Seen in the court:
Amy Hagstrom Miller, Founder/CEO of Whole Woman's Health and Stephanie Toti who represented Whole Woman's Health during arguments. They were the first two in the public line. They'll have to wait until Monday for a decision in their case on whether a Texas law governing abortion clinics unduly limits a woman's right to an abortion.
No sighting of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, but Ian Gershengorn, Principal Deputy Solicitor General, was front and center.
I also think I caught a glimpse of Ginni Thomas, Justice Clarence Thomas' wife. Today is Justice Thomas' birthday. He is 68.
Mathis v. United States is the first case --Justice Elena Kagan reads the opinion.
SECOND UP -- Birchfield v. North Dakota, Justice Samuel Alito reads the opinion. He makes it clear very quickly that the Court thinks a warrant is necessary for a blood test, but "not when it comes to breath tests." Breath tests, he says "are not painful or inherently embarrassing," not any more so than the "normal process of breathing." At that, there are chuckles from the press gallery and the public section.
Alito says, "We hold that warrantless breath tests are permissible." Gershengorn, who argued the case on behalf of the United States, pursed his lips into a closed fist with his thumb resting under his chin. Alito then announced that because the blood vs. breath circumstances are different in all three cases, the Court is separating them and reversing Birchfield v. North Dakota, affirming Bernard v. Minnesota and vacating Beylund v. Levi.
THIRD UP -- Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the second hearing of a case on affirmative action in college admissions. Justice Anthony Kennedy reads the opinion as Ginsburg takes a drink from what looks like a to-go mug. RBG is sporting a white, circular, lace collar today. Kennedy begins by saying that race is "but a factor of a factor of a factor" in UT-Austin's decision making process and it becomes clear what he's about to say: the "Court of Appeals was correct" and the University has met its burden. "She was not denied equal treatment" Kennedy says of the white plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, who sued UT-Austin over her rejection for admission.
Around 10:20, Alito begins reading his dissenting bench statement. He begins by noting that in Fisher I, the first time the case was heard,"we made it very clear what the University needed to do." He says we don't let the government say, "Trust us" -- it's necessary to discriminate in this circumstance, so why let state universities?
"State universities are not angels" whose actions are above scrutiny, he tells the Court. Gershengorn has his fist on his face and his thumb on his chin again.
During his almost 15-minute dissenting statement, Kagan, sitting next to him, at times seems to look perturbed. (She was involved in the case when Fisher came before a lower court, and she recused herself both times the Supreme Court heard the case.) At one point she visibly raises her eyebrows in his direction.
He goes on to take issue with UT's assertion that it needs affirmative action to admit privileged minorities, for instance, "the black student with high grades from Andover." He argues that that is not the point. The black student from Andover is preventing the poor white student from a rural area or the Asian student with two parents who speak little English from getting in. And at that, he says, "This is affirmative action gone berserk."
Alito says that what the majority has done in awarding a victory to UT in an opinion that fails to address the important issues in the case--"is simply wrong."
He then implies some other justices simply wanted this case to end, saying, "I have no more desire than the majority to see this litigation continued," but, he says, "Judgment should be entered in favor of petitioner."
Alito says he hopes other universities don't look to this case to guide them, and if they do, it's "a very sad turn in our cases."
"I therefore respectfully dissent," he finishes.
FOURTH AND FIFTH UP - Chief Justice John Roberts then very quickly announces that in Dollar General Stores v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and United States v. Texas the judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.
All remaining decisions, Roberts says, will be handed down on Monday.