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About this book

Each year, the Supreme Court of the United States announces new rulings with deep consequences for our lives. This second volume in Palgrave’s SCOTUS series explains and contextualizes the landmark cases of the US Supreme Court in the term ending 2019. With a close look at cases involving key issues and debates in American politics and society, SCOTUS 2019 tackles the Court's rulings on the census citizenship question, partisan gerrymandering, religious monuments, the death penalty, race in jury selection, double jeopardy, jury trials for reimprisonment during supervised release, Fourth Amendment protection for blood alcohol tests, deference to federal agencies, excessive fines under the Eighth Amendment and more. Written by notable scholars in political science and law, the chapters in SCOTUS 2019 present the details of each ruling, its meaning for constitutional debate, and its impact on public policy or partisan politics. Finally, SCOTUS 2019 offers an analysis of the controversial Justice Brett Kavanaugh's first term in office, as well as a big-picture look at the implications of the Court's decisions for the direction of this new Roberts Court.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction: The 2018–2019 Term at the Supreme Court

Each year, the Supreme Court of the United States announces new rulings with deep consequences for our lives. This second volume in Palgrave’s SCOTUS series describes, explains, and contextualizes the major cases of the US Supreme Court for the term ending in 2019. This chapter summarizes the major decisions of the 11 core cases covered in this book, which focused on four constitutional questions: defendants’ rights, fair elections, separation of powers, and the establishment of religion.
Morgan Marietta

Chapter 2. American Legion v. American Humanist on Religious Monuments Under the First Amendment

This case is a First Amendment challenge to a large cross on public land next to a major highway near Washington, DC. The controversy led the Court to reconsider the standards for recognizing a violation of the establishment of religion: on one side, the size or conspicuousness of the display the appearance of state endorsement, and the entanglement of state funding, and on the other side, the secular purpose and historical significance of the monument. The American Humanist Association asked the Court to mandate the removal of the monument, while the American Legion asked the Court to replace the more complex and subjective Lemon test with a simpler standard grounded in the presence or absence of state coercion.
Ronald Kahn, Gerard D’Emilio

Chapter 3. Department of Commerce v. New York on the Census Citizenship Question

The inclusion of a citizenship question—“Is this person a citizen of the United States?”—on the 2020 census raised several challenges to its legitimacy. Civil rights groups argued that the question is designed to discourage participation by immigrants, which will lead to undercounting for representation and the provision of services. The Court considered several questions about whether the content or process of the question violated federal laws or the Enumeration Clause of the Constitution by discouraging an accurate census. Given the deep political significance of immigration policy in the Trump era, this case is vitally important.
Brett Curry

Chapter 4. Flowers v. Mississippi on Race in Jury Selection

This case is about the constitutional protections of an impartial jury recognized by the Bill of Rights, against the backdrop of the role of race in criminal justice. The process of jury selection in the United States has historically included the ability of opposing attorneys to remove a certain number of prospective jurors. The practice has often resulted in the exclusion of minorities, which the Court has recognized to be unconstitutional. The problem is identifying and enforcing a standard for the constitutional limits of the selection process in order to allow legitimate challenges to individual jurors but not racist exclusions of an entire group. Flowers reinforces a limit on the illegitimate consideration of race and clarifies the standard for a legal challenge to unconstitutional jury selection.
Jennifer Bowie

Chapter 5. Gamble v. U.S. on Double Jeopardy

Double Jeopardy—the protection against repeated attempts by the state to convict a citizen for the same offense—is one of the core constitutional protections against false prosecution and the harassment of political opponents of the government. But we also have a federal system under our Constitution, in which the national and state governments are separate sovereigns who each perform independent functions. Does the separate sovereigns doctrine mean that Double Jeopardy applies to each accusation or to each government? If a state has brought a criminal prosecution, can the federal government do so as well? This question is not at all clear once we consider the principles behind the Double Jeopardy protection and the ramifications of a ruling one way or the other. The Court’s ruling will have long-term influence on the rights of criminal defendants and the ways in which jurisdictional battles are resolved in American law.
Rory K. Little

Chapter 6. Gundy v. U.S. on Delegation of Power

One of the core principles of the US Constitution is separation of powers, the belief that ambition must be counteracted with ambition so that too much authority is not concentrated in the hands of a few. This includes the principle of non-delegation that the powers held by one branch of government must not be given to another, even when done voluntarily. Gundy presents the question of whether Congress gave away too much authority to the Department of Justice to determine who is put on the federal sex offender registry. Does this violate the principle that those who make the laws (Congress) must not also be those who prosecute the offenders (DOJ)? Have those functions been combined in a way that will lead to abuse? Gundy applies to sex offenders, but the principle of non-delegation has become an important question that will influence many future decisions of the Court.
Gary Lawson

Chapter 7. U.S. v. Haymond on Re-imprisonment Without a Jury Trial

Criminal punishments often include a period of supervised release after the completion of a prison sentence. During this time, the government can re-invoke prison time if the convict commits a further offense. But does re-imprisonment following a determination of guilt by a judge grounded in a preponderance of the evidence—but not a jury grounded in evidence beyond a reasonable doubt—violate the protections of the Constitution? Haymond presents deep questions about the constitutional standards for post-conviction supervision of criminals.
Stephen Simon

Chapter 8. Kisor v. Wilkie on Deference to Federal Agencies

Who should decide the disputed meaning of laws and regulations in American democracy: legislatures, courts, or executive branch agencies? Chevron deference is a long-standing Supreme Court standard that federal agencies with expertise in a specific area must be given deference if federal law is unclear. Auer deference adds that federal agencies should have that power when they interpret their own regulations. These doctrines have been questioned in recent years as violations of the separation of powers. Kisor provides guidance on who defines the meaning of regulations and the balance of power between federal agencies and courts.
Bethany Blackstone

Chapter 9. Madison, Bucklew, Dunn, and Murphy on Capital Punishment at the Margins

The death penalty has long been a moral and constitutional divide in American politics. Like abortion, it invokes deep ethical beliefs as well as constitutional principles. Two major cases and two requests for stays of execution decided this year question the methods of execution as possible violations of the Constitution. Can the state execute someone whose dementia precludes them from remembering the crime or understanding the reasons for their death? Can the state execute someone whose medical condition will cause extreme pain during the procedure? The Court has become increasingly divided between those who are impatient with decades of legal delays in carryout out death sentences and those who believe the current methods of execution violate the Eighth Amendment’s guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.
Mark A. Graber

Chapter 10. Mitchell v. Wisconsin on Blood Alcohol Tests Under the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals against unreasonable searches by the state without a warrant. The Court has long struggled with questions of what constitutes a search and under what circumstances the acquisition of a warrant by police is an unreasonable hurdle to legitimate safety concerns of the public. Mitchell asks these questions in the context of drawing a blood alcohol test from an unconscious driver. One side argues that drivers have provided implied consent when signing up for a license in order to protect the entire public from harm, while the other side argues that such a personal bodily invasion is not allowed under the Fourth Amendment.
Pamela C. Corley

Chapter 11. Rucho v. Common Cause on Partisan Gerrymandering and the Political Questions Doctrine

The intentional shifting of electoral boundaries by the party in power in order to entrench their long-term control is an intuitive violation of democratic standards. But when we ask the specific questions of what right has been violated and who holds that right it becomes much less clear. The Court has struggled with identifying a clear right under the Constitution and hence whether gerrymandering is a question the Court can address rather than something it must leave to the elected branches of government. Moreover, if the Constitution has been violated, what standard should be applied to identify a gerrymander that crosses the line? Rucho addresses these crucial questions in an era of increasingly effective partisan gerrymandering.
Carol Nackenoff, Abigail Diebold

Chapter 12. Timbs v. Indiana on Excessive Fines and Civil Forfeitures

Almost all the provisions of the Bill of Rights have been applied by the Supreme Court to the states as well as the federal government, but the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment had not. Timbs presents this question to the Court—whether the Bill of Rights constrains state governments from imposing excessive fines—but also begins to address the question of whether civil forfeitures may violate this prohibition. The practice of seizing cars, houses, or boats that have been used in illegal activity has become a controversial policing practice. Timbs begins to address the constitutionality of this question that affects many Americans.
Marian R. Williams

Chapter 13. Other Major Cases

This chapter discusses seven additional cases that may well have earned individual chapters of their own if space in this brief volume had allowed it. Several cases are about who can and cannot be sued under various conditions (states, local governments, police, companies in class actions, and even Apple in the ongoing dispute about pricing in the App Store). Two other cases address questions about “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks and the interpretation of “crimes of violence” under federal law. Three of these cases divide 5-4 along ideological lines, while four others depend on much more interesting divisions among the Justices.
David Klein

Chapter 14. Justice Brett Kavanaugh Joins the Court

What the Supreme Court does is largely a product of its membership. For that reason, new appointments to the Court are the subject of widespread interest and heated debate. This is especially true when the departure of a sitting Justice and the arrival of a successor are expected to bring about a substantial shift in the Court’s legal policies. That expectation accompanied the 2018 appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to succeed the retiring Anthony Kennedy. This final chapter reviews the first year of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in terms of the expected and unexpected rulings, what they reveal about his judicial philosophy, and the outlook for the future.
Lawrence Baum


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