Aug. 14, 2018 - The impact of the retirement U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and the ensuing nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, was discussed at the recent 2018 Supreme Court Update at the University of Houston Law Center.
Faculty and other legal experts also summarized cases involving immigration and travel bans, cellphones and the right to privacy, the First Amendment rights of business owners and other cases.
"I'm very proud that this is the third year in a row we held a CLE specifically focusing on recent Supreme Court cases," Dean Leonard M. Baynes, said in his introductory remarks. "One thing that universities and law schools can do is bring people together to discuss very important issues, and in this last term, there were very many significant issues."
While it has been suggested Kavanaugh's nomination was a partisan decision, Professor Peter Linzer said he does not expect to see a dramatic shift in the Court's priorities.
"Those who have seen the court as politically motivated may see Kavanaugh's nomination as an attack," Linzer said. "There are certainly arguments for the contrary and instances where justices have crossed political lines, and there are rumblings that Chief Justice Roberts does not want his court to be viewed as partisan."
Joining Linzer in their annual back-and-forth discussion was South Texas College of Law Professor Josh Blackman, who was at the Court when Kennedy announced his retirement.
"I was at the Supreme Court for the last week of the term," Blackman said. "I always try to go to D.C. to absorb what happens. About 10 minutes before the Justices took the bench, Justice Kennedy's wife, kids and grandkids could be seen sitting in a section reserved for family members of the Justices. The press area started to go crazy because they knew what it meant."
Assistant Professor Emily Berman examined Donald Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project and Donald Trump v. Hawaii, two cases that centered on executive orders targeting immigrants from specific countries.
In a later presentation, Berman was joined by Nicole Casarez, a visiting professor at the Law Center and a communications professor at the University of St. Thomas. Their presentation evaluated Carpenter v. U.S., a case that questioned if warrantless search and seizure of cellphone records, which include the location and movements of cell phone users, violated the Fourth Amendment.
Janet Heppard, Associate Professor of Clinical Practice, led the next discussion on Azar v. Garza, which involved a pregnant undocumented minor in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who sought to have an abortion
Sharese Reyes, a senior attorney with the Social Security Administration, gave an overview of Masterpiece Cake Shop, Ltd v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, where a bakery owner refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.
Attendees received three hours of Texas continuing legal education credit with .75 hours in ethics credit.