Introduction to 2015-16 Term - Five Cases You Should Know

Supreme Podcast show

Summary: On this episode, we review five of the Court’s most controversial cases this Term thus far. Mullenix v. Luna - The doctrine of qualified immunity shields officials from civil liability so long as their conduct “‘does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.’” In this case, the Fifth Circuit held that Mullenix violated the clearly established rule that a police officer may not “ ‘use deadly force against a fleeing felon who does not pose a sufficient threat of harm to the officer or others.’” Was the Fifth Circuit correct in its statment of the law? Williams v. Pennsylvania - Are the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments violated where the presiding Chief Justice of a State Supreme Court declines to recuse himself in a capital case where he had personally approved the decision to pursue capital punishment against Petitioner in his prior capacity as elected District Attorney and continued to head the District Attorney's Office that defended the death verdict on appeal; where, in his State Supreme Court election campaign, the Chief Justice expressed strong support for capital punishment, with reference to the number of defendants he had "sent" to death row, including Petitioner; and where he then, as Chief Justice, reviewed a ruling by the state post- conviction court that his office committed prosecutorial misconduct under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), when it prosecuted and sought death against Petitioner? Heffernan v. Paterson - Whether the First Amendment bars the government from demoting a public employee based on a supervisor's perception that the employee supports a political candidate. Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole - Does a court err by refusing to consider whether and to what extent laws that restrict abortion for the stated purpose of promoting health actually serve the government’s interest in promoting health? Little Sisters v. Burwell (and the consolidated cases) - Does the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act? Next week, we will continue our coverage of the Court’s top cases this Term, with a review of the oral arguments in Evenwel v. Abbott, an important voting rights case, and Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, an affirmative action case that the Court is hearing for a second time.