Five substantive grants of certiorari (there were a number of GVRs too):
- Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co: Whether the Second Circuit – in a two-to-one panel decision that disregarded the considered opinion advanced by the United States as amicus – erred in holding that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) preempts Vermont's health care database law as applied to the third-party administrator for a self-funded ERISA plan.
- Musacchio v. United States: (1) Whether the law-of-the-case doctrine requires the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal case to be measured against the elements described in the jury instructions where those instructions, without objection, require the government to prove additional or more stringent elements than do the statute and indictment; and (2) whether a statute-of-limitations defense not raised at or before trial is reviewable on appeal.
- Torres v. Lynch: (two petitions) Whether a state offense constitutes an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43), on the ground that the state offense is “described in” a specified federal statute, where the federal statute includes an interstate commerce element that the state offense lacks.
- Fisher v. Univ. of Texas at Austin: Whether the Fifth Circuit’s re-endorsement of the University of Texas at Austin’s use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions decisions can be sustained under this Court’s decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, including Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.
- Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Alito, dissented from the denial of cert. in Joyner v. Barnes.
- Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Kagan, dissented from denial of cert in Jordan v. Fisher.
(1) Glossip v. Gross: By a vote of 5-4 the judgment of the 10th Circuit is affirmed. Per Justice Alito's opinion for the Court: "Prisoners sentenced to death in the State of Oklahoma filed an action in federal court under Rev. Stat. §1979, 42 U. S. C. §1983, contending that the method of execution now used by the State violates the Eighth Amendment because it creates an unacceptable risk of severe pain. They argue that midazolam, the first drug employed in the State’s current three-drug protocol, fails to render a person insensate to pain. After holding an evidentiary hearing, the District Court denied four prisoners’ application for a preliminary injunction, finding that they had failed to prove that midazolam is ineffective. The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed and accepted the District Court’s finding of fact regarding midazolam’s efficacy. For two independent reasons, we also affirm. First, the prisoners failed to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain, a requirement of all Eighth Amendment method-ofexecution claims. See Baze v. Rees, 553 U. S. 35, 61 (2008) (plurality opinion). Second, the District Court did not commit clear error when it found that the prisoners failed to establish that Oklahoma’s use of a massive dose of midazolam in its execution protocol entails a substantial risk of severe pain."
The Chief Justice and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas joined Justice Alito's majority opinion. Justice Scalia filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Thomas. Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Scalia. Justice Breyer dissented, joined by Justice Ginsburg. Justice Sotomayor also dissented, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan.
(2) Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Indep. Redistricting Comm'n: By a vote of 5-4 the judgment of the District Court for the District of Arizona is affirmed. Per Justice Ginsburg's opinion for the Court: "In 2000, Arizona voters adopted an initiative, Proposition 106, aimed at “ending the practice of gerrymandering and improving voter and candidate participation in elections.” App. 50. Proposition 106 amended Arizona’s Constitution to remove redistricting authority from the Arizona Legislature and vest that authority in an independent commission, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC or Commission). After the 2010 census, as after the 2000 census, the AIRC adopted redistricting maps for congressional as well as state legislative districts. The Arizona Legislature challenged the map the Commission adopted in January 2012 for congressional districts. Recognizing that the voters could control redistricting for state legislators...the Arizona Legislature sued the AIRC in federal court seeking a declaration that the Commission and its map for congressional districts violated the 'Elections Clause' of the U. S. Constitution....A three-judge District Court held, unanimously, that the Arizona Legislature had standing to sue; dividing two to one, the Court rejected the Legislature’s complaint on the merits. We postponed jurisdiction and instructed the parties to address two questions: (1) Does the Arizona Legislature have standing to bring this suit? (2) Do the Elections Clause of the United States Constitution and 2 U. S. C. §2a(c) permit Arizona’s use of a commission to adopt congressional districts? 573 U. S. ___ (2014). We now affirm the District Court’s judgment. We hold, first, that the Arizona Legislature, having lost authority to draw congressional districts, has standing to contest the constitutionality of Proposition 106. Next, we hold that lawmaking power in Arizona includes the initiative process, and that both §2a(c) and the Elections Clause permit use of the AIRC in congressional districting in the same way the Commission is used in districting for Arizona’s own Legislature....The people of Arizona turned to the initiative to curb the practice of gerrymandering and, thereby, to ensure that Members of Congress would have 'an habitual recollection of their dependence on the people.' The Federalist No. 57, at 350 (J. Madison). In so acting, Arizona voters sought to restore 'the core principle of republican government,' namely, “that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.' Berman, Managing Gerrymandering, 83 Texas L. Rev. 781 (2005). The Elections Clause does not hinder that endeavor."
Justice Ginsburg's majority opinion was joined by Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. The Chief Justice dissented, joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. Justice Scalia dissented, joined by Justice Thomas. Justice Thomas dissented, joined by Justice Scalia.
(3) Michigan v. EPA: By a vote of 5-4 the judgment of the D.C. Circuit is reversed and the case is remanded. Per Justice Scalia's opinion for the Court: "The Clean Air Act directs the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants from power plants if the Agency finds regulation 'appropriate and necessary.' We must decide whether it was reasonable for EPA to refuse to consider cost when making this finding....Petitioners (who include 23 States) sought review of EPA’s rule in the Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit. As relevant here, they challenged the Agency’s refusal to consider cost when deciding whether to regulate power plants. The Court of Appeals upheld the Agency’s decision not to consider cost....Chevron allows agencies to choose among competing reasonable interpretations of a statute; it does not license interpretive gerrymanders under which an agency keeps parts of statutory context it likes while throwing away parts it does not.....Our reasoning so far establishes that it was unreasonable for EPA to read §7412(n)(1)(A) to mean that cost is irrelevant to the initial decision to regulate power plants. The Agency must consider cost—including, most importantly, cost of compliance—before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary. We need not and do not hold that the law unambiguously required the Agency, when making this preliminary estimate, to conduct a formal cost-benefit analysis in which each advantage and disadvantage is assigned a monetary value. It will be up to the Agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost......We hold that EPA interpreted §7412(n)(1)(A) unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plants."
Justice Scalia's majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito. Justice Thomas issued a concurring opinion. Justice Kagan dissented, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor.