Supreme Court

Friday Morning SCOTUS Fun (Updated)

Another day in which the conservative justices split on constitutional and statutory questions, and the Court split along gender lines in a case concerning renewable fuels.

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This morning the Supreme Court issued three of its remaining eight cases argued during the October 2020 term. All three of these cases produced split decisions -- two 6-3 and one 5-4 -- none along traditional ideological lines.

First up was TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, in which the Court ruled 5-4 that a majority of plaintiff class members lacked Article III standing to sue TransUnion for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Justice Kavanaugh wrote for the Court, joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Alito, Gorsuch and Barrett. Justice Thomas dissented, joined by the Court's liberals. Justice Kagan also dissented, joined by just Breyer and Sotomayor.

Next was the case everyone has been waiting for: HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining v. Renewable Fuels Association, which concerns fuel refiners' eligibility for hardship extensions under the federal renewable fuels program. Justice Gorsuch, writing for a six-justice majority, held that a small refinery that previously received a hardship exemption could obtain an "extension" from the Environmental Protection Agency under §7545(o)(9)(B)(i) even if it saw a lapse in exemption coverage in a previous year. Justice Barrett wrote the dissent, arguing that the statute's text and structure dictated otherwise. Of potential interest: All of the male justices joined Justice Gorsuch's opinion for the Court. The Court's female justices joined Justice Barrett's dissent. (Update: For a history of such splits on the Court, see this post by Josh Blackman.)

The third and final decision of the day was in Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, and it was another case that produced an unusual line-up. Justice  Sotomayor wrote for the Court, concluding that Alaska Native Corporations are Indian Tribes for purposes of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, and are therefore eligible for COVI-19 relief funding under Title V of the CARES Act. She was joined by the Chief Justice, and Justices Breyer, Kavanaugh and Barrett in full, and Justice Alito in part. Justice Gorsuch dissented, joined by Justices Thomas and Kagan.

There are five argued cases that have yet to be decided. They are likely to be issued next week.