Monday, June 11, 2012

Supreme Court to Consider Church Property Petitions This Thursday

One of the most comprehensive blogs to cover the United States Supreme Court is SCOTUS blog, written by former clerks to the Supreme Court justices who are now practicing attorneys. They pride themselves on their ability to cull through the weekly avalanches of petitions for review, and to select out those very few which, in their expert opinion, are likely candidates for acceptance.

Their post covering the "Petitions to Watch" for the upcoming Supreme Court conference this next Thursday, June 14, is now up. It discusses thirteen of the petitions pending on the Court's calendar and noted as having been circulated for consideration at the June 14 conference.

It is not possible to get an exact number of all the petitions which the Court will take up next Thursday, but if the list of petitions acted upon at the May 31 conference is any indication (and announced Monday, June 4), then there will be approximately 150 for it to consider. More than half of those will be in forma pauperis petitions, i.e., petitions (often hand-written) submitted by prisoners and others who have no money either to pay an attorney to represent them, or to pay the fees to file a petition with the Court. But at least 50 or so will be petitions with counsel on both sides, formally printed and bound in the manner the Court's rules require.

Of the petitions presented at the May 31 conference, the orders list discloses that review was granted in only one of the petitions presented (a formal petition; none of the in forma pauperis petitions was granted), and one other petition received a summary ruling, granting review and sending the case back to the lower court for consideration in light of another recent Supreme Court opinion.

By the same token, the Court published this morning its list of orders with regard to the cases it considered at its June 7 conference last week. One again, only two petitions for review were granted out of the more than three dozen considered, and none of the hundreds of in forma pauperis petitions was granted. However, it should be noted that the SCOTUS blog had listed both of those petitions in its list of petitions to watch for the June 7 conference.

I recommend that you use the links at this page of the SCOTUS blog to download and review all of the briefs in the two church property cases (scroll down to Nos. 11-1101 (Timberridge) and 11-1139 (Bishop Seabury). They make for some fascinating reading -- especially the amicus briefs, which add points not covered in the main briefs.

The Episcopal Church (USA)'s responding brief in the Bishop Seabury case [caution: large .pdf download] is an especially noteworthy one, partly for its arrogance in cataloging all of the minor decisions in its favor by inferior courts which have absolutely no weight as precedents, as well as for its egregious misrepresentation of the cases which have gone against it. If I have time, I will have more to say on the briefs before Thursday.


  1. Any updates? Or is it too soon? Thanks for the link to the SCOTUS blog- it's really interesting.

  2. Yes, it is too soon, Ann. The Supreme Court met in conference today, but the meeting is completely confidential -- no one is present but the Justices.

    If at least four Justices voted for review, then the petitions will be granted; if only three or less vote for review, the petitions are deemed denied. (They also could postpone their consideration and decision on the petitions until next Thursday, if any Justice requests it.)

    They will inform the Clerk of the Court how they voted, and he will publish an "orders list" sometime right after 10:00 a.m. EDT on Monday which declares that the petitions were either granted or denied. (If the decision was to postpone consideration, the cases will not be listed on the orders list.)

    I plan to have a post up shortly afterwards, once the orders are published on Monday.

  3. Thanks for the update, Mr. Haley. We will check back on Monday.

  4. What Alexi said! Thanks. We're in the Diocese of Quincy and have been following this with interest.