Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Supreme Court Punts in Little Sisters

In a unanimous per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court decided in the Little Sisters cases not to decide the legal issues in conflict but instead to vacate the judgments below and send the cases back to the courts of appeals so that the parties can be given “sufficient time to resolve any outstanding issues between them.” In short, the Court punted.

Sometimes it’s sensible to punt, so my observation that the Court punted is not necessarily meant as a criticism. The Court’s resolution is certainly better than a 5-3 victory for the government or a 4-4 affirmance (which would have left in place the rulings below).

(In addition to joining the per curiam, Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ginsburg, wrote a concurring opinion that simply emphasizes that the Court hasn’t decided anything.)

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