On Monday, surrounded by first-generation students sitting in rows behind her and adorned in a black robe not unlike the one she wears to oral argument, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor accepted an honorary doctorate of laws from University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel (“Go Blue!” she said, to thunderous applause from an electric crowd, given the snowy weather outside and the early hour). Sotomayor was in Ann Arbor to participate in one of the first events of the University’s bicentennial, a colloquium titled, “The Future University Community.” After receiving her degree, the Justice joined German Justice Susanne Baer for a wide-ranging conversation moderated by NPR journalist Michele Norris.
The Supreme Court issued its first decision of the October 2016 term, a per curiam (unsigned) opinion in Bosse v. Oklahoma, on Tuesday, October 11. Bosse, a simple case involving the use of victim impact statements (testimony from the relatives of the victims of a crime) retains some limits that such statements.
Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments for the case Holt v. Hobbs. The case focuses on Gregory Holt, who also goes by Abdul Maalik Muhammad. Holt, a practicing Salafi Muslim, was a prisoner in an Arkansas state prison. To fulfill his religious beliefs, Holt tried to obtain a relief from the prison’s rules against facial hair: trimmed mustaches and quarter-inch long beards for dermatological problems. Holt claims growing a beard is necessary part of his religious tradition and the prison’s rule significantly (or rather totally) impaired his ability to grow a beard. His argument is that the prison’s facial hair rules violate the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.