Court dismisses abortion “gag rule” cases, adds arbitration and habeas cases to docket

Opinion analysis: Justices toe hard line in affirming reservation status for eastern Oklahoma


By Amy Howe

at 6:33 p.m.

The Supreme Court announcement to question Mississippi’s ban on abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy (covered in a separate article here) dominated coverage of Monday’s orders. In the same series of orders, judges also dismissed three cases – American Medical Association v. Becerra, Oregon v. Becerra, and Becerra v. Baltimore mayor and councilor – that raised issues related to abortion – notably an ordinance issued by the Trump administration in 2019, banning clinics that receive federal family planning funding from referring abortions. Acting US Attorney General Elizabeth Prelogar and the attorneys who challenged the ordinance (sometimes referred to as the “gag rule”) asked the court to dismiss the cases in March as the Biden administration was in the process of repealing the rule. However, a group of states and conservative medical groups argued that the dispute remained a living controversy and asked the court to allow them to step in to defend the rule.

Late last month, judges asked the Biden administration for more information on whether they intended to enforce the rule outside of Maryland – where the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked its enforcement – pending a new rule-making process is complete, and how the administration would respond if new lawsuits were filed outside of Maryland to challenge the rule.

In a brief ruling on Monday, the court stated that based on the Biden government’s promise to continue enforcing the ordinance outside of Maryland (at least until the government replaces it with its own new rule), the court would reject the motions in the Intervene in the case and remove the cases from his file. However, it left open the possibility that states and medical groups could return to court if the Biden government did not defend the rule while it remains in place, including the Supreme Court if necessary.

Judges Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they allowed states and conservative medical groups to intervene and denied requests to dismiss the cases.

Other grants on Mondays

In addition to the Mississippi abortion case, the court has added two other cases to its record for the next term. In the Badgerow v. Walters case, the judges agreed to decide whether federal courts are empowered to confirm or set aside an arbitration award under sections 9 and 10 of the Federal Arbitration Court, which provide for the enforcement and annulment of an award as the only basis other than this power is that the underlying dispute concerned a federal issue. The question comes up in court in a dispute between a Louisiana financial advisor and the owners of the company she worked for. An arbitration tribunal from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority issued an arbitration award dismissing the adviser’s claims. When the advisor went to the state court to clear the price and argued that the owners had obtained the price through fraud against them, the owners moved the case to a federal court and asked the judge to confirm the price.

The district court denied the advisor’s request to return the case to the state court and upheld the award. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the District Court duly dismissed the adviser’s motion for remittal of the case. The adviser then came to the Supreme Court, which on Monday agreed to weigh up.

The judges also filed Arizona’s motion to review a US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in which a death row inmate received a new hearing to examine evidence that his attorney had failed to provide adequate representation, and called for a new trial for another, 25 years after his original belief. The state came before the Supreme Court earlier this year, asking judges to weigh the impact of the court’s decision in a 2012 case on the general rule that a federal court should not have evidence outside of state when reviewing a state prisoner’s claim Court records can be taken into account for relief after the conviction. The judges in the Shinn v. Ramirez and to negotiate orally in Badgerow in the fall.

A call for the government to comment

The judges sought the federal government’s views on a case filed against Union Pacific Railroad by an engineer who slipped on an oily platform of a locomotive. Engineer Bradley LeDure sustained injuries to his spine, shoulder and head that required multiple surgeries. He was later declared permanently excluded from railroad work. The court asked Federal Government 20-807 to address issues arising from the Locomotive Inspection Act and the Federal Employer Liability Act, which is the only remedy for railroad workers injured in the workplace. Judge Amy Coney Barrett served as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and has withdrawn from considering LeDure’s petition.

Notable rejections to the review

The judges denied a petition for review by James Calvert, a Texas inmate sentenced to death for the murder of his ex-wife. Judge Sonia Sotomayor wrote a statement regarding the court’s decision not to hear Calvert’s case. She told of Calvert’s hearing with a former law enforcement officer about an incident in which he was stabbed in the eye with a pencil – by an inmate who was not Calvert. The state argued that the officer’s testimony and a brain scan showing the extent to which the pencil penetrated the officer’s brain could be inserted to reveal “an inmate’s possibility of violence in prison”. Calvert, Sotomayor wrote, had advanced “a serious argument that the state’s reliance on a graphic case of violence by an unrelated inmate to demonstrate that it posed a future threat” removed his right to individualized conviction. However, Sotomayor went on to agree to the decision not to take Calvert’s case because he “does not meet the traditional criteria of the court for granting a review”.

The Supreme Court also declined to review the case of Lloyd Harris, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2016 for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl. Harris was a prime suspect in the girl’s murder shortly after her body was discovered in a wooded area near where Harris then lived. In 2000, however, the prosecution declined to indict him. Although the state did not discover any new evidence, the state brought charges 16 years later – during that time, Harris said, another murder suspect and forensic analyst died, evidence was lost, witnesses became unavailable, and he lost his ability to present an alibi . After reviewing the case at 13 consecutive conferences, the judges on Monday denied without comment Harris’ motion to determine which standard courts to apply to the allegation that delaying the indictment violated the due process clause of the constitution if the delay has adversely affected the defendant’s ability to defend himself.

The next private conference of judges is scheduled for Thursday, May 20th. Orders for this conference will follow on Monday, May 24th at 9:30 a.m.

This article was originally published by Howe on the Court.