Case Commentary – Injunctive Relief NYC religious services

Recently an injunction that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) granted for the Roman Catholic Diocese who were joined by Agudath Israel of America temporarily preventing an executive order that limited attendance at religious services to no more than 10 or 25 people depending on the severity of COVID-19 in the area. This has made new as an opinion of the court, and several news organizations have written about how it indicates the new conservative leaning of the court (NY Times, NPR, etc.) Please read the slip opinion of the court (the version that is released while waiting for the legal citations to be created for the opinion). Please read court rulings and do not rely on the media, however unbiased or biased you think they are, to report it accurately. SCOTUS decisions are very often hard reads, but can be understood if you read the footnotes and maybe look up words or references. In addition, reading the Executive Order 202.68 that two religious organizations are disagreeing with allows for a better understanding on why this might be a 1st Amendment issue.

However, there are a few thing that this lawyer wants to explain. First, ask Justice Kavanaugh states “the Court simply grants temporary injunctive relief until the Court of Appeals in December…” While a decision of the court is considered an opinion, in this case what was decided was if an injunction was needed until the case was heard before the court NOT the merits of the case. Second, the decision was written as “Per curiam” meaning it is the opinion of the court rather a specific justice, so the commentary about what the new justice wrote are inaccurate. Third, the three justices who wrote dissents indicated the reason they disagreed was that the executive order was not being enforced. There was very little discussion about the merits of the case, because it has not been argued in front of the court, yet (and who knows if it will be). Fourth, while it is not appropriate for me to make a guess on how the case will go in the Court of Appeals on December, or if it makes it to SCOTUS the opinion did indicate what the Court of Appeals should consider. This case could be a violation of the 1st Amendment, and what method the court should use to determine this is hinted at in the opinion. SCOTUS does this to help the lower courts try and decide cases to prevent appeals to SCOTUS, it doesn’t always work but they try.

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