photo: laura padgett/flickr
Today in the news is this article, titled Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Says Supreme Court To Address DOMA This Session. The subject of this post is an update of a pertinent case currently on the SCOTUS docket.
Hollingsworth (petitioner) v Perry (respondent) is a pending Petition for Writ of Certiorari currently on the docket before the Supreme Court of the United States. Perry prevailed by a ruling in the lower court and Hollingsworth now challenges that decision (Perry v. Brown, 671 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir. 2012)). The issue is whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Firedoglake covered the Prop 8 trial in depth, and there has been extensive media and blog attention to the case throughout its litigation history in the courts. To reiterate, Prop 8 (ballot title: Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment) passed in November, 2008. Prop 8 was then challenged on constitutional grounds and overturned in United States District Court with an opinion by Judge Vaughn Walker. Finally, on February 7, 2012, in a 2–1 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed Walker’s decision declaring the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. That opinion, written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, is what the petitioner is challenging in the Petition for Certiorari (“cert” or “Petition for “cert”).
As you can see on SCOTUSblog.com, in addition to the initial petition, the briefs in opposition (here and here) and the link to the Ninth Circuit opinion, there are 13 Amicus briefs. There are also reply briefs to briefs in opposition.
The petition, the responses in opposition, the replies and the Amicus briefs have been filed in the Supreme Court. Clerks have reviewed them and distributed the incoming documents to chambers for the September 24, 2012 conference. Prior to the conference, Justices read and review incoming (distributed) material, at the rate of about 140 petitions each week, according to this certiorari practice article. During the conference, where only Justices are allowed to be in the room, they will make decisions about what to do with the petitions that they have reviewed. They can grant cert (agree to review the case), deny cert (the opinion ‘below’ stands unaffected), ‘relist and hold,’ where a case is held over for decision at a later date, or invite the view of the US Solicitor General (a CVSG or a Call for the View of the Solicitor General). On October 1, 2012, the decisions will be released in an “Orders List” on the Supreme Court site.
Bottom line in Hollingsworth v Perry: The Petitioner (Hollingsworth) is arguing for a grant of cert and an opinion from the Supreme Court that will set aside the opinion issued by the Ninth Circuit, and the respondent (Perry) is arguing for a denial of cert so that the opinion of the Ninth Circuit remains as the binding authority.
All of the petitions and Amicus (Latin: “friend of the Court”) briefs follow a standard format that contains the following: 1.title page with listed parties; 2. Question Presented; 3. Table of Contents; 4. Table of Authorities; 5. Argument; 6. Conclusion. There is a page limit of 30 pages.
Amicus briefs can only be submitted with specific permission from the court. You can look here to see how it is worded when permission is requested and granted. These briefs are not submitted by parties in the case. They are submitted by parties with interest in the case and outcome. Amicus briefs have been historically associated with various advocacy groups. It is worth noting that the ‘question presented’ in each brief is the lawyer’s opportunity to tell the Court what the issue is; the Court wants to know whether to grant or deny cert, and this is the lawyer’s shot at that. The question presented is persuasively phrased, and in some cases, the persuasion is evident in the Table of Contents and the Table of Authorities as well.
Here are examples, word-for-word, from petitions in this case. These are only snippets:
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