falling down the slippery slope and hitting his head. He only comes to when he senses some new mention of gay marriage on HnR.

      2. What is “stupid” about these questions?

        1. Because the libertarian answer to all of them is obviously yes, provided it’s between consenting adults. It’s been answered at least 4 times, by me, with no counter reply and probably 20 times by others. Why do you think everyone above is making fun of you? If you want to debate, do so. If not, stop repeating yourself.

    3. The bases for opposing incest and polygamy are different from the (lack of) basis for opposing same-sex marriage. If you wish to challenge these laws, go down to your local county courthouse, ask for a license for a polygamous and/or incestuous marriage, and when they turn you down, file an action in federal court. I’m sure will be happy to cover it. If you raise an equal protection issue, the state will have to describe a rational basis for its opposition to incest and/or polygamy.

      Those bases will be different than the asserted bases for opposing same sex marriage (which, thus far, have boiled down to (1) GAWD!, (2) Icky!, and (3) THE BAKERS! THE BAKERS!!!). The following, however, is NOT a valid basis for challenging laws against incest and/or polygamy:

      “Uh, gay marriage, so, like, anything goes, right?”

      1. “The bases for opposing incest and polygamy are different from the (lack of) basis for opposing same-sex marriage”

        It’s pretty much the same. Most religious individuals will reject polygamy for the same reason they oppose gay marriage. If you “oppose” gay marriage because it’s a state sanctioned (you prefer it to be a private contract), you would do likewise to legal polygamy.

        Also, the “consent” is subjective. I don’t need the dog’s consent to own him. Or to eat him, in some parts of the world. I could identify my pet as a spouse and apply for eligible benefits. Or I should be able to.

        Bottom line is, the slippery slope is real. If SSM is legal, then I should be able to marry a minor, as long as I don’t have sex with a child. The monogamy of marriage is also a concept rooted in tradition. Most people would prefer an “open marriage” to polygamy.

        If the government was libertarian and didn’t create protected class out of these modified marriages, there wouldn’t be a problem. But it isn’t. As it is, “marriage equality” will expand the size of government, spending and create new classes of dependency. It’s inevitable.

        I’m not a victim of some “discrimination” if I can’t marry my mother or a sibling. Or if I can’t use a women’s bathroom if I identify as a woman. I’m sorry, it just isn’t it. LET voters and the states decide these issues, just as they can vote on pot legalization.

  6. 4th amendment decision in Los Angeles vs. Patel, court says a law that requires motel owners to maintain a register that can be automatically and without warrant reviewed by police is unconstitutional. 5-4 decision; conservative judges on the wrong side.

  7. I think the raisin growers won.

  8. Horne vs. USDA decided as well, and yes, by basic common sense, it is a taking.

    Case was 5-4, much closer than it should have been.

    1. Actually 5-4 to some parts, 8-1 to the other. Sotomayor fully dissents.

      1. 8-1 that it’s a taking, 5-4 that it’s a taking and the level of compensation involved shouldn’t take into account whatever “benefits” the government thinks raisin growers are getting from the taking.

        1. I was going to point that out, but luckily I refreshed before doing so.

        2. What does this mean for the other New Deal era price supports and market orders?

          1. Time to dump FDR from the dime? Or better yet, dump Jefferson (since he has the $2) and put Wilson on the nickel so nickel and dimed are completely linked with two of the worst presidents.

    2. Sotomayor’s dissent rests entirely on not considering it a per se taking b/c the Hornes didn’t lose all rights to their property. Apparently they still had the right to equitable proceeds from the sale of their raisins. Sotomayor notes in her dissent that the sale proceeds were nothing for many years. BUT THEY STILL HAD THE RIGHT TO RECEIVE NOTHING!! so therefore not a per se taking.

  9. I don’t think they’ll do Adam & Steve vs. Thousands of Years of Legal Tradition today.

    1. That thousands of years of legal tradition during which most of that time polygamy was the norm?

      1. Norm? I’m not sure you’re using the word correctly. Polygamy existing in some times and places doesn’t mean a norm.

        Though thank you for the reminder that even polygamists kept the sex-binary definition of marriage. So your attempt to appropriate the tradition argument fails.

        1. Even the Greeks, with their… proclivities, accepted the man+woman definition of marriage.

          1. No shit, Sherlock.

            Of course you downplay the context of how marriage based on love is only a recent development.

            Before maybe the 18th-19th century, it was all about transfer of property (including the hapless woman) and legally establishing bloodline for offspring. Mutual attraction/chemistry was only an afterthought. That or you “learned to love” your betrothed. In this light, of course it would’ve been crazy for two men to marry each other, because everything that marriage stood for back then would’ve just been settled by a simple non-marriage contract, and to paraphrase Tina Turner, love had nothing to do with it.

            In the modern age of “you turn me on, I love you, let’s get married”, I’m not surprised that those couples (or groupings) that don’t fit the traditional model are trying to get the government to sync up with what marriage supposedly stands for today.

        2. Stay brave, Eddie. Think of how oppressed you’ll be if they rule for the homos. Think of the bragging rights! Why, the tribulations of the martyrs of old will be nothing compared to your suffering.

          1. You think Eddie will be butthurt if they actually apply the principles of the 14A?

            I wish I could be here to see it.

            Of course, Eddie, the likelihood of the federal government insisting that the Constitution be adhered to is still 50/50. There is still a chance you’ll get to oppress people, which I’m sure will make you happy.

          2. Like St. Sebastian, only with buttplugs instead of arrows.

          3. I’m reminded of the old saying – “Those who do not know their opponent’s arguments do not completely understand their own.”

            Intelligent people explore and test their position by seeing if their position can stand up against the arguments of the other side(s). I you can’t do that, you’re either not intelligent or you’re putting your intelligence on a shelf and refusing to use it.

            In either case, you are unaware of the full nature of your own position.

            Perhaps you live in an ideological vacuum where everybody who’s anybody agrees with you. Who knows? The point is that you’re acting like a bunch of leftists, saying the only reason someone can disagree with you is that they’re corrupt and evil.

            1. Oh, Eddie, you’re not corrupt and evil because you disagree with me. You’re corrupt and evil because you want to violate the rights of other human beings.

              But, you’re just so darn cute when you’re being a monster.

              1. As I said:

                “Intelligent people explore and test their position by seeing if their position can stand up against the arguments of the other side(s). I you can’t do that, you’re either not intelligent or you’re putting your intelligence on a shelf and refusing to use it.”

                1. You have no argument. You’re argument is COMPLETELY (all caps) fallacious. You want to continue to violate the rights of others because of a completely unconnected issue.

                  I comprehend what you are saying AND it is beyond ridiculous.

                  AND, you know it and are doing it intentionally to obfuscate the issue.

  10. The stock market doesn’t seem to be anticipating an overturning of federal subsidies in King v. Burwell. Health care stocks are still climbing higher.

    1. SOCTUSBlog doesn’t expect an opinion on Burwell today. They tend to be on top of that type of detail.

      Next opinion day is thursday.

  11. Coming Soon from SCOTUS: Blockbuster Rulings on Gay Marriage, Obamacare, throwing more of your rights in the wood chipper and More


  12. Victory for the 4th Amendment in Los Angeles v. Patel. Dissent by Alito basically boils down to ‘but the children’.

      1. Whether the cops could demand a hotel register without a warrant.

        1. Ah. So many cases taking so long to get through the courts, I lose track of the names.

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