Redistricting Precedent in Light of Evenwel

The Supreme Court decided Evenwel v. Abbott this week – a case with vast implications for legislative districts.  Some see the decision as snubbing Republicans by ruling that states and localities should use total rather than voting population to draw these districts.  Other commentary views the ruling as sufficiently narrow to allow future litigation in the same…

Zubik and the Free Exercise Context

(image via The Atlantic) One of the most anticipated decisions of the current Supreme Court Term is forthcoming in the case Zubik v. Burwell.  Zubik follows in the footsteps of another recent case: Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, 134 S.Ct. 2751 (2014).  Both cases deal with First Amendment challenges under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to…

Friedrichs as a Per Curiam Decision

The Court released its decision today in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Assn.  The decision which has garnered considerable attention is a single sentence reading: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.”  From this we know the Justices split 4-4 and so there was no precedential value to the ruling, and that by doing this the Court…

Atypical Oral Arguments In Puerto Rico v. Franklin CA Trust

On Tuesday the Court heard arguments in Puerto Rico v. Franklin Cal. Tax-Free Trust a case that examines whether Congress precluded Puerto Rico from the ability to restructure its public utility debt. Specifically the case looks at whether Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code applies to Puerto Rico.  Much of the case and the arguments…

Analysis of the Zubik Arguments

What was said over the course of the 90 minute the oral arguments today in Zubik? Quite a bit. Commentators seem to think the Justices may split their votes four to four (e.g. Adam Liptak from the New York Times) with the Justices predominately to the right: Kennedy, Alito, Thomas, and Roberts voting that the…

Each Case in Approximately Ten Words

Why approximately ten words? Well in reality it is in ten n-grams or phrases of one to a few words.  The words not only provide a pithy synopsis of each case, but they also give the parties’ framings of the cases.  I used a method known as keyword extraction to locate these phrases (more about…

Oral Arguments in Nichols v. United States

Federal laws for registered sex offenders are designed to be clear – under the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) if you are on this list and you move residences you need to update your residency.  And yet, what happens if you leave the United States? SORNA does not specify.  This is the issue…

Top Briefs in Friedrichs v. CA Teachers Assn.

(image from Dover Teachers’ Union) With 48 amicus curiae briefs filed at the merits phase and a total of 57 amicus briefs filed throughout the case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (No. 14-915) has drawn much interest both from the public and from the policy community. It also provides the fodder I was looking for…

Comparing Opinions in Montgomery v. Louisiana

In the second in a series of posts where I analyze recent opinions, I compare the majority and dissenting opinions in Montgomery v. Louisiana (No. 14-280).  The Court dealt with two questions in the case: Does the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, which held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits mandatory sentencing schemes…

Opinion Stats: Americold Realty Trust v. ConAgra Foods, Inc.

In this new series I look at Supreme Court opinions to provide a sense of the opinion’s writing quality and content.  Although there is no consensus measure for writing quality, I have used StyleWriter 4 in past papers (e.g. Counting on Quality) and it does a good job of tailoring linguistic analyses to legal content…

Comparing Amicus Briefs in Evenwel v. Abbott

A friend of mine practicing in a large firm recently asked me about comparing documents for similarity.  While his interests are from a transactional standpoint, the same methods can be used to compare documents within or between cases.  To continue with the amicus brief trope from the last post, I thought it would be interesting…

Forecasting Votes in Hellerstedt

On March 2nd, the Court heard oral arguments in perhaps the most publicized case of the Term – Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (No. 15-274).  The case brings into question Texas’ new controversial law limiting who can perform abortions. Prior to oral arguments expectations were already high that the Justices would split along ideological lines…