‘Tis the Season: Kicking Off SCOTUS Term 2016


2016 Term Kick Off

The first Monday in October is “like a holiday” for “real Supreme Court nerd[s],” according to Harvard law’s Ian Samuel in the fabulous new SCOTUS podcast, First Mondays. (Apologies for the shameless plug, but in addition to immediately subscribing to First Mondays, you should also check out Bloomberg BNA’s litigation podcast, Cases and Controversies, where you can check out case previews, SCOTUS listicles of funny high court moments, and more. Ok… I’m done now.)

Now that the first week of oral arguments is over, post-argument blues threatens to creep in.

Don’t fret! In addition to the fact that the court will be back for arguments next week, Bloomberg BNA is here to help you through this tough time. Each Thursday of an argument week, we’ll break down oral arguments for you.

So put on some festive music, and let’s get started.

The court kicked off its October 2016 term with orders and … well, nothing. The court didn’t hear any oral arguments on its inaugural day in recognition of Rosh Hashanah.

But the court was back up to full-reduced force on Tuesday, with all eight justices present to hear oral argument in No. 15-537 Bravo-Fernandez v. United States, a complicated double jeopardy case.

“At issue is whether the government may bring new charges after a jury convicted on one charge and acquitted on another when both rely on the same basic offense,” Bloomberg BNA’s criminal law reporter Jessie DaSilva says.

“That determination could affect the number of similar charges prosecutors are able to bring against defendants and could have a limiting effect on their charging decisions,” she says. To find out why, read Jessie’s coverage here.

Next up was No. 15-5991 Shaw v. United States, a case about Kim Kardashian, apparently.

The cases asks whether a defendant has to intend to cause a bank pecuniary harm in order to be guilty of bank fraud, or whether it’s enough that the defendant intended to take money from the bank’s customer.

That naturally led Justice Stephen Breyer to think of Kim Kardashian and her harrowing $10 million jewelry heist.

What if Kardashian’s jewelry thief, “if there is one,” thought that the jewelry was insured, and believed that Kardashian herself wouldn't suffer any financial harm, Breyer asked. Would he not be guilty of theft?

Ultimately, the case is unlikely to affect Kardashian’s experience—or anyone else’s, really. Read my coverage to find out why.

On to day two of oral arguments. The court heard three arguments on Wednesday, breaking for lunch at noon before resuming arguments at 1 p.m.

First up was No. 15-628 Salman v. United States. During this insider trading case, the “justices suggested they will make it easier to prosecute Wall Street figures for insider trading,” Bloomberg’s Greg Stohr says. Read about the court’s first case on insider trading “in two decades” here.

The court then took up one of several cases this term touching on race and the criminal justices system, No. 15-8049 Buck v. Davis.

Here, Buck’s attorney introduced an expert witness that said Mr. Buck was more likely to be dangerous because he was black. Yep, you read that correctly.

Even Justice Samuel Alito Jr.—who typically rules against criminal defendants—said that the defense attorney’s conduct was “indefensible.” But the court will have to clear a procedural hurdle before it can get to the unseemly merits. Read why here (subscription required).

Finally, the court finished its week with another case on race and the criminal justices system. And again, the court first had to deal with a technical hiccup before it could get to the merits.

In No. 14-9496 Manuel v. City of Joliet, the court was asked to consider how individuals can pursue civil rights cases against illegal police misconduct—if they can at all. This was a pretty complex argument, and it seems like the court might ultimately kick the case back to the lower court to figure it all out. You can read why here.

Ok… that’s it. We covered all of this week’s oral arguments. Now it’s up to you to find a way to make it through to next argument week.

Of course, if you need more help, you can always take a free trial to United States Law Week, where you can read all about the latest Supreme Court news.

Good luck!