The Columns

Annual Supreme Court Preview Examines Key Cases on High Court Docket

— by on September 24th, 2015

On Monday, faculty at Washington and Lee University will discuss several of the most compelling cases on the 2015-16 U.S. Supreme Court docket during the Law School’s annual Supreme Court Preview.

Sponsored by the American Constitution Society and the Office of Career Strategy, the event will be held on Monday, Sept. 28 beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the Millhiser Moot Court Room, Sydney Lewis Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

During the panel discussion, professors from the law school and the college will analyze several key cases currently on the high court’s docket, framing the important issues of the case and explaining the routes the cases took through the lower courts before being accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court. The cases and participating faculty are as follows:

Prof. Al Carr will explore FERC v. Electric Power Supply Association, a case dealing with regulatory authority. The Court will determine whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reasonably concluded that it has authority under the Federal Power Act to regulate the rules used by operators of wholesale-electricity markets to pay for reductions in electricity consumption and to recoup those payments through adjustments to wholesale rates.

Prof. Ann Massie will discuss Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, an affirmative action case making its second trip to the Supreme Court. This time, the Court will determine  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,

Prof. Brian Murchison will discuss Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a case involving tribal court jurisdiction. The Court will determine whether Indian tribal courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate civil tort claims against nonmembers, including as a means of regulating the conduct of nonmembers who enter into consensual relationships with a tribe or its members.

Prof. Todd Peppers will examine Kansas v. Gleason and Hurst v. Florida, two death penalty cases. In Kansas v. Gleason, the Court will decide whether the Eighth Amendment requires that a capital-sentencing jury be affirmatively instructed that mitigating circumstances “need not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” as the Kansas Supreme Court held in this case, or instead whether the Eighth Amendment is satisfied by instructions that, in context, make clear that each juror must individually assess and weigh any mitigating circumstances. The Hurst case explores whether Florida’s death sentencing scheme violates the Sixth Amendment or the Eighth Amendment in light of this Court’s decision in Ring v. Arizona.

Prof. Mark Rush will discuss Evenwel v. Abbott, a voting rights case. The Court will determine whether the three-judge district court correctly held that the “one-person, one-vote” principle under the Equal Protection Clause allows States to use total population, and does not require States to use voter population, when apportioning state legislative districts.

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