The Supreme Court released 5 more decisions this morning. Decisions in the other 3 cases still pending from the current term (Whole Woman's Health, Voisine, and McDonnell) are expected to issue next Monday. Brief summaries of today's opinions follow below:
(1) United States v. Texas: Per curiam: The judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is affirmed by an equally divided court. (The nationwide injunction of the 2014 DAPA policy therefore remains in place).
(2) Fisher v. University of Texas: By a vote of 4-3 the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is affirmed. Per Justice Kennedy's opinion for the Court: "The Court is asked once again to consider whether the race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas is lawful under the Equal Protection Clause.... This Court granted certiorari and vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals, Fisher v. University of Tex. at Austin, 570 U. S. ___ (2013) (Fisher I), because it had applied an overly deferential 'good-faith' standard in assessing the constitutionality of the University’s program. The Court remanded the case for the Court of Appeals to assess the parties’ claims under the correct legal standard. Without further remanding to the District Court, the Court of Appeals again affirmed the entry of summary judgment in the University’s favor. 758 F. 3d 633 (CA5 2014). This Court granted certiorari for a second time, 576 U. S. ___ (2015), and now affirms.... [A]lthough it may be true that the Top Ten Percent Plan in some instances may provide a path out of poverty for those who excel at schools lacking in resources, the Plan cannot serve as the admissions solution that petitioner suggests. Wherever the balance between percentage plans and holistic review should rest, an effective admissions policy cannot prescribe, realistically, the exclusive use of a percentage plan. In short, none of petitioner’s suggested alternatives— nor other proposals considered or discussed in the course of this litigation—have been shown to be 'available' and 'workable' means through which the University could have met its educational goals, as it understood and defined them in 2008. Fisher I, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 11). The University has thus met its burden of showing that the admissions policy it used at the time it rejected petitioner’s application was narrowly tailored.... A university is in large part defined by those intangible 'qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness.' Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U. S. 629, 634 (1950).Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission. But still, it remains an enduring challenge to our Nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity. In striking this sensitive balance, public universities, like the States themselves, can serve as 'laboratories for experimentation.' United States v. Lopez, 514 U. S. 549, 581 (1995) (KENNEDY, J., concurring); see also New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, 285 U. S. 262, 311 (1932) (Brandeis, J., dissenting). The University of Texas at Austin has a special opportunity to learn and to teach. The University now has at its disposal valuable data about the manner in which different approaches to admissions may foster diversity or instead dilute it. The University must continue to use this data to scrutinize the fairness of its admissions program; to assess whether changing demographics have undermined the need for a race-conscious policy; and to identify the effects, both positive and negative, of the affirmative-action measures it deems necessary. The Court’s affirmance of the University’s admissions policy today does not necessarily mean the University may rely on that same policy without refinement. It is the University’s ongoing obligation to engage in constant deliberation and continued reflection regarding its admissions policies."
Justice Kennedy's majority opinion was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Justice Thomas dissented. Justice Alito also dissented, joined by the Chief Justice and Justice Thomas. Justice Kagan was recused.
(3) Birchfield v. North Dakota (consolidated with Bernard v. Minnesota and Beylund v. Levi) By a vote of 5-3 the decision of the Supreme Court of North Dakota (in Birchfield) is reversed and the case remanded. The decision of the Supreme Court of Minnesota (in Bernard) is affirmed, and the decision of the Supreme Court of North Dakota (inBeylund) is vacated and the case remanded. Per Justice Alito's opinion for the Court: "[A]ll States have laws that prohibit motorists from driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that exceeds a specified level. But determining whether a driver’s BAC is over the legal limit requires a test, and many drivers stopped on suspicion of drunk driving would not submit to testing if given the option. So every State also has long had what are termed 'implied consent laws.' These laws impose penalties on motorists who refuse to undergo testing when there is sufficient reason to believe they are violating the State’s drunk-driving laws. In the past, the typical penalty for noncompliance was suspension or revocation of the motorist’s license. The cases now before us involve laws that go beyond that and make it a crime for a motorist to refuse to be tested after being lawfully arrested for driving while impaired. The question presented is whether such laws violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.... We granted certiorari in all three cases and consolidated them for argument...in order to decide whether motorists lawfully arrested for drunk driving may be convicted of a crime or otherwise penalized for refusing to take a warrantless test measuring the alcohol in their bloodstream.... [S]uccess for all three petitioners depends on the proposition that the criminal law ordinarily may not compel a motorist to submit to the taking of a blood sample or to a breath test unless a warrant authorizing such testing is issued by a magistrate. If, on the other hand, such warrantless searches comport with the Fourth Amendment, it follows that a State may criminalize the refusal to comply with a demand to submit to the required testing, just as a State may make it a crime for a person to obstruct the execution of a valid search warrant.... Having assessed the effect of BAC tests on privacy interests and the need for such tests, we conclude that the Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrests for drunk driving. The impact of breath tests on privacy is slight, and the need for BAC testing is great. We reach a different conclusion with respect to blood tests. Blood tests are significantly more intrusive, and their reasonableness must be judged in light of the availability of the less invasive alternative of a breath test. Respondents have offered no satisfactory justification for demanding the more intrusive alternative without a warrant."
Justice Alito's majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, and Kagan. Justice Thomas concurred in the judgment in part and dissented in part. Justice Sotomayor concurred in part and dissented in part, joined by Justice Ginsburg.
(4) Mathis v. United States: By a vote of 5-3, the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit is reversed. Per Justice Kagan's opinion for the Court: "The Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA or Act), 18 U. S. C. §924(e), imposes a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence on certain federal defendants who have three prior convictions for a 'violent felony,' including 'burglary, arson, or extortion.' To determine whether a past conviction is for one of those offenses, courts compare the elements of the crime of conviction with the elements of the 'generic' version of the listed offense—i.e., the offense as commonly understood. For more than 25 years, our decisions have held that the prior crime qualifies as an ACCA predicate if, but only if, its elements are the same as, or narrower than, those of the generic offense. The question in this case is whether ACCA makes an exception to that rule when a defendant is convicted under a statute that lists multiple, alternative means of satisfying one (or more) of its elements. We decline to find such an exception."
Justice Kagan's majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Sotomayor. Justices Kennedy and Thomas also issued concurring opinions. Justice Breyer dissented, joined by Justice Ginsburg. Justice Alito also dissented.
(5) Dollar General Corp v. Mississippi of Choctaw Indians: Per curiam: The judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is affirmed by an equally divided Court. (SCOTUSblog summary: "This case stems from accusations by a thirteen-year-old member of the tribe that a manager at a Dollar General store within the tribe’s reservation had sexually molested him while the boy was interning at the store. The child and his parents filed a lawsuit against the manager and the store in tribal court, arguing that the store was liable for the manager’s conduct. The issue before the Court is whether the tribal court has jurisdiction over tort claims against defendants, like Dollar General, who are not members of the tribe; the Fifth Circuit ruled that there is jurisdiction.").