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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

SCOTUS Considers Review of Michigan Same-Sex Marriage Case

Last June, I was preparing for oral argument in a wrongful death case before a panel of the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio.  In that file preparation, we learned that one of the judges on our panel, Jeffrey S. Sutton, a George Bush appointee, was the former law clerk to SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia; it does not get more conservative than that.

Judge Sutton was the presiding judge in the DeBoer case and authored the 64-page, 2-1 appellate opinion; his analysis was consistent with his conservative judicial philosophy.  As is now widely known and reported, the Sixth Circuit reversed U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman's opinion and order from last year invalidating Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage and adoption on constitutional grounds.

As is often the case in federal appeals, the DeBoer case was combined with several others, from other states in the 6th Circuit: Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.  The portion of the caption in this case, listing the myriad attorneys glomming onto the file, goes on for 3 and 1/2 pages; it's getting ridiculous.

We predicted that attorneys in the DeBoer case and its companion cases would act quickly and yesterday, petitions were filed for certiorari in the case with the United States Supreme Court.  We here at this blog were pleased to see one of our guest bloggers, Wayne State Law Professor Robert Sedler, to be listed among the corps of esteemed legal counsel of record in the case.

The sole and simple issue raised on appeal is whether state denial of the same-sex right to marry [and adopt children] comports with our federal constitution.  In the petition, DeBoer asserts that hers is the ideal case because:
  • there was a 9-day trial with a fully-developed record [actually, it was more like a battle-of-the-experts, as so many high-profile case are these days]; 
  • unlike other states where the state attorney general declined further challenge after losing in federal court, or at the intermediate appellate stage, the Michigan Attorney General has vowed to carry on the fight to the SCOTUS; and 
  • the Sixth is the first federal circuit to uphold a state law ban on same-sex marriage giving rise to a conflict among the federal circuits for the first time; something that SCOTUS looks for when assessing the hundreds of petitions for certiorari.
Assuming the SCOTUS is of a mindset to address this civil rights issue with this round of cases, and assuming that the various state actors submit their filings by mid-January, the DeBoer case could well be argued this term.

Oral arguments at some point in April will leave the High Court in a position to issue a decision in the case by the end of the term in June.

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