Today the Supreme Court decided Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter. The Court split 5-4 in a most interesting way. Justice Sotomayor wrote for the majority, joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Kagan. Chief Justice Roberts dissented, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Alito. Also interesting and unusual, as the folks at SCOTUSBlog note, is that this is one of two decisions issued today in which Indian tribes prevailed over the federal government (the other being Match-E-Be v. Patchak, which was decided 8-1). [UPDATE: Actually, it would be more accurate to say that these are both cases in which the federal government lost, which is still unusual in Indian Law cases.]
UPDATE: There’s also an interesting split in Williams v. Illinois, the Confrontation Clause case. Justice Alito delivered the judgment rejecting the Confrontation Clause challenge and authored a plurality joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy and Breyer. Justice Thomas concurred in the judgment, and Justice Kagan dissented, joined by Justices Scalia, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor. This is something of a pragmatist-formalist split, as Justice Thomas indicates he ”share[s] the dissent’s view of the plurality’s flawed analysis,” and only concurred in the judgment because he differs with the dissents conclusion that the statements in question were “testimonial” for Confrontation Clause purposes.
SECOND UPDATE: There’s a third 5-4 decision today, Christopher v. Smithkline Beecham Corp., with yet another different (albeit more traditional) lineup. Justice Alito wrote the majority, joined by the more conservative justices. Justice Breyer dissented, joined by his more liberal colleagues. I’m particularly interested in this case given its discussion of Auer deference for reasons I discussed here.