United States Supreme Court
Dog Sniff Cases to Be Argued on
Halloween Have Haunting Implications, Law Prof Says
10-19-12 -- Two dog sniff cases
to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Halloween haven’t snared a
lot of press, but they could have an impact on the right to privacy
in years to come, a law professor asserts.
. . . Writing in the
New York Times, visiting Yale law professor Jeffrey Meyer
opposes police use of contraband-sniffing dogs without a warrant. . . . In one of the cases, Florida v. Harris, the court is
asked to decide whether a dog's alert establishes
sufficient probable cause to search a vehicle. The case asks the
court to determine how good the dog’s accuracy record must be, Meyer
says. He says dogs aren’t always right, and he offers an example
from the time he and his wife visited the U.S. Supreme Court for a
law clerk reunion.
British subpoenas blocked
10-17-12 -- Supreme Court
Justice Stephen G. Breyer on Wednesday
temporarily blocked subpoenas issued by the British
government for papers collected in an academic project at Boston
College about the history of the Irish Republican Army’s violent
resistance to British rule in Northern Ireland. The subpoenas are
part of a United Kingdom criminal probe into the death of a former
IRA member who allegedly had served as an informer for the British
government. Breyer’s order will remain in effect if the two
researchers challenging the subpoenas file a formal appeal of the
denial of their plea by the First Circuit Court in July.
. . . The subpoenas had been challenged by Boston College,
but it has given up at least part of its objection and has turned
over some files. Attempting to continue the challenge are a former
member of the IRA, Anthony McIntyre, who served as the lead
researcher on the oral history project (the “Belfast Project”), and
a New York journalist and writer, Ed Moloney, who directed the
Belfast Project. That academic inquiry is an attempt to
reconstruct the IRA rebellion from the perspective of former “foot
soldiers” in that conflict, which ended in 1998 with the so-called
“Good Friday Agreement.”
U.S. Museums Concerned About
Unartful Impact of SCOTUS Copyright Case
10-17-12 -- The U.S. Supreme
Court will hear a copyright case later this month that could have
serious unintended consequences for the nation’s art museums: If a
decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is upheld, every
museum in the U.S. that exhibits modern art created overseas could
potentially be infringing copyright.
. . . “The most basic of museum functions—exhibiting
art—could give rise to infringement claims,” said Stefan Mentzer, a
White & Case who filed
an amicus brief [PDF] with the Supreme Court on behalf of
the Association of Art Museum Directors and 28 museums of art. “The
decision has the potential to disrupt the mission of American
museums and interfere with the public’s access to art.”
. . . On its face, the case before the High Court,
Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, has nothing to do modern art.
The case concerns Supap Kirtsaeng, who came to the U.S. from
Thailand to study at Cornell University—and found that textbooks
published in Asia by Wiley were cheaper than those available in the
Time, Pen and Paper, and Now the
Ear of the Supreme Court
10-16-12 -- Kim Millbrook, an
inmate at a federal prison in Pennsylvania, has 31 years of hard
time on his hands. He has been using it to sue people.
. . . courts have considered his lawsuits with patience and even
solicitude, and last month he overcame long odds by persuading the
Supreme Court to
grant his handwritten petition seeking review of a
decision in one of his many cases.
. . . Mr. Millbrook is the
kind of litigious prisoner that judges call a frequent filer. He has
been inside four prisons and jails, and he has sued over asserted
mistreatment in all of them. . .
. He sued corrections officers at the Rock Island County Jail
in Illinois for, he said, using excessive force in connection with a
search of his cell. Then he sued law enforcement and medical
personnel at the Henry County Jail, also in Illinois, for what he
said were inhumane conditions and inadequate care.
. . . He went on to sue
the federal government for failing to protect him from an assault by
a fellow inmate, Davon Golden, when the two men were in a federal
prison in Terre Haute, Ind.
When FOIA and the Commerce Clause
10-11-12 -- The U.S. Supreme
Court agreed on Friday to hear a case concerning Virginia's Freedom
of Information Act and whether its restrictions are constitutional.
The restrictions on who has access to state documents have stoked
the fires of two separate information-loving groups -- journalists
and those who gather and sell public records for a living.
. . . Virginia is one of at least eight states with a law
that restricts access to public records to state residents.
Specifically, the law at issue says that "all public records shall
be open to inspection and copying by any citizen of the
Commonwealth." So those Americans who don't live in the great state
of Virginia but want to see its records are out of luck. There is an
exception to that rule for "representatives of newspapers and
magazines with circulation in the Commonwealth," as well as radio
and television broadcasters who reach into Virginia's airwaves. But
we at On the Case took note that Virginia's description of media
leaves out a whole lot of reporters who practice their craft on the
At high court, prospects look dim
for university's affirmative action policy
10-10-12 -- The University of
Texas' affirmative action admissions policy, and perhaps even a 2003
landmark ruling on race, appeared in serious trouble Wednesday
during arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court. .
. . Eight justices heard from lawyers for the university, a
white woman denied admission in 2008, and the United States in
Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Justice Elena Kagan did not
participate apparently because of experience with the litigation in
her prior role as solicitor general of the United States.
. . . Constitutional
questions about race generally have divided the Roberts Court and,
unsurprisingly on Wednesday, the Court's moderate-liberal members
aggressively challenged Abigail Fisher's counsel, Bert Rein of
Wiley Rein, while the conservative justices aimed their
firepower at the university's advocate, Gregory Garre of
Latham & Watkins.
Justices uphold government
immunity over domestic eavesdropping program
10-09-12 -- The U.S. Supreme
Court on Tuesday left in place a law that allows the Justice
Department to stop suits against telecommunications companies for
participating in wiretaps of potential terrorists.
. . . The ruling was a key setback for civil libertarians
challenging the broader powers of government since the September 11,
2001, attacks on the United States to use electronic surveillance to
track potential threats in the name of national security.
. . . The Justices declined to take up a challenge to the
once-secret domestic eavesdropping program under the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act - this one involving the monitoring of
information moving into and out of the United States. . . . Previous petitions dealing with alleged abuses of the
surveillance law also have been rejected by the court. Another case
will be heard later this month.
Supreme Court receives outpouring
of conflicting views on affirmative action
10-08-12 -- Gail Heriot and two
other members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights would like the
Supreme Court to know that new research indicates that
race-preferential admissions to America’s top universities are
hurting those they are supposed to help.
. . . “If this research is right, we now have fewer minority
science and engineering graduates than we would have under race
neutral admissions policies,” Heriot said
in an amicus brief filed along with fellow commissioners
Peter Kirsanow and Todd Gaziano.
. . . “We have fewer minority college professors.
fewer minority lawyers too.” . .
. The American Educational Research Association would like
the Supreme Court to know that Heriot and her fellow conservatives
on the commission have it all wrong.
. . . “Research continues to show that student body diversity
leads to important educational benefits,” the group, along with
other research associations, said in
its amicus brief to the court.
Supreme Court to take up UT
10-08-12 -- In the fall of
2008, the University of Texas enrolled 10,335 minority students, not
including Asian-Americans. As far as Abigail Fisher was concerned,
that was one too many. . . .
Fisher had made good grades in high school - a 3.59 average
on a 4.0 scale - posted a score of 1180 on the SAT test and finished
as number 82 in a graduating class of 674 at Stephen F. Austin High
School in Sugar Land. She figured that was good enough. Then came
those dreadful words: "We regret to inform you ..."
. . . Fisher was heartbroken. Her dad went to Texas, and her
sister. She bled burnt orange. "I had dreamt of going to UT since
the second grade," she said.
Your right to resell your own
stuff is in peril
It could become illegal to resell
your iPhone 4, car or family antiques
Tucked into the U.S. Supreme Court’s
busy agenda this fall is a little-known case that could upend your
ability to resell everything from your grandmother’s antique
furniture to your iPhone 4. . . .
At issue in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons is the
first-sale doctrine in copyright law, which allows you to buy and
then sell things like electronics, books, artwork and furniture as
well as CDs and DVDs, without getting permission from the copyright
holder of those products. . . .
Under the doctrine, which the Supreme Court has recognized
since 1908, you can resell your stuff without worry because the
copyright holder only had control over the first sale.
. . . Put simply, though
Apple has the copyright on the iPhone and Mark Owen does on the book
“No Easy Day,” you can still sell your copies to whomever you please
whenever you want without retribution.
. . . That’s being
challenged now for products that are made abroad and if the Supreme
Court upholds an appellate court ruling it would mean that the
copyright holders of anything you own that has been made in China,
Japan or Europe, for example, would have to give you permission to
Supreme Court asks for
review of LU's challenge to healthcare act
The U.S. Supreme Court this week asked
the Department of Justice for its view on whether Liberty
University’s case against the Affordable Care Act should be heard by
a federal appeals court. . . .
The high court, which began its 2012-13 session Monday, gave
the federal government and LU 30 days to respond to the case,
Liberty University v. Geithner.
. . . The court declined to rule on the case in 2011, and
then made its landmark ruling in the spring upholding certain
provisions of the ACA. . . . Liberty Counsel, which is representing LU, said the Supreme
Court’s 2012 decision did not rule on its claims that the act
infringes on free exercise of religion and the requirement that
employers provide health insurance or pay a penalty exceeds
legislative authority.. . . Liberty Counsel’s petition asks that
those issues be considered now.
Are class action lawyers
in Arkansas snubbing SCOTUS (and CAFA)?
Over the summer, the justices of the
U.S. Supreme Court made one of the most improbable grants of
certiorari you will ever see. . .
. The timing alone was unusual. The court
granted cert in Standard Fire Insurance v. Knowles
on Aug. 31, almost a month before the first conference of the new
term on Sept. 24. But that's just the beginning of this case's
oddities. There's no split among the federal circuits on the
issue presented in Standard Fire: whether a class action
plaintiff can defeat removal to federal court under the Class Action
Fairness Act by stipulating on behalf of the entire class to seek
less than $5 million, the statutory cut-off for a state-court class
action. In fact, there couldn't possibly be a circuit split on that
question because only one appellate court, the 8th Circuit Court of
Appeals, has addressed it. And though Standard Fire comes out of 8th
Circuit turf in Arkansas, it is not even the case in which the 8th
Circuit opined on these class action damages stipulations, which
have become an oft-used tactic of plaintiffs' lawyers who want to
keep their cases in state court.
If it floats, so what?
It used to be said that the way to
identify whether a stream was navigable was whether a log would
float in it. Seems a bit old-fashioned. Perhaps it now could be
said that the way to know whether a floating structure is or is not
a “vessel” is to ask whether, if it were a styrofoam sofa, would it
float? Seems a bit silly, but that is sometimes the way it goes
when the Supreme Court Justices try to outdo each other in imagining
homely illustrations in order to make legal points. It was Justice
Stephen G. Breyer (usually to be counted upon to go from the
ridiculous to the sublime with homely examples) who wondered on
Monday about that lightweight sofa bobbing on the surface, perhaps
with a retiree sitting back and enjoying being carried along. At
least it was funnier than Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.,
wondering if an inner tube is a boat.
. . . Breyer and the Chief Justice were reacting to
Washington lawyer David C. Frederick, who had urged the Court in
Lozman v. Riviera Beach to rule that a floating
structure is a “vessel” in a legal sense “if it floats, moves, and
carries people or things on water.”
Human rights in focus at
U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court, back in
session today after its summer recess, is expected to take up a
closely watched case that could help it decide whether American
judges are empowered to hear lawsuits over human rights atrocities
abroad. . . . The nine
justices will review the reach of the Alien Tort Statute, an obscure
1789 law that was revived in the 1980s by attorneys pursuing
international human rights cases.
. . . In the past two decades more than 150 Alien Tort
Statute lawsuits, accusing U.S. and foreign corporations of
wrongdoing in more than 60 foreign countries, have been filed in
U.S. courts, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
. . . Last February, during the first oral arguments in
Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, some of the court's
conservative justices signaled a willingness to shield corporations
from liability in U.S. courts over allegations that they had aided
or acquiesced to foreign governments that abused their own people.
Column: Will court open with bad
Last term ended with contentious
health care ruling. But justices won't let animosity, as with
Congress, infect them.
Monday, it is the Supreme Court's turn
to show whether it, like the other two branches of government, has
been torn apart by Washington's climate of contentiousness. . . . This summer, a bitterly divided Congress
accomplished little and went home, while the candidates
for president have escalated their animosity in rhetoric and
advertising. . . . As the
Supreme Court returns from its summer recess on the traditional
first Monday of October, the question on many minds will be whether
the usually collegial nine justices have been bitten by the same
Six Supreme Court
justices attend Red Mass
Six of the nine Supreme Court justices attended the annual Red Mass
at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington on Sunday.
The event’s speakers spoke about using faith in decision-making but
largely stayed away from the controversial issues the court will
face in the coming months. . . .
Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice
Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Anthony Kennedy and
Justice Elena Kagan all attended the 60th annual Mass. This was
Kagan’s first Red Mass. . . . Having six justices in attendance ties a record set in
2009. The only justices to not attend this year were Sonia Sotomayor
and Samuel Alito, both of whom are Catholic, and Ruth Bader
Ginsburg, who is Jewish. Kagan and Breyer, both of whom were in
attendance, are also Jewish.
How much privacy does the
Constitution guarantee for the blood’s chemistry?
The Supreme Court, getting set for
opening its new term, decided this week that it will take a serious
look for the first time in nearly five decades at the constitutional
privacy – or not – of individual’s blood chemistry. The justices
agreed to decide whether police can order that a blood sample be
taken from a suspect, without first getting a judge’s approval to do
so. . . . It is clear,
under the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, that government analysis
of an individual’s blood or other bodily fluids is a “search” that
can only be conducted within limits. Indeed, the court remarked in a
blood search case in 1966 that “the integrity of an individual’s
person is a cherished value in our society….Search warrants are
ordinarily required…where intrusions into the body are concerned.”
U.S. Supreme Court to hear drug
dog cases from Fla.
Every dog has his day … in court.
. . . Or at least two Florida drug sniffing dogs, Franky and
Aldo, will. . . . On
Halloween, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two
separate Florida cases involving the smells picked up by drug
sniffing canines. . . .
One case involves whether a warrant is needed before a police dog
goes sniffing around the door of a possible drug house. The other
deals with the reliability of drug dogs and how much their skill is
relevant to the admissibility of evidence.
. . . In the case involving search warrants, Joelis
Jardines v. Florida, the nation's highest justices are being
asked to decide whether Franky the drug sniffing dog was violating
the constitutional rights of a Miami drug dealer when he sniffed at
his door without a warrant.
Supreme Court will hear case on
North Carolina malpractice settlement
A North Carolina family catastrophe
has landed at the Supreme Court, with potentially far-reaching
consequences for how states handle medical malpractice settlements.
. . . In a case that’s
both technical and poignant, the court agreed Tuesday to consider a
North Carolina law that state officials use to claim a portion of
the settlement funds provided to medical malpractice plaintiffs and
their loved ones. The state share can add up to a lot, millions of
dollars in some instances. . . .
The case the high court accepted involves North Carolina
officials asserting a lien on $933,333.33, one-third of the $2.8
million that Sandra and William Earl Armstrong secured in a lump-sum
medical malpractice settlement reached in 2006 on behalf of their
As new term approaches,
Supreme Court adds six cases to its docket
Getting an early start on the new
term, the U.S. Supreme Court on September 25 added six new cases to
its docket, including a case asking whether the litigation exception
to the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act protects lawyers who
use car buyers' personal information for a potential class action.
. . . The new term
officially begins on Monday, October 1, but as has been the practice
in recent years, the justices released an orders list of newly
granted petitions the day after meeting intheir summer conference.
However, in a break with tradition, the Court released the orders
list a half hour earlier than the usual 10 a.m. time. At the request
of news media, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and his colleagues
approved the earlier time in order to enable reporters who must meet
early filing deadlines on argument days to get to the courtroom in
time for the start of oral arguments at 10 a.m. The change also will
minimize past disruptions in the press section as late-arriving
reporters required shifts in seating arrangements.
Court grants appeals from 2
people without lawyers
Well-heeled clients pay tens of thousands of dollars to hit the
legal jackpot - Supreme Court review of their appeals. But on
Tuesday, the court decided to hear cases filed by two people who
couldn't afford or didn't bother to hire an attorney.
Well-heeled clients pay tens of
thousands of dollars to hit the legal jackpot - Supreme Court review
of their appeals. But on Tuesday, the court decided to hear cases
filed by two people who couldn't afford or didn't bother to hire an
attorney. . . . One was
written in pencil and submitted by an inmate at a federal prison in
Pennsylvania. The other was filed by a man with no telephone living
on Guam. . . . Neither
case seems destined to join the ranks of Gideon v. Wainwright, the
landmark 1960s case filed by a prisoner with no lawyer that
established a criminal defendant's right to a lawyer. Both show,
however, that when the court is looking to resolve finicky legal
issues and the right case shows up, it doesn't matter whether the
author of the appeal wears a natty suit or prison garb.
. . . Longtime Supreme Court practitioner Tom Goldstein
called the granting of two such lawyerless cases at the same time
"unheard of." But both cases chosen by the justices will help
resolve the ability of civilians to sue the government over claims
of improper actions of federal and military employees on the job.
Supreme Court to hear international child custody dispute
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a U.S. Army sergeant's
challenge to a lower court ruling that awarded custody of his
5-year-old daughter to her mother in Scotland under an international
. . . Jeffrey Chafin, the
sergeant, is seeking to reverse a federal appeals court decision
letting his daughter Eris remain in Scotland with her mother, Lynne
Chafin, from whom he had filed for divorce.
. . . According to court
papers, Lynne Chafin, a Scottish national, had lived with her
daughter in Scotland since 2007, apart from her husband because of
his job, and in February 2010 traveled to visit him in Madison,
Alabama, in a failed effort to save their marriage.
. . . Lynne Chafin later
returned to Scotland upon overstaying her visa and sought the return
of their daughter after an Alabama state judge awarded custody to
Supreme Court To Decide Whether Floating House Is Really A
As yachts go, Fane Lozman’s vessel was no Queen Mary. First of all,
the two-story, 60-foot boat had no name, motor or way of being
steered. She drew only 10 inches of water and had glass French doors
on three sides, making the idea of an ocean passage nonsensical.
Tied up at the dock in North Beach Village, Fla., she was the
functional equivalent of a house down to the sewer line and
electrical lines snaking onshore.
. . . That didn’t stop town
authorities from getting an order under marine law to seize the
vessel and tow it to Miami, after accusing Lozman of failing to heed
local ordinances and pay his dockage fees. Now the U.S. Supreme
Court is scheduled to decide the question of whether the term
“vessel” applies to anything that floats, or should be reserved for
things intended to move from place to place.
Chief Justice’s Stay Order Suggests Court Will Consider
Constitutionality of DNA Tests for Arrestees
An order by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is allowing
Maryland police to continue collecting DNA samples from
those who are arrested for serious crimes.
. . . Roberts said
there is a "fair prospect" that the U.S. Supreme Court will
overturn an April ruling by Maryland’s highest court, which
found the state's DNA law violated the Fourth Amendment. The
law authorizes DNA collection from individuals charged with
but not yet convicted of violent crimes and burglaries.
. . . The
Wall Street Journal (sub. req.), the
Washington Post, the
New York Times and
SCOTUSblog have stories on Roberts’
order (PDF) staying the Maryland ruling.
Supreme Court is asked to find that insanity defense is a
There’s no doubt John Joseph Delling knew what he was doing.
His carefully planned
2007 crime spree lasted weeks, covered 6,500
miles and culminated in two people dead and one seriously
. . . He had his
reasons, too. Delling, then 21, had become “a type of
Jesus,” he later explained, and the men he attacked, two of
them former classmates he had not seen in years, were
stealing his “energy.” An MRI of his brain would have
revealed the damage the men had already caused, he told
. . . “I had to
defend myself,” he said.
. . . As the nation
confronts another act of unfathomable madness, Delling’s
story is one chapter in a distressing and violent genre: the
loner who tries to impress a movie star by shooting the
president; the mother who drowns her children to save them
from damnation; the black-clad shooter
who seems to step from the movie screen to kill.
. . . But Delling’s
case presents an intriguing legal question as well. He
committed his crimes in Idaho, which is one of only four
states — Kansas, Montana and Utah are the others — in which
a defendant may not use insanity as a defense to criminal
Benefits rules eased on same-sex partners of federal
The Obama administration has
made it easier for domestic partners to get some retirement
funds, while it awaits a Supreme Court ruling on the
benefits ban for same-sex spouses of federal workers.
The Obama administration has made it easier for same-sex
domestic partners of federal employees to receive a share of
their retirement benefits, while its lawyers seek equal
benefits for legally married gay couples in the Supreme
. . . Since 1996, the
Defense of Marriage Act has barred federal agencies from
recognizing marriages between gay men or lesbians or
extending them the benefits due a married couple. But two
years ago, President Obama said this barrier did not
necessarily extend to unmarried same-sex partners, and he
told federal executives to take a close look at the rules to
see where equal benefits could be extended.
. . . On Friday, the
government announced several such rule changes. It added
"same-sex domestic partners" to the small list of those who
have an "insurable interest" in a federal employee's
retirement. Retirees can opt to provide an annuity for their
survivors. Before the rule change, the list of eligible
persons for such an annuity included a spouse or former
spouse, but not a same-sex partner.
Justice Roberts issues order in Wicomico case
Suspect's DNA collection contested in 2003 rape
A Wicomico County court case has attracted the attention of the U.S.
. . . On Wednesday evening,
Chief Justice John Roberts issued an order temporarily halting a
decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals that granted convicted
rapist Alonzo King Jr. a second chance in Wicomico County Circuit
. . . "This is good news to
the extent that this stay effectively reinstates King's conviction
as if the Court of Appeals had not yet ruled," said Wicomico County
State's Attorney Matt Maciarello. "The defendant is going to get a
chance to respond to the attorney general's motion; however, we are
optimistic that because the Supreme Court granted the stay,
preliminarily, that the court is looking at this seriously and
considering granting the writ of certiorari."
Kiobel: Made simple
Editor’s note: During the Supreme
Court’s summer recess, the blog will be publishing a series of posts
that explain, in non-legal terms, some of the most important cases
that will be decided in the new Term that starts October 1. This is
the first of those posts. It explains the case of
Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. Beginning on Monday, the
blog will also be hosting a symposium on Kiobel.
America’s very first Congress, which started meeting in 1789, passed
a law that has been given a new life in the Nation’s courts since
the 1980s as the world searched for legal ways to deal with human
rights abuses such as torture and killing that occurred around the
world. At its next Term, the Supreme Court is expected to
decide whether that law gives federal courts in the U.S. the
authority — in essence — to reach across the seas and judge
violations of international law that occur entirely in another
country. If the Justices find that the law goes that far, they are
then likely to decide whether corporations can be sued for such
human rights violations.
. . . The law is called the
Alien Tort Statute. The word “alien” means a person who is not a
U.S. citizen. Those individuals are the only ones who have a right
to file a lawsuit under that law. The word “tort” means misconduct
or wrongdoing for which the law provides a remedy. Under this old
law, foreign nationals may sue in federal courts in the U.S. for
“torts” that violate either international law or a treaty that the
U.S. has signed.
The next big Supreme Court controversy: same-sex marriage
The Supreme Court Justices have left a steaming Washington – a
summer heat wave and a searing new dispute over how they made the
health care decision – but no sooner had they departed than the next
major controversy arrived.
. . . Awaiting them at the
end of summer will be the issue of same-sex marriage, as emotionally
charged as any issue they faced even in the difficult term just
. . . As if to prolong the
partisan conflict that surrounded the health care decision,
President Obama’s Justice Department is facing off in the new cases
against the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives.
They will be jousting over the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the
1996 law that defines marriage for all federal purposes (benefits
included) as only the union of a man and a woman. More than 1,000
federal laws are involved.
Lenders in the Courthouse
If the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the conviction of a Thai-born
graduate student who allegedly made close to $1 million importing
cheaply made foreign editions of textbooks and selling them to U.S.
students on eBay, then academic libraries might not be allowed to
lend certain books and electronic materials, according to library
advocates who plan to file an amicus brief on the case today.
. . . The Library Copyright
Alliance, a consortium of three major library associations, argues
that a lower court’s ruling in
John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Supap Kirtsaeng could make
libraries liable for copyright infringement if they lend out library
books and other materials that were “not lawfully manufactured in
the United States” without purchasing expensive “lending licenses.”
(Libraries, the alliance asserts, tend to have large numbers of
foreign-made books in their collections.)
. . . Such an outcome could
give publishers greater leverage to dictate the terms under which
patrons may access copyrighted works, according to Brandon Butler,
director of public policy initiatives for the Association of
Research Libraries and co-author of the amicus brief.
Don’t call it a mandate — it’s a tax
those reading the opinions, the key section on the mandate is in
Roberts’ opinion, from pp. 33-44. That clearly has five votes behind
Salvaging the idea that Congress did have the power to try to expand
health care to virtually all Americans, the Supreme Court on
Thursday upheld the constitutionality of the crucial – and most
controversial — feature of the Affordable Care Act. By a vote of
5-4, however, the Court did not sustain it as a command for
Americans to buy insurance, but as a tax if they don’t. That is the
way Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., was willing to vote for it,
and his view prevailed. The other Justices split 4-4, with four
wanting to uphold it as a mandate, and four opposed to it in any
. . . Since President Obama
signed the new law, it has been understood by almost everyone that
the expansion of health care coverage to tens of millions of
Americans without it could work — economically — only if the health
insurance companies were guaranteed a large pool of customers. The
mandate to buy health insurance by 2014 was the method Congress
chose to supply that pool. It is not immediately clear whether the
Court’s approach will produce as large a pool of new customers.
The ACA’s key provision amounts to an invitation to buy insurance,
rather than an order to do so, with a not-very-big tax penalty for
Supreme Court: Lying about military medals is protected by
The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a federal law that made it
a crime to falsely claim being awarded a top military honor, saying
the law smacked of an Orwellian Truth Ministry and threatened free
. . . The court invalidated
the Stolen Valor Act, under which a California man, Xavier Alvarez,
54, was convicted for claiming falsely in 2007 that he had been
awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor.
. . . But Alvarez’s attorneys
convinced a lower court that his untruths were protected by the
First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. And Thursday, the
Supreme Court agreed in a 6 to 3 decision.
. . . “Lying was his habit,”
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote of Alvarez. He “lied when he said
that he played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings and that he once
married a starlet from Mexico.”
Supreme Court to Decide Class Certification Issue; Expert
Says Case Could Be ‘the Big One’
The U.S. Supreme Court has granted cert in a suit alleging antitrust
violations by Comcast Corp. that could make it more difficult for
plaintiffs to bring class actions in federal courts.
. . . At issue in Comcast v.
Behrend is whether a district can certify a class action without
resolving whether the plaintiffs have introduced admissible evidence
showing damages can be awarded on a classwide basis, report
Reuters and the
Philadelphia Inquirer. The Supreme Court granted cert on
Scalia takes swipe at Obama immigration action
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested Monday that the
Framers of the Constitution would have “rushed to the exits” if
presented with the idea behind President Barack Obama’s recent
decision not to enforce certain immigration laws.
. . . The Supreme Court’s
decision to strike down most of the key provisions of Arizona’s SB
1070 immigration law “boggles the mind” in light of the Obama policy
shift, Scalia added.
. . . Speaking in dissent of
most of the court’s rulings on Arizona’s immigration law, Scalia
took a clear swipe in his remarks at the Obama administration’s new
policy ending deportations of many young adults brought into the
country illegally — which was not part of the Arizona case.
. . . “The president has said
that the new program is ‘the right thing to do’ in light of
Congress’s failure to pass the administration’s proposed revision of
the immigration laws,” Scalia said. “Perhaps it is, though Arizona
might not think so.”
Supreme Court to Review Rules for Supervisor in Job-Bias Suits
The U.S. Supreme Court will settle a dispute about who can be
considered a workplace supervisor for purposes of a federal
. . .
The justices today agreed to
consider an appeal by a black Ball State University catering worker,
whose discrimination claim against the school was thrown out after a
federal appeals court said her alleged harasser didn’t qualify as a
supervisor. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employer can be
held liable if a supervisor discriminates against an employee based
on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
. . .
Maetta Vance sued Ball State
alleging that a co-worker in the Muncie, Indiana, university’s
banquet and catering department -- described as a salaried employee
who functioned as a supervisor -- had slapped her, threatened her
and referred to her using racial epithets.
Supreme Court strengthens Citizens United decision with
The Supreme Court on Monday reaffirmed the right of corporations to
make independent political expenditures, summarily overturning a
100-year-old Montana state law that barred corporations from such
. . . The justices ruled in
an unsigned opinion that Montana's law was in conflict with the
court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which shifted the campaign
finance landscape, opening the door to the massive political
expenditures that have been shaping this year's presidential race.
The decision was 5-4, split along ideological lines.
. . . Despite the Citizens
United decision, the Montana Supreme Court had refused to strike
down the state's ban on election spending by corporations. Its
judges cited Montana's history of "copper kings" who bribed
legislators. Advocates of campaign finance reform had hoped that the
current wave of election-related spending would help make their case
for the need to reconsider Citizens United.
Supreme Court rejects much of Arizona immigration law
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected much of Arizona’s controversial
immigration law, but upheld other provisions, giving a partial
victory to the Obama administration.
. . . The court ruled that
Arizona cannot make it a misdemeanor for immigrants to fail to carry
identification that says whether they are in the United States
legally; cannot make it a crime for undocumented immigrations to
apply for a job; and cannot arrest someone based solely on the
suspicion that the person is in this country illegally.
. . . However, the court let
stand the part of the law that requires police to check the
immigration status of anyone they detain, if there is “reasonable
suspicion” that the person is unlawfully in the United States. Even
there, though, the justices said the provision could be subject to
additional legal challenges. The court said it was “improper” for
the federal government to block the provision before state courts
have a chance to interpret it and without determining whether it
conflicts with federal immigration law in practice.
Life Sentences for Young Murderers Limited by High Court
A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can’t impose
mandatory life-without-parole sentences on juveniles who are
convicted of taking part in a murder.
. . .
The justices, voting 5-4, said
states violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual
punishment when they don’t allow for the option of a shorter
. . .
Juvenile sentencing has been an area
of concern for the nation’s highest court over the past decade. In
2005, the court outlawed the death penalty for juveniles, saying
their lack of maturity made them “categorically less culpable than
the average criminal.” In 2010, the court extended that reasoning to
bar life-without-parole sentences for youths convicted of a crime
other than murder.
At the Court, four more down, five to go
With decisions ranging from broadcast indecency to union fees and
corporate fines, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way
for the term's biggest and likely most controversial rulings to come
. . .
The justices issued four opinions,
including a narrow ruling in the long-awaited challenge to the
indecency regulations of the Federal Communications Commission:
FCC v. Fox, which was argued more than five months
ago. After Thursday's rulings, five cases remain (counting
healthcare and life without parole for juvenile murders as one
each). The Court will return on Monday and may schedule an
additional decision day that week.
. . .
In the world of appellate practice,
Thursday was a big day for Sidley Austin's co-chair and veteran
advocate Carter Phillips, who won two cases – following on the heels
of a win on Monday in an Indian contracts case. Phillips has argued
76 times before the high court, more than any lawyer currently in
private practice. "I don't think I have ever won three in a week
before but it feels very good," Phillips said Thursday afternoon.
Supreme Court rules against union on nonmember fees
U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that free-speech
rights require that a union provide a separate notice allowing
nonmembers to object before imposing a special extra fee to raise
funds for political or other purposes.
. . . By a 7-2 vote, the
justices ruled for a group of California workers who sued to stop
Service Employees International Union from collecting
extra money from those nonmembers who did not want to pay the fee.
. . . The majority opinion
written by Justice Samuel Alito cited the free-speech rights under
the Constitution's First Amendment and said there was no
justification for the union's failure to provide a new notice for
nonmembers. . . . When a public-sector union imposes a special
assessment or dues increase to meet expenses not previously
disclosed, it must provide a new notice and cannot collect any funds
from nonmembers without their approval, he said.
Opinion recap: TV indecency policy awaits next round
The federal government’s battered policy against what it considers
to be “indecent” programming on television has weathered two
showdowns in the Supreme Court in the past three years. But, on
Thursday, the Court impliedly posed a question: whether that Federal
Communications Commission policy — if left as is — would survive a
third such encounter. The signals were not promising for the FCC.
. . . The new ruling in
FCC v. Fox Television Stations, et al. (10-1293), of course, did
not strike down the policy. It nullified specific orders by the FCC
enforcing its policy, and avoided the First Amendment issue
altogether. FCC thus does retain the option of going right ahead to
regulate broadcasts of single uses of four-letter words and
momentary glimpses of provocative nudity, as if nothing had
changed. It also has the option of reconsidering, but anything new
it writes will again be tested constitutionally, so either way,
there will be a third round.
Supreme Court Refuses to Say S*** About Legality of Cursing
The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside indecency rulings against
Fox and ABC for airing fleeting expletives and nudity on the public
airwaves, but declined to rule on the constitutionality of decency
standards for broadcast television and radio.
. . . The case was being
closely watched because the high court was in a position to decide
whether decency standards for broadcast television and radio
breached the First Amendment. Opponents argue the rules are
unnecessary because of the ubiquity of cable and satellite
programming not covered by the standards.
. . . But the justices punted
on that hot-button constitutional issue and instead ruled on narrow,
procedural grounds in an 8-0 decision with Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Supreme Court extends more lenient penalties in crack
U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday extended more lenient
penalties of a new law for crack and powder cocaine to criminals
convicted but not yet sentenced when the law took effect, a ruling
that could affect thousands of defendants.
. . . By a 5-4 vote, the high
court ruled for two men convicted of crack cocaine crimes, but
sentenced after the 2010 measure became law. Congress changed the
law due to concerns that the longer prison terms were racially
biased and unfair.
. . . The Fair Sentencing
Act, signed by President Barack Obama on Aug. 3, 2010, sharply
reduced the difference between sentences for crimes committed by
crack cocaine users, who tend to be black, and powder cocaine users,
who tend to be white.
. . . The disparity was
reduced to about an 18-to-1 ratio, compared with the prior law which
treated 100 grams of powder cocaine as the equivalent of one gram of
crack cocaine, or a 100-to-1 ratio.
In hazardous-waste case, justices rule juries must decide
The Supreme Court ruled today that a jury should get to decide how
much a natural gas distribution company should have to pay in
criminal fines for illegally storing mercury at a Rhode Island
. . . Split 6-3, the court
found that juries, not judges, have to make factual findings that
determine how much a criminal fine will be. That includes the
question of how long a violation occurred in situations in which
fines are imposed on a per-day basis.
. . . The case, which
involves a prosecution under the Resource Conservation and Recovery
Act (RCRA), is likely to affect the way the government handles
prosecutions of companies under a wide range of statutes, including
other environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act.
Sotomayor Supports Cert for Defendant Convicted Without Notice of
Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued on Monday that the U.S. Supreme Court
should have granted cert in the case of a man convicted after notice
of trial was sent to the wrong address.
. . . The defendant, William
Fairey, was tried and convicted in absentia in South Carolina after
his arrest on a charge of obtaining goods and money under false
pretenses, Sotomayor wrote in a
dissent (PDF) from the court’s cert denial. Fairey was
sentenced to eight years in prison.
. . . Fairey had informed the
court of new addresses in California and Florida, but the subpoena
for trial was sent only to addresses in California and South
Carolina. The Florida address was Fairey's most recent residence,
and his most recent motion to the court had provided only the
Florida address. He never received actual notice of trial.
Supreme Court split over defendants’ rights to confront lab analysts
A fractured Supreme Court on Monday took a tentative step away from
its recent decisions that said criminal defendants have the right to
confront technicians and analysts who prepare crime-lab reports used
. . . The
5 to 4 decision upheld the rape conviction of an Illinois
man. But it exposed the divisions on a court that is trying, as
Justice Elena Kagan noted, to apply the 18th-century right to
confront one’s accusers with 21st-century evidence such as DNA
. . . In the end, the
justices split in ways that scramble the court’s usual ideological
. . . Justice Samuel A. Alito
Jr., joined by two of his fellow conservative justices and one
liberal, gave prosecutors more leeway in presenting laboratory
reports without making analysts testify to their accuracy.
Supreme Court says drug company representatives are ‘salesmen’
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that drug company representatives
paid to persuade doctors to prescribe their products should be
considered “salesmen,” a distinction that could save the
pharmaceuticals industry billions of dollars in overtime pay.
. . . The court’s five
conservatives said the representatives qualified as “outside
salesman,” a Labor Department classification that protects their
employers from paying overtime.
. . .
There are about 90,000 such workers,
and drug companies said they could face paying billions of dollars
in overtime pay if the Supreme Court had ruled them something other
than sales representatives.
. . . The workers “bear all
of the external indicia of salesmen,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
wrote for a majority that included Chief Justice John G.
Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and
U.S. urges narrowing human rights claims
The Obama Administration urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to
close the U.S. courts to most lawsuits involving claims that a
foreign corporation helped a foreign government engage in human
rights abuses in that country. While arguing that the door to
American courts should be left somewhat ajar to allow some abuse
claims, the options that would remain would appear to be quite
narrow, with a variety of legal hurdles to overcome. The
government’s new reaction to lawsuits under the Alien Tort Statute,
first enacted in 1789, was
expressed in a brief filed in
Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (docket 10-1491).
That specific lawsuit, the brief argued, should not be permitted.
. . . That case, heard by the
Justices in February, is due to be reheard in the new Term starting
October 1. The new issue to be explored then — a question raised by
the Court itself in March– is whether and under what circumstances
an ATS lawsuit should be allowed based on international law
violations that had occurred in a foreign land. Technically, that
is the issue of “extraterritorial application” of the ATS.
Previously, the Kiobel case had focused only on whether corporations
could be sued in U.S. courts under the ATS for foreign violations of
Corporate Cash in State Elections Gets U.S. High Court Scrutiny
The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to reopen the debate over a 2010
ruling that unleashed super-PACs and left federal elections awash in
money from big spenders.
. . .
The justices may say as soon as next
week whether they will review, or even overturn, a century-old
Montana ban on corporate campaign spending, a law enacted to stop
copper moguls from buying influence over the state’s politicians.
. . .
The court two years ago
altered the national political landscape with its ruling in
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which
gave companies and unions the right to spend unlimited sums on
elections. Outside spending on federal races is more than
double what it was four years ago.
Justices Tighten Screws on Circuit Courts Over AEDPA
For the second time this year, the U.S. Supreme Court has summarily
rejected a holding of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third
Circuit in a habeas case, shoring up what some legal observers see
as a trend in the high court.
. . .
The justices have been routinely
reversing circuit courts in habeas cases, citing a lack of deference
to state courts and often invoking the Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act.
. . .
In a unanimous per curiam decision
May 29, the Supreme Court reversed the Third Circuit on its grant of
habeas corpus to Lorenzo Johnson, who was convicted of conspiring in
the murder of a man in 1995, the year before Congress passed the
Supreme Court scolds 6th Circuit in habeas case
Using unusually impatient language, the Supreme Court on Monday
reversed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit
that set aside two Kentucky murder convictions based on what the
high court said were "the flimsiest of rationales."
. . . The Supreme Court's per
curiam decision in Parker v. Matthews also in effect pulled
rank on the 6th Circuit, scolding it for "consulting its own
precedents, rather than those of this Court" in assessing the
reasonableness of the Kentucky Supreme Court's decision in the case.
The unsigned opinion said the 6th Circuit's decision amounted to
"plain and repetitive error."
. . . Adding insult to
injury, the Court on Monday also sent a separate habeas case,
Howes v. Moore, back to the 6th Circuit for reconsideration in
light of Parker v. Matthews.
Justices Decline Review of Religious Speech Case
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to step into a thorny case
involving the free-speech rights of elementary school students and
the potential legal liability of school administrators who try to
limit religious speech.
. . . The justices refused to
review a ruling by a federal appeals court that elementary school
students have First Amendment free-speech rights to discuss religion
with their classmates, but that administrators involved in the case
were immune from liability because those rights were not clearly
. . . The appeal stems from a
long-running lawsuit over several incidents in which administrators
in the Plano, Texas, school district allegedly barred students from
distributing items such as religious-themed candy canes or pencils
with messages like "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" or "Jesus
loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."
Supreme Court Rejects ‘Dirty Bomber’ Case
The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a lower court decision that
said federal officials cannot be sued for damages for the torture of
Americans on U.S. soil.
. . . Without comment, the
justices set aside a
petition (.pdf) from
Jose Padilla, the so-called “dirty bomber.” Padilla
claims high-ranking Defense Department officials and others are
liable for developing “the global detention and interrogation
policies” that paved the way for his torture while he was secretly
held without charges at a Navy brig in South Carolina for more than
. . . The 4th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in January
ruled that the judiciary had no role in the matter.
Supreme Court Declines Guantanamo Bay Cases: It's Been 4
Years Of Silence
The Supreme Court on Monday denied review in the cases of several
Guantanamo Bay detainees, likely closing off for good the prospect
of continued oversight of the executive branch's handling of the
prison camp that had been held out in a landmark decision four years
. . The cases came up from
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, whose judges at
times have been openly contemptuous of the Supreme Court's June 2008
Boumediene v. Bush. The D.C. Circuit judges have
refused to order the release of a single detainee brought to
Guantanamo in the months and years following al Qaeda's Sept. 11,
2001, attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
City Tax Flexibility Backed by U.S. Supreme Court in Ruling
The U.S. Supreme Court buttressed the flexibility cities and states
have to make changes in their financing systems, ruling in favor of
Indianapolis in a tax fight with a group of homeowners.
. . .
The justices, voting 6-3, said the
city didn’t violate the Constitution when it forgave sewer-system
debt owed by some homeowners while refusing to give refunds to those
who had already paid.
. . .
“The Constitution does not require
the city to draw the perfect line nor even to draw a line superior
to some other line it might have drawn,” Justice Stephen Breyer
wrote for the court. “It requires only that the line actually draw
be a rational line.”
Supreme Court protects Secret Service agents guarding Cheney
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that Secret Service
agents are shielded from a lawsuit brought
by a man who said his free speech rights were violated
when he was arrested after confronting then-Vice President Dick
. . . The court took a narrow
path in finding for agents Virgil D. “Gus” Reichle Jr. and Dan
Doyle. Although the government wanted broad protection for Secret
Service agents who are protecting the nation’s leaders, the court
ruled only that the two men could not be sued because the state of
the law was unclear when Steven Howards was arrested in 2006 at a
Colorado shopping center.
. . . Government officials
generally have immunity from civil lawsuits unless they violate
rights that are “clearly established,” so that an official
understands that “what he is doing violates that right,” Justice
wrote for the court.
Campaign donations convictions stand
Staying out of the increasingly controversial use of the criminal
law to police political campaign donations, the Supreme Court chose
on Monday to leave undisturbed the convictions of an ex-governor and
a campaign contributor who sought to test the issue anew. The
action had no direct connection to the recent case of the failed
criminal prosecution of former presidential candidate John Edwards,
but that case has added to the legal controversy. The Court took no
action Monday on any of the seven new cases filed by Guantanamo Bay
prisoners, leaving those to be rescheduled.
. . . The Court granted
review of one new case,
Bailey v. United States (docket 11-770), that will
clarify the authority of police to detain a suspect while they are
waiting to carry out a search warrant. The specific issue is
whether police may hold a suspect who has left the place where a
search is to be carried out, and is then kept in custody until the
search is completed. Federal and state courts are split on the
issue, which involves the interpretation of the Supreme Court’s 1981
Michigan v. Summers.
High court allows Siegelman, Scrushy corruption convictions to
The public corruption and bribery convictions of former Alabama Gov.
Don Siegelman and HealthSouth CEO and founder Richard Scrushy will
stand after the Supreme Court rejected their separate appeals
. . . The men were convicted
in a political payback scheme. A jury found the governor had named
Scrushy to a state regulatory board in exchange for $500,000 in
. . . After years of
litigation, the justices in an unsigned order allowed the criminal
convictions to stand.
. . . The specific question
was whether a campaign contribution can constitute bribery if the
contribution was not made in "explicit" exchange for a promise of an
official act. Lawyers for the defendants said it cannot in their
failed appeal to the high court.
'Influence, gratitude, access not corruption'
The U.S. Supreme Court will go behind closed doors June 14 to decide
what to do about Montana's cheeky slap at Citizens United vs. FEC,
the high court ruling that opened the gates to hundreds of millions
in corporate independent political expenditures.
. . . Those expenditures even
now are funding an endless stream of attack ads on the air waves and
elsewhere, and the huge Republican advantage in raising those funds
from corporations, secret non-profits and individuals could hand
Mitt Romney the presidential election.
. . . Behind those closed
doors, the nine justices could decide to hear argument and review
the Montana Supreme Court decision upholding that state's ban on
corporate political contributions -- despite the instructions in
. . . They could let the
state court ruling stand -- highly unlikely. They could put the
decision off to a later conference. Or they could "summarily
reverse" the state court ruling, undoing the Montana Supreme Court
decision without hearing argument.
Total DUI is a
Supreme Court won't review police Taser use cases
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday let stand a ruling that police
used excessive force when they shot a Taser stun gun on a
seven-month pregnant woman and on a wife involved in a domestic
. . . The justices declined
to review a ruling by a the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in
California that found the constitutional rights of the women to be
violated because they did not pose a threat to the safety of the
. . . The appeals court
ruling was mixed, as it also held that the officers had immunity
because the law on the use of stun guns was not clearly established
at the time of the 2004 and 2006 incidents.
. . . The Supreme Court cases
had drawn attention because more police officers nationwide now use
stun guns and there have been a growing number of lawsuits seeking
damages over use of the devices that incapacitate people through a
jolt of electricity.
Court: Judges shouldn't have overturned conviction
The Supreme Court has overturned an appeals court decision that
would have released a Pennsylvania man convicted of helping to kill
a woman in an alley nearly two decades ago.
. . . A federal appeals court
ruled that there wasn't enough evidence to uphold the conviction of
Lorenzo Johnson. Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder and
conspiracy as an accomplice in the December 1995 shotgun murder of
. . . The 3rd U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals said the evidence at trial was insufficient to
prove that Johnson intended the victim's death, and a federal judge
ordered Johnson's release.
Supreme Court to Decide Whether Losing Plaintiffs Must Pay Costs
in Fair Debt Collection Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a collection
agency that wins dismissal of a federal fair debt collection suit
can collect costs without a showing of bad faith or harassment by
. . . The Supreme Court
granted cert today,
. . . The plaintiff, student
debtor Olivea Marx, had contended that the General Revenue Corp.
violated federal law by faxing her employer a form seeking
employment information with “Sallie Mae” listed in the subject line,
according to the
cert petition (PDF).
Spying on the American public
U.S. Supreme Court should hear argument in a case central to the law
that allows spying on U.S. citizens without a warrant in the name of
counter-terrorism, just as a partisan Congress decides whether to
renew the law later this year.
The U.S. Supreme Court should hear argument in a case central to the
law that allows spying on citizens in the United States without a
warrant in the name of counter-terrorism just as a partisan Congress
decides whether to renew the law.
. . . The justices have
agreed to hear argument next term on whether a group of
organizations and individuals has "standing" to challenge the latest
version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. To challenge a
government practice or law as unconstitutional, you to have
"standing." You acquire standing -- the right to sue -- by showing
. . . In the simplest terms,
the law allows the government to eavesdrop on U.S. electronic
communications -- phone calls, e-mails and other forms -- without a
warrant in the United States as long as one end of the communication
is outside the United States.
U.S. Supreme Court: Jacksonville man can be tried again
The U.S. Supreme Court this morning affirmed an Arkansas Supreme
Court decision that will allow the state to retry Alex Blueford of
Jacksonville on capital murder charges.
. . .
Blueford’s first trial, in the 2008
death of 20-month-old Matthew McFadden Jr., ended in a mistrial
after jurors reached an impasse over manslaughter charges. The
jury’s foreman had earlier told the judge the panel had voted
unanimously to dismiss capital murder and first-degree murder
. . .
The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled
last year that Blueford should be retried on the original murder
charges. Clifford Sloan, an attorney representing Blueford, appealed
to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the Constitution protected
Blueford from being tried twice for the same crime.
Supreme Court Rules Against Homeowners Who Sued Quicken Loans
over Alleged Unearned Fees
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled for Quicken Loans in a suit filed
by three couples who claim they were charged “unearned fees” at
closing in violation of federal law.
. . . In a unanimous
opinion (PDF), the court ruled that the federal law bars
unearned fees only when they are part of a fee-sharing arrangement.
At issue was Section 2607(b) of the Real Estate Settlement
Procedures Act, which provides that no one may accept "any portion,
split, or percentage" of any closing charges "other than for
services actually performed.”
. . . Two of the couples
claimed they were charged loan discount fees of around $1,000, but
they did not get lower interest rates in return, according to the
opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia. Another couple took issue with a
$575 “loan processing fee” and a “loan origination” fee of more than
Court: Children conceived after father's death not entitled to
In a case at the intersection of law and modern reproductive
technology, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that state
inheritance laws will determine whether children conceived after
their fathers' death are eligible for Social Security survivors
. . .
The justices in a unanimous decision
said twins conceived by Karen Capato through in vitro fertilization
after her husband's death from cancer did not qualify for survivor
benefits because of Florida's intestacy law.
. . .
In Astrue v. Capato, the justices
examined the interplay of several sections of the Social Security
Act. Although Robert and Karen Capato's children met the definition
of "child" under act, the Court found they did not meet the act's
requirements for family status in order to qualify for survivor
benefits. One of those requirements was whether the children could
inherit under the intestacy law of their father's residence at
. . .
Robert Capato died in Florida and
that state's intestacy law permits children born posthumously to
inherit only if conceived during the decedent's lifetime.
. . .
The high court ruling overturns a
decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.
Supreme Court Rules Immigrants Can’t Avoid Deportation Based on
Length of Parents’ Stay
Two immigrants who came to the United States as children have failed
to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court that they should be able to use
the length of their parents’ stay and legal residency here to avoid
deportation for criminal offenses.
. . . Justice Elena Kagan
wrote the unanimous
opinion (PDF) rejecting
the claims of Carlos Gutierrez, accused of smuggling
three minors into the country, and Damien Sawyers, convicted of a
In interpreter fight, Alito scours the dictionaries
It was the term's battle of the dictionaries, and it ended with a
rare flash of humor from a justice on the bench.
. . .
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday
held that fees for translating documents in federal lawsuits are not
among the costs that may be awarded to the prevailing parties.
. . .
The federal Court
Interpreters Act includes "compensation of interpreters" among a
number of types of costs that courts may award. However, the act
does not define "interpreter."
. . .
Writing for a 6-3 majority in
Taniguchi v. Kan Pacific Saipan, Justice Samuel Alito said the
ordinary meaning of "interpreter" is one who translates orally from
one language to another.
. . .
"We are gratified that the Court
recognized the properly limited scope of the provision of the costs
statute governing interpreters," said Michael Fried of Jones Day,
who argued the case for Kouichi Taniguchi.
Who gets to keep shipwreck treasure? Supreme Court declines Spain
Lower courts ruled that $500 million in coins that US treasure
hunters had recovered belongs to Spain. The Supreme Court turned
away the salvagers’ appeal Monday.
The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the appeal of
American treasure hunters who were forced earlier this year to
surrender $500 million in silver and gold coins they recovered from
the wreck of a Spanish warship 3,000 feet deep in international
. . . The high court took the
action without comment.
. . . A federal judge in
Tampa, Fla., and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta
ordered Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. of Tampa to surrender the
coins and other artifacts to Spain.
. . . The courts ruled that
the recovered cargo had come from the Spanish frigate Mercedes,
which exploded and sank in 1804 while returning from South America.
The ship’s remains and its cargo were the sovereign property of
Spain, the courts said.
A Ticket, 3 Taser Jolts and, Perhaps, a Trip to the Supreme
There have been many hundreds of varied rulings in the lower courts
on when the use of Taser stun guns by the police amounts to
excessive force, and sooner or later the Supreme Court will have to
bring order to this area of the law. Next week, the justices are
scheduled to decide whether to hear an appeal from three Seattle
police officers who say they are worried about the future of what
they call “a useful pain technique.”
. . .
The case involves Malaika Brooks,
who was seven months pregnant and driving her 11-year-old son to
school in Seattle when she was pulled over for speeding. The police
say she was going 32 miles per hour in a school zone; the speed
limit was 20.
. . .
Ms. Brooks said she would accept a
ticket but drew the line at signing it, which state law required at
the time. Ms. Brooks thought, wrongly, that signing was an
acknowledgment of guilt.
. . .
Refusing to sign was a crime, and
the two officers on the scene summoned a sergeant, who instructed
them to arrest Ms. Brooks. She would not get out of her car.
Total Injury is a
Supreme Court to follow up on immigration lawyer case
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide how broadly to
apply its two-year old ruling that immigrants have a constitutional
right to effective assistance of counsel and must be told about
possible deportation stemming from a guilty plea.
. . . The justices said they
would consider whether its March 31, 2010, ruling would apply
retroactively to previous convictions or would only to convictions
after that date. Defense lawyers said in their Supreme Court appeal
that the issue has profound practical significance.
. . . In its original ruling,
the Supreme Court decided by a 7-2 vote that an immigrant's
constitutional right to effective counsel was violated when his
attorney mistakenly told him he could plead guilty to drug charges
without being deported.
. . .Immigrant rights
advocates said at the time the decision could potentially affect
thousands of immigrants every year.
Arizona immigration law may get Supreme Court support
The Supreme Court appeared ready on Wednesday to support at least
part of Arizona's controversial immigration law, in spite of pleas
by the Obama administration to keep the federal government as the
predominant force in setting immigration policy.
. . . The politically charged
case of Arizona v. United States drew crowds and interest
both inside and outside the Court, rivaling last month's landmark
arguments in the Affordable Care Act cases. After Wednesday's
arguments were over, shouting protesters in front of the Court
forced the media stakeout into retreat onto the Court's marble plaza
when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a supporter of the law, was about to
. . . Inside the Court
chamber, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. was under intense
scrutiny after what some saw as a faltering performance in defense
of the health care law in March. While still soft-spoken and
cautious in his delivery, Verrilli seemed by the end of his time to
make his arguments in favor of federal supremacy, in spite of
hostile questioning, most notably from Justice Antonin Scalia.
Government's Error Leads to Shift in Deportation Practices
The Justice Department said Tuesday that it inadvertently misled the
Supreme Court in January 2009 by asserting that officials routinely
"facilitate" the return of erroneously deported immigrants, but it
said new procedures would now ensure that the government's practices
matched its earlier assertions.
. . . The issue mainly
involves lawful U.S. residents the government seeks to deport,
typically because they have been convicted of a crime. The
government often deports such people while their immigration appeals
are pending in federal court.
. . . In a letter to the
court Tuesday, the solicitor general's office made a rare admission:
It said it had to "clarify and correct" the 2009 statement. The
office said it had wrongly implied that the government had
systematic procedures to ensure deported immigrants who win their
appeals can return to the U.S.
. . . Chief Justice John
Roberts cited that assertion in a decision finding that deportation
while an appeal was still pending didn't necessarily impose
irreparable harm on immigrants.
High Court Limits IRS Time to Challenge Tax Shelters
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Internal Revenue Service in
a decision that may prevent the collection of $1 billion from people
who used a tax shelter popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
. . .
The justices, voting 5-4,
said the IRS has only three years to challenge so-called Son-of-BOSS
tax shelters. Lower courts had disagreed on the question, with some
saying the IRS had up to six years.
. . .
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the
court that the case is governed by a 1958 high court decision that
interpreted “identical” language in an earlier version of the law.
. . .
“It would be difficult,
perhaps impossible, to give the same language here a different
interpretation without effectively overruling” that decision, Breyer
High court says Colo. inmate can pursue appeal
The Supreme Court says federal courts cannot throw out a criminal
defendant's appeal for missing a deadline when state officials do
not object to the overdue filing.
. . . The court on Tuesday
unanimously reversed a ruling by the federal appeals court in Denver
that dismissed a convicted murderer's appeal of his life sentence
because it was filed too late.
. . . Patrick Wood was
convicted of first-degree murder following the killing of a pizza
shop assistant manager in 1986. Colorado officials said they would
not challenge his failure to meet a court deadline for filing
paperwork. But the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals enforced the
deadline and threw out Wood's appeal.
Torture Suits Against Companies Blocked by Top U.S. Court
The U.S. Supreme Court limited the reach of a law that protects
American citizens from torture in other countries, ruling that
victims can sue only individuals, not organizations or corporations.
. . .
The justices unanimously
threw out a suit filed against the Palestinian Authority and
Palestine Liberation Organization by the relatives of Azzam Rahim,
an American allegedly tortured and murdered in the West Bank during
. . .
The ruling is a prelude to a dispute
the court will take up in its next term, when it will use a case
Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) to consider the scope of a
similar law that applies to non-citizens, the Alien Tort Statute.
Supreme Court weighs whether law reducing crack cocaine sentences is
It was in a rare burst of bipartisanship that Congress in 2010
passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which attempted to close the
sentencing gap between those convicted of crack cocaine offenses,
who tend to be black, and those with powdered cocaine offenses, who
tend to be white.
. . . But Congress left a key
bit of the legislation unexplained: whether the reduced sentences
for crack should apply to those who committed their crimes before
the law took effect but who were not sentenced until afterward.
. . . An
hour-long argument at the Supreme Court on Tuesday did not
seem to produce a definitive answer.
. . . Lawmakers intended for
the new sentencing structure to take effect immediately, said
Stephen B. Eberhardt, a lawyer arguing for two Illinois men who did
not receive the benefits of the measure even though they were
sentenced after President Obama signed it in August 2010.
Supreme Court reverses 9th Circuit to shield private lawyers
The Supreme Court has shielded private lawyers and possibly others
working for cities, counties and school districts from being sued
for violating the rights of citizens and employees.
. . . A 9-0 decision
announced Tuesday blocks a lawsuit against a Southern California
attorney who was accused of ordering an illegal search of a
. . . A judge had shielded
the fire chief of the Inland Empire city of Rialto and two fire
department inspectors from being sued for the allegedly illegal
search under the rule that gives public employees a “qualified
immunity” from suits when they are doing their jobs. But the U.S.
9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that this governmental immunity
did not extend to Steve Filarsky, a private lawyer who advised the
city on conducting internal investigations.
At high court, big pharma finds overtime case a tough pill to
In arguments Monday in the U.S. Supreme Court, the pharmaceutical
industry warned of "massive retroactive liability" if their sales
representatives are not exempt from federal overtime pay
. . .
In Christopher v. SmithKline
Beecham, the justices took up the question of whether pharmaceutical
sales reps, who promote but do not sell their company's drugs to
doctors, are "outside salesmen" exempt from minimum wage and
overtime pay requirements in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
. . .
"Ultimately the decision
whether to go one way or another on this issue has remarkable
significance for retroactive imposition of liability," said Paul
Clement of Washington, D.C.'s Bancroft, counsel to SmithKline
Supreme Court Grants Cert in Copyright Case Involving EBay Sales
of Texts Bought Overseas
After splitting 4-4 in a case involving discounted Omega watches,
the U.S. Supreme Court is revisiting copyright protections for gray
market goods in a case accepted today.
. . . This time the case
involves discounted textbooks purchased cheaply overseas then resold
in the United States,
SCOTUSblog reports. The case will be heard next term.
. . . Supap Kirtsaeng claims
the Copyright Act’s first-sale doctrine protects him from an
infringement suit by textbook publisher John Wiley & Sons. The
doctrine holds that copyright holders can’t stop the resales of
Supreme Court to hear Ariz. pharmaceutical case
pits drugmakers, sales reps over OT
A Mesa-based law firm will bring a case before the U.S. Supreme
Court this week that could answer whether 90,000 pharmaceutical
sales representatives nationwide are eligible for overtime pay.
. . . The case, petitioned on
behalf of former Gilbert residents Michael Shane Christopher and
Frank Buchanan against pharmaceutical giant SmithKline
Beecham/GlaxoSmithKline, centers on whether pharmaceutical sales
representatives are eligible for overtime pay under the Fair Labor
. . . The nation's high court
also will address whether the U.S. Department of Labor has the
authority to interpret its own regulations for overtime pay. The
ruling could broadly impact businesses in other industries, too.
Arkansas Can Fight for $5.7M Flooding Award
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to review whether the federal
government should cover millions of dollars in Arkansas flooding
. . . The dispute involves
the deaths of many oak trees on a 23,000-acre wildlife-management
area in Arkansas. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission attributes
these dead trees fatally saturated the root systems caused by
increased flooding of the Black River.
. . . The Army Corps of
Engineers acknowledged that it had released more water than planned
from the Clearwater Dam between 1993 and 2000, but it claimed that
the trees were killed by causes other than flooding.
. . . After an 11-day trial
in 2009, the claims court found the government responsible for an
unconstitutional taking of the commission's property. It
ordered the government to pay more than $5.6 million for
the dead trees and more than $176,000 for a regeneration program "to
address areas severely affected by invasive wetland species.
Supreme Court Upholds Strip Search of Man Arrested for Unpaid Fines,
Emphasizes Jailhouse Security
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the strip search of a New Jersey
man arrested on a warrant for a minor offense.
. . . The defendant, Albert
Florence, was stopped for speeding in March 2005 and arrested on an
outstanding warrant for unpaid traffic fines. The warrant was in
error; Florence had paid the fines. His lawyer
had argued searches at two detention centers violated the
Fourth Amendment, since the arrest was for a minor crime and there
was no reasonable suspicion for the search.
. . . The court ruled for
detention officials in a 5-4
opinion (PDF). The searches, which did not involve
touching by jail officials, “struck a reasonable balance between
inmate privacy and the needs of the institutions,” Justice Anthony
M. Kennedy wrote for the majority.
Government Witnesses Who Lie to Grand Juries Are Protected from
Civil Suits, Supreme Court Says
An investigator accused of lying to a grand jury has the same
immunity from civil suit as a witness at trial, the U.S. Supreme
Court has ruled.
. . . Justice Samuel A. Alito
Jr. wrote the unanimous
opinion (PDF). He said factors justifying absolute immunity
for trial witnesses also apply to grand jury witnesses. In both
contexts, fear of litigation could make witnesses reluctant to
testify. And in both cases, witnesses who lie could be prosecuted
. . . Alito pointed out that
a contrary ruling could encourage suits designed to discover the
identities of grand jury witnesses. “Especially in cases involving
violent criminal organizations or other subjects who might retaliate
against adverse grand jury witnesses, the threat of such disclosure
might seriously undermine the grand jury process,” Alito wrote.
As health care arguments close, fate of law seems uncertain
As three historic days of oral argument at the Supreme Court came to
a close Wednesday, the fate of the landmark Affordable Care Act
seemed as uncertain as ever — if not more so — amid sharp divisions
among the justices.
. . .
The justices heard arguments over
the third and fourth issues they agreed to hear stemming from
numerous challenges to the health care law. In hearings Monday and
Tuesday, the justices discussed whether they even have jurisdiction
to rule, and then whether the so-called "individual mandate"
requiring individuals to buy a minimum level of health coverage
oversteps the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.
Supreme Court Considers Impact of Striking Down Individual
Supreme Court justices appeared sharply divided over what they
should do with the Affordable Care Act if they decide that the
central feature of the law, the individual mandate, is struck down.
. . . On the third and final
day of arguments over the landmark health care law, the choice, as
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg put it, was between a "wrecking
operation and a salvage job" — in other words, scrapping the entire
law, or finding portions of it that can survive even without the
requirement that most Americans buy a minimum level of insurance
coverage. Justices found major problems with both alternatives,
making it difficult to predict how they would rule.
. . . Bancroft partner Paul
Clement argued for striking down the entire law, asserting that this
was an instance where "a half a loaf is worse" than nothing at all.
But Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler argued that the best and
most judicially modest approach would be to only strike down the
related provisions that would require insurers to cover individuals
regardless of medical history or pre-existing conditions. Both
alternatives faced hostile questions from several justices.
On health care's first day, jurisdiction argument fails to stop the
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday showed clear signs that it is ready
to tackle the contentious issue of the constitutionality of the
Affordable Care Act sooner rather than later.
. . .
On the first of three days of
historic oral arguments on the health care law, the justices
considered what could have been a show-stopping issue: whether the
Court has jurisdiction to consider the issue now at all, or whether
it has to wait until 2015, when the first taxpayer who refuses to
buy health insurance under the so-called "individual mandate" is
required to pay a penalty to the IRS.
. . .
For 90 minutes, the Court debated
whether that penalty is a tax that would trigger the Anti-Injunction
Act (AIA), an 1867 law that requires individuals to pay their tax
before they can challenge the law that created the tax.
. . .
But none of the justices seemed to
embrace that argument, indicating that they believe either that the
penalty is not a tax or that, even if it is, the AIA is not a
jurisdictional bar that prevents them from proceeding to the merits
of the case. The justices will hear the merits arguments on Tuesday
Myriad’s Human-Gene Patent Rehearing Ordered by High Court
The U.S. Supreme Court (1000L) ordered a lower court to revisit
whether human genes can be patented in light of the justices March
20 decision that limited the ability to obtain legal protection for
some diagnostic medical tests.
. . .
The justices today ordered the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to reconsider its decision
that allowed patents on genetic material used in Myriad Genetics
Inc. (MYGN) tests for breast and ovarian cancer.
. . .
The high court on March 20 said that
patents shouldn’t be allowed on tests that look at, for instance,
the proper dosage for a medicine based on a body’s reaction to a
drug. Such tests merely cover natural phenomenon and aren’t
inventions, the court ruled. The Federal Circuit, which specializes
in U.S. patent law, must consider the effect of that ruling on the
Supreme Court lets stand ruling that sides with transgender
Wisconsin law barring state funding for hormone treatments or
sex-change operations for transgender prisoners was struck down, a
ruling upheld on appeal. The Supreme Court declined the case.
The US Supreme Court declined Monday to take up a case examining
whether transgender prison inmates enjoy a constitutional right to
government-funded sex change operations and hormone therapy.
. . . The action leaves
undisturbed a federal appeals court decision siding with transgender
inmates in Wisconsin. .
. . Concerned about the use
of state funding for ongoing hormone treatments that help certain
male inmates look more female, lawmakers in Wisconsin passed the
Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act. The law barred the use of any
state funds for hormone treatments and/or sexual reassignment
. . . Three Wisconsin inmates
filed a class-action lawsuit. After a trial a federal judge struck
down the 2006 law as a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on
cruel and unusual punishment. A panel of the Chicago-based Seventh
US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.
Supreme Court Declines Appeals on Religion in Public Education
While the opening of arguments over the federal health care law was
the main focus for the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, it was also a
regular day for opinions and orders.
. . .
And on its orders list, the high
court declined to take up two interesting appeals involving religion
in public education.
. . . One involved an Idaho
charter school challenging a state decision that it could not use
"sectarian or denominational" religious materials in its curriculum,
which upended its plans to use a "great books" curriculum that would
include the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, works of
Confucius, and others.
. . . The other was an appeal
from a California teacher who was ordered by administrators to
remove banners from his classroom with such expressions as "In God
We Trust" and "One Nation Under God."
Supreme Court Rules Courts Have a Say-So on Passport Question
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 8-1 that federal courts have the
authority to wade into a dispute over a federal law that says
Americans born in Jerusalem can list Israel as their birthplace.
. . . The political question
doctrine doesn’t bar the courts from hearing the case, according to
opinion (PDF) by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. But
Roberts punted the case back to the lower courts to resolve the
constitutional issue: whether the federal law infringes the
Supreme Court Accepts Dog Sniff Case Contending Fla. Supreme
Court Ignored Probable Cause Precedent
The U.S Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the Florida
Supreme Court ignored precedent when it ruled on behalf of a
defendant arrested after a drug-sniffing dog indicated his car
. . . The Florida high court
had ruled the alert by a trained dog does not establish probable
cause for the search, according to the cert
petition (PDF) in Florida v. Harris. An amendment to the
Florida Constitution nearly 30 years ago brought the state’s search
and seizure laws into conformity with Supreme Court decisions, the
Justices extend protections to plea bargain process
Recognizing the dominance of plea bargains over trials in the
criminal justice system, the U.S. Supreme Court voted, 5-4, on
Wednesday to extend Sixth Amendment protections to the plea process
and said defendants can sue their lawyers for ineffective assistance
if they mishandle plea offers.
. . .
"Criminal justice today is for the
most part a system of pleas, not trials," wrote Justice Anthony
Kennedy in one of a pair of landmark decisions. Because of the
modern-day importance of plea bargains, Kennedy said, defense
lawyers have significant responsibilities "that must be met to
render the adequate assistance of counsel that the Sixth Amendment
requires in the criminal process at critical stages."
. . .
In a stinging dissent that
underscored the importance of the rulings, Justice Antonin Scalia
said from the bench that the rulings "open a whole new field of
constitutionalized criminal procedure: the field of plea bargaining
law." He added, "Until today, no one has thought that there is a
constitutional right to a plea bargain." The rulings could open the
door to a wide range of new litigation, including suit against
prosecutors for their handling of the plea process.
Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper Opinion (pdf)
EPA wetlands order can be challenged by land owners, Supreme
Idaho couple, saying the ‘EPA used bullying and threats of
terrifying fines’ to halt building of their dream home, thanks
Supreme Court justices for ‘affirming’ their right to a court
The US Supreme Court Wednesday ruled unanimously in favor of an
Idaho couple seeking to have their day in court to challenge an
Environmental Protection Agency order that scuttled plans to build
their dream home on a subdivided lot the EPA said was a federal
. . . The couple, Chantell
and Michael Sackett, had started to fill the home site with dirt and
gravel to prepare for construction. But the EPA intervened,
announcing that the property was a regulated wetland. Agency
officials ordered the couple to restore the land to its original
state or face up to $75,000 a day in fines.
. . . The Sacketts disputed
the EPA’s wetland designation and filed a lawsuit to litigate the
issue in federal court.
. . . The EPA argued that the
Sacketts’ lawsuit must be dismissed because the EPA’s Clean Water
Act compliance order did not amount to final agency action.
Could SCOTUS Prometheus ruling be the end of human gene patents?
The Mayo Clinic and its lawyers at Mayer Brown weren't the only ones
to welcome the
U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday that Prometheus
Laboratories cannot patent a medical test that relies on
correlations between drug dosages and treatment. Lawyers at the
American Civil Liberties Union see the high court's unanimous
decision as a good omen for their own case challenging the
patentability of human genes.
. . . The plaintiffs in both
cases have relied on the same argument: that the patents in dispute
are naturally occurring phenomena that do not qualify for patent
protection. The Supreme Court bought that argument wholeheartedly in
. . . "We conclude that the
patent claims at issue here effectively claim the underlying laws of
nature themselves. Those claims are consequently invalid," wrote
Justice Stephen Breyer. Just as Einstein could not have patented
E=mc2 and Newton could not have laid claim to the law of gravity,
Breyer wrote, so Prometheus cannot patent a test kit that correlates
a patient's blood chemistry with the best drug dosages for
treatment. The decision
overturned a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Federal Circuit upholding Prometheus's patents.
DEALS ON TAX SOFTWARE
Citing a Need to Encourage Scientific Discovery, Supreme Court
Strikes Down Lab’s Patents
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled for Mayo Clinic in its challenge to
a competitor's patents on blood test methods to determine correct
. . . In a unanimous
opinion (PDF), the court said the patents held by
Prometheus Laboratories Inc. are invalid because they are based on
laws of nature. Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the decision,
emphasizing a concern that patent laws should not stand in the way
of future innovation.
. . . At issue are patents on
a process for analyzing blood tests to measure the effects of
varying dosages of thiopurine drugs, used to treat autoimmune
diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The patents
“set forth laws of nature”—the relationship between concentrations
of metabolites in the blood and the likelihood the thiopurine drugs
will help or cause harm, Breyer said.
Supreme Court Rules for Inmate With Double Claims of Ineffective
Assistance; Scalia Detects a ‘Sham’
A prisoner who claimed he received ineffective assistance at trial
and once again at his first opportunity to raise the claim on review
got some help from the U.S. Supreme Court today.
. . . The court, in an
opinion (PDF) by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, refused to
address whether convicted sex offender Luis Mariano Martinez had a
constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel in the state
collateral appeal. But the court held in a 7-2 opinion that
ineffective assistance by the appellate lawyer could excuse
Martinez’s failure to raise the ineffective assistance claim,
allowing a federal court to consider the issue.
. . . Justice Antonin Scalia
took aim at the opinion in a dissent joined by Justice Clarence
Thomas, saying its claim of restraint "insults the reader's
States Shielded From Medical-Leave Suits by U.S. High Court
The U.S. Supreme Court shielded states from claims that they
illegally denied medical leave to workers, dividing along
ideological lines in a clash about the federal government’s power
over the states.
. . .
The justices, voting 5-4, ruled
against Daniel Coleman, a Maryland state court employee who was
fired after requesting medical leave. The majority said states can’t
be sued for damages for violating the sick-leave provisions of the
U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act.
. . .
The decision marks a shift for the
court, giving new life to a line of rulings in the 1990s that
bolstered states’ legal immunity and split the nine justices. That
movement came to a halt in 2003, when the court said state workers
could seek damages for violations of other provisions in the federal
Supreme Court denies campus groups' appeal
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal from a
Christian sorority and fraternity challenging California State
University's refusal to provide funding and other campus benefits to
student groups that exclude members of other religions.
. . . CSU denies official
recognition and funding to student organizations that discriminate
on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin and sexual
. . .
The Christian groups at San Diego
State argued that the policy itself was discriminatory for two
reasons: The ban on gender-based admissions doesn't apply to
sororities and fraternities, and secular organizations are allowed
to make viewpoint-based distinctions - an immigrants'-rights group,
for example, can exclude opponents of immigrants' rights and still
Supreme Court refuses church-state case involving child sex abuse by
Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up an appeal by a man who
says he was abused by a Roman Catholic priest decades ago. He sought
to challenge the archdiocese's assertion that the First Amendment
shields it from a lawsuit.
The US Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up a case
challenging the use of the First Amendment’s separation of church
and state as a shield to block a negligence lawsuit against a Roman
Catholic archdiocese that hired and supervised a priest accused of
being a pedophile.
. . . The high court action
ends an attempt to hold the Catholic Church legally accountable for
alleged sexual abuse that took place more than 40 years ago.
. . . The plaintiff in the
case says he was twice sexually abused by a trusted parish priest
when he was 13 or 14 years old. The priest, who has since died, was
assigned to a Catholic Church in St. Louis.
Justices torn over whether children conceived in vitro are
entitled to survivor benefits
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struggled to fit new reproductive
technology into old Social Security definitions as it heard
arguments over whether a child conceived in vitro after the death of
the father is entitled to survivor benefits.
. . . The case, Astrue v.
Capato, arose when the Social Security Administration rejected
Karen Capato's application on behalf of her children for survivor
benefits after the death of her husband, Robert "Nick" Capato. Nick
Capato, diagnosed with cancer in 2000, preserved sperm so he and his
wife could have children even if chemotherapy left him sterile.
After he died in 2002, his widow used the sperm and gave birth to
twins 18 months after his death. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the
3d Circuit sided with Capato, finding that the twins were the
"undisputed biological children" of both parents.
Supreme Court to Expedite Release of Audio for Health Care Arguments
The Supreme Court just announced that it will provide same-day
release of the audio of the historic oral arguments in the cases
challenging the Affordable Care Act beginning March 26.
. . . Citing the
"extraordinary public interest in those cases," the Court's
announcement said that both the audio and an unofficial
transcript of the arguments would be posted on the Court's Web site
as soon as possible after they occur on each of the three days of
argument. That represents no change when it comes to the
transcripts, which already are posted on the same day of the
argument. But it does mean a new policy for the health care cases
when it comes to the audiotapes.
. . . Under current policy,
the audio of arguments is released by the Court on the Friday after
they take place -- a timetable that makes the tapes of little use
for news media. Same-day release used to be allowed in select cases,
beginning with Bush v. Gore in 2000, but it was pushed back to
Fridays last term.
US Supreme Court Nixes Cameras During Oral Arguments in Challenge to
Obama Health-Care Law
There will be no cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court later this month
during arguments over President Barack Obama's controversial
. . . However, the court in a
ruling today has promised to release same-day audio and transcripts
of the sessions, which will begin on March 26, reports the
The Impact of Corporate Amicus Briefs on the Supreme Court in Kiobel
If general counsel ever wonder whether their companies’
friend-of-the-court briefs really have any impact, they only need to
look at this week’s U.S. Supreme Court action involving the Alien
Tort Statute. Two amicus briefs clearly helped sway the Justices
into postponing a decision while exploring a new issue not raised by
. . . The case was filed by
Esther Kiobel and other Nigerian villagers who accused the
defendants—Royal Dutch Petroleum (now Royal Dutch Shell) of the
Netherlands and two other Shell subsidiaries—of aiding human rights
abuses by Nigeria’s military. The narrow question presented on
appeal was whether corporations, as opposed to individuals, may be
held liable for violations of international law under the statute.
. . . But
during oral arguments in late February, Chief Justice
John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito pursued
questions about the extraterritorial application of the ATS.
U.S. Supreme Court move backs game warden power
The claim of an unconstitutional search by a San Diego fisherman who
got caught with an out-of-season lobster was rebuffed Monday by the
U.S. Supreme Court.
. . . In denying review, the
high court let stand a California Supreme Court opinion in June that
people who hunt and fish have fewer of the privacy rights guaranteed
by the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment.
. . . The state high court
granted game wardens the authority to stop, question and search
citizens without a warrant or even without probable cause to believe
a law has been broken.
. . .
All the warden needs, the California
court ruled, is knowledge that a person is or has been fishing or
Supreme Court Orders Reargument in Alien Tort Statute Case
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ordered reargument in a major
challenge involving lawsuits against corporations for human rights
violations under the Alien Tort Statute.
. . . Kiobel v. Royal Dutch
Petroleum originally asked the justices whether corporations could
be sued under the 1798 federal law. That question was argued on Feb.
28. In Monday’s order, the justices directed the parties to file
supplemental briefs on whether the statute allows federal courts to
hear lawsuits alleging international law violations that occur
outside of the territory of the United States.
. . . The Alien Tort Statute
(ATS) authorizes federal district courts to hear civil actions by
aliens for torts committed in violation of the law of nations or a
treaty of the United States.
Kagan Opinion Hits Government ‘Inventiveness’ on Substitute
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against a California inmate who
contends he should have been permitted to change his court-appointed
counsel just two weeks before a federal court denied his 10-year-old
. . . Justice Elena Kagan
wrote the unanimous
opinion (PDF) finding that a federal court did not abuse
its discretion when it denied new counsel to Kenneth Clair,
convicted of killing a neighbor during a 1984 burglary. Kagan said
the courts should use an “interests of justice” standard in
evaluating substitution of counsel motions by indigent defendants in
capital cases, the same standard used in noncapital cases.
Nolo is a
U.S. Supreme Court Rules Pre-emption Defeats Tort Claims of Railroad
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that federal law pre-empts tort
claims by the estate of a railroad worker who died after contracting
. . . The majority
opinion (PDF) by Justice Clarence Thomas said the design
defect and failure to warn claims are pre-empted by the Locomotive
Inspection Act. The ruling defeats the lawsuit filed by the estate
of George Corson, who had worked on locomotive brake shoes
containing asbestos before he became ill.
Free speech issue bypassed
Government employees who get into trouble for disobeying a
superior’s plea to file a report that the employee thinks is false
and believes will contribute to covering up misconduct will get no
legal guidance on their plight from the Supreme Court, even though
lower courts are in dispute over how to decide that issue. Without
comment, the Court on Monday denied review in two new cases, raising
that First Amendment free-speech question from opposite sides.
. . . The Court had been
asked, in separate cases from New York and Washington, D.C., to
further clarify its decision five years ago in
Garcetti v. Ceballos, denying First Amendment
protection to public employees for remarks they made in the course
of their official duties. Federal appeals courts have since split
on whether that denial of protection extends even to a situation
where a worker has been fired or otherwise disciplined for refusing
to file an official report about their work, when superiors had
demanded that the report be submitted in a form that would be false
and could conceal wrongdoing within the agency. The Justices’
refusal to step into that controversy leaves it to be worked out
further among the lower courts, meaning that public employees will
have different legal rights depending upon where they live and work.
Supreme Court to hear corporate human rights case
Supreme Court will weigh next week whether corporations can be sued
in the United States for suspected complicity in human rights abuses
abroad, in a case being closely watched by businesses concerned
about long and costly litigation.
. . . The high court on
Tuesday will consider the reach of a 1789 U.S. law that had been
largely dormant until 1980, when human rights lawyers started using
it, at first to sue foreign government officials. Then, over the
next 20 years, the lawyers used the law to target multinational
. . . The case before the
court pits the Obama administration and human rights advocates
against large companies and foreign governments over allegations
that Royal Dutch Shell Plc helped Nigeria crush oil exploration
protests in the 1990s.
. . . Administration
attorneys and lawyers for the plaintiffs contend corporations can be
held accountable in U.S. courts for committing or assisting foreign
governments in torture, executions or other human rights abuses.
TOO MUCH FOR CAR INSURANCE?
Court wrestles with lies and the First Amendment
During an intense hour of debate before the U.S. Supreme Court on
Wednesday that touched on the harms and benefits of lying, the
dramatic high point came when Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. asked
if a "pure lie" had any value under the First Amendment.
. . .
Federal public defender Jonathan
Libby fumbled for an answer, positing that author Samuel Clemens'
creation of his false Mark Twain persona had value. But that did not
cut it for Roberts, so Justice Stephen Breyer interjected with a
historic lie that saved lives and no one would want to punish.
. . .
"Obvious example: Are there
Jews hiding in the cellar? No!" Breyer said with theatrical
emphasis, recalling the days of World War II when Europeans gave
safe haven to Jews who were being hunted down by Nazis.
. . .
But whether that honorable lie will
lead the Court to strike down the law under debate on Wednesday is
far from clear. At issue in U.S. v. Alvarez is whether the Stolen
Valor Act of 2006, which makes it a crime to falsely claim winning a
military honor, violates the First Amendment.
Supreme Court Rejects Montana’s ‘Short Interruptions’ Approach
in Riverbed Dispute
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against the state of Montana after
diving into a
riverbed rights dispute.
. . . Justice Anthony M.
Kennedy wrote the
opinion (PDF) for a unanimous court favoring a company
that operates hydroelectric dams on three rivers in the state: the
Missouri, the Madison and Clark Fork.
. . . Montana had asserted it
owned the disputed riverbeds, entitling it to at least $41 million
in rent from the company, PPL Montana. The energy company had been
paying rent to the federal government.
. . . The Montana Supreme
Court had granted summary judgment to the state, but the U.S.
Supreme Court reversed in an opinion that found the lower court had
used the wrong standard to determine ownership.
Day laborers win Supreme Court free-speech case
Day laborers in Western states including California scored a legal
victory Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower-court
ruling declaring that cities violate free speech when they make it a
crime to seek work from passing drivers.
. . . The case comes from the
Los Angeles suburb of Redondo Beach and affects dozens of cities in
California and other states that have passed or considered bans on
asking for work from the sidewalk.
. . . In the Bay Area,
federal courts barred Mountain View and Los Altos from enforcing
similar laws nearly a decade ago, said Thomas Saenz, general counsel
of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which
led the legal challenges. Many day laborers in California are
High court rejects formal, binding ethics rules
The Supreme Court has rejected congressional calls for the justices
to adhere officially to the same ethics rules binding on other
federal judges, including when to recuse in cases involving possible
conflicts of interest.
. . . "The Court does not
plan to adopt the Code of Conduct for United States Judges through a
formal resolution," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a letter
released Tuesday to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy,
. . . But Roberts said he and
his eight colleagues would -- on their own initiative -- continue to
follow the same rules as other judges when it comes to accepting and
reporting on outside income, honoraria, and gifts.
Do grandparents get visitation rights? Supreme Court declines
Supreme Court declined to hear a case in which grandparents demanded
to visit their grandchildren but the parents intervened. The lack of
a decision leaves no clear constitutional standard on the issue.
Two Alabama grandparents have lost their bid to have court-ordered
regular visits with their teenaged granddaughters.
. . . The US Supreme Court on
Tuesday declined to take up the grandparent’s appeal in a case
testing when a judge can force objecting parents to permit regular
visits between a grandparent and grandchildren.
. . . The high court action
allows a decision of the Alabama Supreme Court to stand. The Alabama
high court had ruled in favor of the parents who opposed
court-intervention in the grandparent visitation dispute.
How much do you know about the US Constitution? A quiz.
All 50 states have grandparent
visitation laws in which a judge can require regular access to one’s
grandchildren. . . . But what is less clear is how a judge is to
rule when the child’s parents are opposed to such grandparent
Is it a house or a boat? -- U.S. Supreme Court to decide case of
Riviera Beach houseboat
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear the case of whether
former Riviera Beach Marina tenant Fane Lozman's houseboat
constitutes a "vessel" under maritime law.
. . . In April 2009, Lozman
watched federal marshals tow his two-story houseboat away from the
city marina with his possessions on board. It was towed to the Miami
River and later destroyed.
. . . The city said Lozman
failed to sign a dockage agreement that requires vessels moored at
the marina to be registered, insured and capable of leaving the
marina in case of an emergency.
. . . Lozman claims his
57-foot houseboat was a "floating home" with no engines and no boat
registration, and didn't meet the definition of a vessel.
. . . "It was a square box,"
Lozman said. "It was just designed to sit in the water and float."
. . . Lozman lost his case in
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida and the
11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
Affirmative action in college admissions goes back before Supreme
US Supreme Court
is taking an affirmative action case about the University of Texas
admissions policy, which permits race to be a factor in deciding
which applicants are admitted.
The US Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to take up a potential
blockbuster case testing the constitutionality of race-based
admissions policies at the University of Texas. . . . The case,
Fisher v. University of Texas (11-345), is being closely followed by
conservative analysts who are hopeful the high court will use the
Texas dispute to establish new constitutional limits on
race-conscious affirmative action plans at public colleges and
universities nationwide. . . . In announcing it would take up the
case, the court also said Justice Elena Kagan would not take part in
deciding the dispute. Before joining the high court, Justice Kagan
served as solicitor general in the Obama administration.
Supreme Court: Miranda Warning Not Required for Inmate
Questioned About Second Crime in Prison
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against a Michigan inmate who
contended he should have received a Miranda warning before being
interrogated in a prison conference room about sexual conduct with a
12-year-old boy. . . . The court ruled in a 6-3
opinion (PDF) against inmate Randall Lee Fields, who
confessed to molestation while incarcerated on a disorderly
misconduct charge. The dissenters were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen G. Breyer. . . . Fields was told he was
free to leave the conference room during the interrogation that
lasted between five and seven hours, but he was not given a Miranda
warning, according to the majority opinion by Justice Samuel A.
Restaurateurs Who Pleaded Guilty in Tax Case Can Be Deported,
Supreme Court Rules
A Japanese couple who ran a restaurant in California can be deported
guilty pleas in a tax case involving underreported
corporate income, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled. . . . Akio
Kawashima and his wife, Fusako Kawashima, were ordered deported
after Akio pleaded guilty to making a false tax return and Fusako
pleaded guilty to aiding and assisting preparation of the return.
The loss to the government exceeded $10,000.
Supreme Court rebuffs Montana on corporate election spending
Justices block a
decision by the state's high court to enforce a 100-year-old ban on
such money in campaigns.
The Supreme Court served notice Friday that it would not let states
or state judges casually defy its much-disputed ruling in the
Citizens United case that gave corporations a right to spend freely
on election campaigns. . . . The justices put on hold enforcement of
a Montana election law. But the case could force the high court to
reconsider the corporate spending issue if its liberal justices
insist on doing so. . . . On Dec. 30, Montana's high court said it
was refusing to follow Citizens United as a binding precedent.
Instead, the state justices affirmed Montana's 100-year-old
anti-corruption law that forbids corporations from giving to
candidates or spending to elect them. Adopted by its voters, it
arose during the era of the "Copper Kings" who, as Mark Twain once
put it, "bought legislatures and judges as other men buy food and
Supreme Court to hear military medal lying case
A U.S. law making it a crime to lie about receiving a military medal
goes before the Supreme Court next week, with the Obama
administration defending it for protecting the reputation of war
heroes and opponents arguing it violated free-speech rights.
. . . The justices will hear
arguments Wednesday on whether an appeals court was correct to
strike down the "Stolen Valor Act" adopted by Congress in 2006 for
infringing on constitutional free-speech rights, a case about how
far the government may go to prosecute false claims about military
. . . Opponents said the law
swept too broadly, suppressed speech and covered innocent bragging,
satire, parody and even statements that caused no harm, like those
at issue in the case by a serial liar who held local political
office in California.
. . . The Obama
administration argued in a written brief filed with the Supreme
Court that the law was necessary to protect the integrity of the
nation's system of military honors. It said the lies take away from
the honor bestowed on deserving war heroes.
An ominous silence on the Supreme Court
Justice Elena Kagan should explain why she's not heeding the calls
to recuse herself from the soon-to-be-heard Obama healthcare case.
For months there have been repeated calls from Supreme Court
watchers for Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan to recuse
themselves from the healthcare litigation to be argued before the
court in March. The controversy heightened in December when Chief
Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in his year-end report, argued that not
only should Supreme Court justices decide recusal issues solely for
themselves, but that some ethical rules that apply to all other
federal judges should not bind the justices.
. . . Although the chief did
not name any particular justice, there was no mistaking his implicit
defense of Kagan's and Thomas' decisions (at least so far) not to
recuse. In January, the court did nothing to quell the controversy
when it unanimously (without Kagan participating), and with no
comment, denied a formal motion by a conservative organization that
the court hear arguments over whether Kagan should recuse herself
from the Affordable Care Act litigation.
US Supreme Court won't permit Ohio execution
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday added another wrinkle to Ohio's
debate over how strictly the state's lethal injection procedures
should be followed.
. . . The court without
comment refused to allow the execution of a condemned killer of an
elderly couple to proceed, an execution delayed by federal courts
over concerns that the state continues to deviate too often from its
written rules for lethal injection.
. . . Both the state and the
inmate's attorneys were trying Wednesday to determine what comes
next, but the decision is likely to further delay executions even
though Ohio's procedures have never been ruled unconstitutional.
Federal Meat Inspection Act preempts California's slaughter ban
The Supreme Court on Monday struck down California's ban on the
slaughter of downed swine, saying the state strayed too far into
. . .
In a case closely watched by other
states as well as the multi-billion dollar livestock industry, the
court’s liberal and conservative justices unanimously ruled that
long-standing federal law preempted California’s 2008 measure.
. . . "The California law
runs smack into the (federal) regulations," Justice Elena Kagan
wrote for the court.
. . .
Kagan's 14-page decision emphasized
that the Federal Meat Inspection Act covers a "broad range of
activities at slaughterhouses" and that it "expressly" preempts the
Supreme Court limits police use of GPS to track suspects
The Supreme Court for the first time ruled on Monday that police
attachment of a GPS device to monitor a suspect's vehicle was a
search protected by constitutional privacy rights, a test case
involving new surveillance technology.
. . . The high court's ruling
was a defeat for the Obama administration, which defended the use of
global positioning system devices without a warrant and without a
person's knowledge as a legal way to monitor a vehicle on public
. . . The justices upheld a
precedent-setting ruling by an appeals court that the police must
first obtain a warrant to use a GPS device for an extended period of
time to covertly follow a suspect.
Voting Maps for Texas Set Aside by High Court
The U.S. Supreme Court set aside judge-drawn voting districts for
this year’s state and federal elections in
Texas (BEESTX), telling a lower court to make the maps
more similar to ones drawn up by the Republican-controlled state
. . .
The court’s unanimous ruling today
may affect Democratic prospects to retake control of the U.S. House
of Representatives. Republicans now control the chamber 242-192,
with one vacancy.
. . .
The case tested the power of judges
to redraw election maps and the strength of a central provision of
the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities.
. . .
The justices were considering the
case on a fast-track schedule because of the impending Texas
primary, now set for April 3 after a judge delayed the vote for a
Citing law firm's errors, high court rules for death row inmate
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that an Alabama death row inmate
should not be penalized for missing a crucial appeal deadline when
the error was caused by his pro bono lawyers from New York's
Sullivan & Cromwell.
. . .
The 7-2 ruling in Maples v. Thomas
brings an end to a "lawyer's nightmare" case that showed how a
series of law firm mailroom and notice errors as well as the
departure of two associates could nearly result in a client's
execution. In excruciating detail, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
recited the "uncommon facts" and mishaps that amounted to
abandonment of convicted murderer Cory Maples by his Sullivan &
Cromwell lawyers at the precise moment when Maples faced a filing
deadline for his state post-conviction appeal.
. . .
"Abandoned by counsel, Maples was
left unrepresented at a critical time for his state postconviction
petition, and he lacked a clue of any need to protect himself pro
se," wrote Ginsburg. "In these circumstances, no just system would
lay the default at Maples' death-cell door."
Court approves act extending copyrights to foreign works
previously in public domain
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the Constitution did
not bar Congress from extending copyright protection to previously
free foreign works, such as Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf.
. . .
The justices, in a 6-2 decision by
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, rejected arguments made by a group of
musicians, conductors, publishers and others, who enjoyed free
access to certain foreign works before Congress acted in 1994. The
group had argued that once those works entered the public domain,
they remained there forever.
. . .
"Neither the Copyright and Patent
Clause nor the First Amendment, we hold, makes the public domain, in
any and all cases, a territory that works may never exit," wrote
Supreme Court Allows Federal Suits for Nuisance Telemarketing
A Florida man who claims he was hounded by a financial services
company trying to collect a student loan may sue in federal court,
the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.
. . . Marcus Mims of Fort
Lauderdale had filed a federal suit for violations of the federal
Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which authorizes private suits in
state courts. In a unanimous
opinion (PDF), Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that
state courts don’t have exclusive jurisdiction.
Lawguru is a Victims-of-Law
Court ponders immunity for private lawyers who take on public jobs
Private lawyers hired by local governments for special tasks will
hesitate to provide candid advice if they are denied immunity when
sued, the Supreme Court was told on Tuesday.
. . .
The justices heard arguments in
Filarsky v. Delia, in which employment lawyer Steve Filarsky was
denied qualified immunity in a civil rights lawsuit stemming from
his assistance in a city’s internal affairs investigation. The U.S.
Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that everyone else
involved — the city of Rialto, Calif., and its officers — was
entitled to immunity.
. . .
“If you decide to take on this pro
bono representation, or cut your rates out of public duty and the
willingness to serve your government, guess what comes with it?”
said Filarsky’s counsel, Patricia Millett of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer
& Feld. “You alone will be holding the bag at the end of this for
the governmental misconduct.”
Prayer Cases Turned Away by U.S. Supreme Court Justices
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to give government bodies more
freedom to open sessions with prayers, rejecting a pair of appeals
that sought to loosen the restrictions some lower courts have
. . . The justices today left
intact a federal appeals ruling that said a North Carolina county
board was violating the constitutional separation of church and
state by opening most of its sessions with a Christian prayer. The
high court also refused to review a separate decision that barred
prayers at meetings of a Delaware school board.
. . . The Supreme Court
hasn’t ruled on the constitutionality of prayer at government
meetings since 1983, when the justices said lawmakers could begin
sessions with nonsectarian prayers offered by a state-employed
chaplain. In other contexts, the court under Chief Justice John
Roberts has given governmental bodies more freedom to support
Supreme Court to take up case of Miami man vs. drug-sniffing dogs
An anonymous tipster reports that you're growing marijuana in your
home. Police bring a drug-sniffing dog to your doorstep with no
other evidence and without first obtaining a warrant. Has your
privacy been invaded?
. . . The U.S. Supreme Court
will decide whether the dog sniff is an illegal search, hearing the
case of a Miami man who was arrested after a dog alerted to the
smell of marijuana from outside his home.
. . . The case is expected to
provide a pivotal decision on the definition of privacy.
. . . It could clear the way
for police to more routinely bring drug dogs to a home with no other
evidence of a crime. Or, law enforcement officials say, it could
stifle the use of an important tool in crime fighting.
Supreme Court to decide Chowchilla inmate's fate
A Chowchilla prisoner will have her fate decided by the U.S. Supreme
Court. . . . For inmate Tara Sheneva Williams, this is not a
victory. Williams had won an appeal that overturned her conviction
for a 1993 murder in Long Beach. But on Friday, the Supreme Court
agreed to hear California's challenge to a lower court's decision.
. . . "It's really sad,"
Williams' attorney Kurt David Hermansen said Friday. "She's a mom
with two kids, and she was hoping to get out."
. . . Williams will have to
wait while the Supreme Court considers whether the lower appellate
court went too far in overturning her conviction. Given the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals' general track record, Williams' hopes may
be a long shot.
U.S. Supreme Court upholds Nashua conviction despite debate over
reliability of eyewitness testimony
A Nashua man’s break-in conviction from 2008 was upheld for a final
time this week when the U.S. Supreme Court denied Barion Perry’s
claims that an eyewitness was unfairly influenced before identifying
. . The ruling, handed down
last week, upholds the felony theft conviction resulting from
Perry’s theft of two radio speakers from a parked vehicle. New
Hampshire public defender Richard Guerriero had argued before the
U.S. Supreme Court in November that judges’ courts should take
special precautions to ensure eyewitness testimony is accurate.
. . . The court denied
Guerriero’s arguments and upheld Perry’s felony conviction.
PowWeb is a Victims-of-Law
Affiliate as well as a client of PowWeb
Unanimous high court finds for church in EEOC fight
A surprisingly unanimous Supreme Court on Wednesday endorsed a
"ministerial exception" to employment discrimination laws, asserting
that under the First Amendment, government must keep its nose out of
the hiring and firing of clergy.
. . . "When a minister who
has been fired sues her church alleging that her termination was
discriminatory, the First Amendment has struck the balance for us,"
wrote Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. for the Court in
Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC. "The church
must be free to choose who will guide it on its way."
. . . The ruling ends a
lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on
behalf of Cindy Perich, a teacher and "commissioned minister" at a
Lutheran school in Michigan. She claimed she had been fired in
retaliation for threatening to file a lawsuit under the Americans
With Disabilities Act. She disputed the school's treatment of her
after she was diagnosed with narcolepsy, and the school said she was
fired for insubordination and failure to follow internal dispute
Ginsburg Opinion Rejects Due Process Inquiries on Eyewitness
IDs; Sotomayor Dissents
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled there is no due-process requirement
for judges to hold pretrial screenings to assess the reliability of
eyewitness identifications in criminal cases.
. . . Justice Ruth Bader
Ginsburg wrote the majority
opinion (PDF) rejecting a theft defendant’s claim that
pretrial screening is needed because of the grave risk that mistaken
identification will result in a miscarriage of justice. Justice
Sonia Sotomayor was the only dissenter.
. . . “When no improper law
enforcement activity is involved,” Ginsburg wrote, “it suffices to
test reliability through the rights and opportunities generally
designed for that purpose, notably, the presence of counsel at
postindictment lineups, vigorous cross-examination, protective rules
of evidence, and jury instructions on both the fallibility of
eyewitness identification and the requirement that guilt be proved
beyond a reasonable doubt.” ****** The case is Perry v. New
PowWeb is a Victims-of-Law
Affiliate as well as a client of PowWeb
Lawyer makes startling argument in Supreme Court hearing on
lawyer arguing that the FCC has gone overboard in its regulation of
broadcast nudity and language directed the justices' attention to
the bare buttocks of statues in the Supreme Court. The justices are
considering whether FCC rules are inconsistent.
Not often can one watch a former solicitor general of the United
States directing venerable Supreme Court justices to observe naked
posteriors of the marble statues that stand sentinel at the highest
court in the land.
. . . “There’s a bare
buttocks there,” Washington lawyer Seth Waxman advised the startled
justices during his oral argument on Tuesday.
. . . “And there’s a bare
buttocks here,” he said, pivoting and pointing across the ornate
. . . The black-robed
justices obliged the lawyer by following his extended finger to a
sculptor’s rendition of gluteus maximus.
. . . This was no voyeuristic
dalliance. Mr. Waxman was hoping to convince the high court that the
Federal Communications Commission had gone haywire in threatening to
sanction broadcast television stations for the fleeting appearance
of a naked body part or of a blurted expletive during prime-time
Supreme Court Bars Federal Suit Against Private Prison Employees
A prisoner in a federal facility operated by a private company
cannot sue its employees for constitutional violations, the U.S.
Supreme Court has ruled.
. . . The inmate, Richard Lee
Pollard, had claimed medical staffers and other employees of the
Wackenhut Corrections Corp. had failed to deliver adequate medical
care after he slipped on a cart left in a doorway.
. . . The majority
opinion (PDF) by Justice Stephen G. Breyer refused to
authorize a so-called Bivens action because state tort law provides
an alternative route to collect damages.
Supreme Court Upholds Arbitration Provision in Credit Card
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that consumers who received the
Aspire Visa credit card are bound by a mandatory arbitration
provision in their applications.
. . . Justice Antonin Scalia
wrote the majority
opinion (PDF) in the case, CompuCredit Corp. v.
Greenwood. The decision overturns a ruling by the San
Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Justice Ruth
Bader Ginsburg was the only dissenter.
. . . The plaintiffs had
claimed in a class action suit that they were promised $300 in
available credit, but were charged $257 in fees. They maintained
that the Credit Repair Organizations Act gave them a right to sue.
They cited a provision in the CROA requiring credit repair
organizations to tell consumers, “You have the right to sue a credit
repair organization that violates the Credit Repair Organization
Justices appear to lean toward FCC in case over broadcast TV
The Supreme Court appeared ready to give government regulators the
continuing authority to regulate profanity and sexual content on
broadcast television after a lively hour of arguments Tuesday.
. . . The justices and
lawyers all stayed polite, not actually using any obscene words,
preferring the legally acceptable "f-bomb" or "s-word" to describe
the controversial content at issue in the high-stakes free speech
. . . The court will decide
whether the Federal Communications Commission may constitutionally
enforce its policies on "fleeting expletives" and scenes of nudity
on television programs, both live and scripted. The agency had
imposed hefty fines on broadcasters.
Court Overturns New Orleans Murder Conviction
The Supreme Court has overturned a death row inmate's conviction of
killing five people in the justices' latest look at the conduct of
prosecutors in the New Orleans district attorney's office.
. . . The high court voted
8-1 to order a new trial Tuesday for Juan Smith, who was convicted
of five murders at a 1995 party. The only witness to identify Smith
gave inconsistent statements about whether he could recognize or
identify Smith as one of the killers.
High court upholds ruling overturning 'Skid Row Stabber'
U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had set aside Bobby Joe Maxwell's
1984 murder convictions because a key witness for the prosecution, a
notorious jailhouse informant named Sidney Storch, had been exposed
as a 'habitual liar.'
The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a ruling that overturned murder
convictions in two slayings tied to the so-called "Skid Row
Stabber," who was thought to be responsible for the killing of as
many as 10 homeless men in downtown Los Angeles in the late 1970s.
. . . After a lengthy trial
in 1984, Bobby Joe Maxwell was convicted of two murders and
sentenced to life in prison.
. . . Last year, the U.S. 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals set aside his convictions because a key
witness for the prosecution, a jailhouse informant named Sidney
Storch, had been exposed as a "habitual liar." Storch, now dead, was
known to read newspaper stories in his cell and then offer testimony
that would be useful to prosecutors in exchange for favors, Judge
Richard Paez wrote.
High court backs foreign campaign contribution ban
The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal seeking to expand the
ability of foreigners to contribute to American political campaigns.
. . . The justices on Monday
upheld a federal court ruling in favor of the ban on foreign
contributions from all but immigrants who permanently live in the
In Texas voting rights case, Court chooses a narrow path
What was billed as a possible Supreme Court showdown over the
constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act on Monday turned instead
into narrower debate over how the redistricting of Texas legislative
districts should proceed.
. . .
The Court devoted an unusual 75
minutes of time to hastily scheduled arguments in Perry v. Perez, a
tussle over the new districts drawn by the Texas legislature to
reflect the latest decennial census. Because Texas is a state that
must, under the Voting Rights Act, obtain federal preclearance
before it changes any of its electoral processes, the case seemed
like a new battlefront for states that chafe under the law.
. . .
But the justices seemed uninterested
in the broader question of whether it is constitutional for Congress
to force jurisdictions, mostly in the south, to get federal approval
for its district maps. Only Justice Anthony Kennedy mused aloud at
one point that the law puts Texas at a "tremendous disadvantage" in
planning its elections, in contrast to the mainly northern states
that are not covered by the preclearance requirement.
Supreme Court appears sympathetic to Idaho couple in 4-year
battle with EPA
Conservative members of the Supreme Court seemed outraged Monday by
the Environmental Protection Agency’s actions in a four-year battle
with an Idaho couple who
want to build a house on land the EPA says contains
. . .
Justices across the ideological
spectrum appeared troubled by the EPA’s position that Mike and
Chantell Sackett do not have the right to go court to challenge the
agency’s wetlands decision.
. . . But some justices
got more worked up about the case than others, and
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. led the parade.
. . . “If you related the
facts of this case . . . to an ordinary homeowner, don’t you think
most ordinary homeowners would say this kind of thing can’t happen
in the United States?” Alito asked Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm
L. Stewart, who was representing the EPA.
SCOTUS to Decide if Suit to Close Tribal Casino Can Proceed
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide
whether a lawsuit to close a tribal casino in Michigan can move
. . . The court agreed Monday
to hear arguments in two consolidated sovereign immunity cases over
Indian trust lands:
Match--E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak
Salazar v. Patchak, multiple sources report.
. . . The tribe, also known
as the Gun Lake Band, opened a casino last year on a rural 147-acre
tract in Wayland Township, 20 miles south of Grand Rapids. But
casino opponent David Patchak sued to shut it down by challenging
the way the federal government had placed the land in trust for the
In privacy case, justices home in on the meaning of 'actual damages'
In a case watched closely by privacy and whistleblower advocates,
lawyers for an HIV-positive pilot and the federal government clashed
in the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday over whether damages for
mental and emotional distress can be recovered for violations of the
. . . The justices gave
little hint of how they would rule in a classic statutory
interpretation argument over the meaning of the words "actual
damages" in the 1974 law.
. . .
Enacted in the wake of the Watergate
scandal and amid growing concerns about government use of
computerized databases, the law prohibits federal agencies from
disclosing "any record which is contained in a system of records" to
any person or to another agency without the consent of the
individual to whom the record pertains. It creates a private cause
of action against an agency for willful and intentional violations
and authorizes actual damages of no less than $1,000.
US top court agrees to hear Obama
Healthcare likely to be major issue in 2012 election
Legal, policy analysts expect close Supreme Court vote
Obama administration, 26 states appealed to high court
The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide the fate of President
Barack Obama's healthcare law, with an election-year ruling due by
July on the U.S. healthcare system's biggest overhaul in nearly 50
. . . The decision had been
widely expected since late September, when the Obama administration
asked the nation's highest court to uphold the centerpiece insurance
provision and 26 states separately asked that the entire law be
. . . The justices in a brief
order agreed to hear the appeals. At the heart of the legal battle
is whether the U.S. Congress overstepped its powers by requiring
that all Americans buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty, a
provision known as the individual mandate.
Social Security Takes IVF
Dispute to Washington
The Supreme Court on Monday took up a Social Security case involving
a widow who used her late husband's frozen sperm to conceive twins,
born 18 months after their father's death.
. . . The 3rd Circuit
last year that the twins, B.N.C. and K.N.C., must be considered
children under the Social Security Act as the "undisputed
biological" offspring of a deceased wage earner, Robert Capato, and
his widow, Karen.
. . . On remand, a New Jersey
federal judge would have to determine whether, "as of the date of
Mr. Capato's death, his children were dependent or deemed dependent
on him, the final requisite of the act remaining to be satisfied."
. . . Social Security
Commissioner Michael Astrue petitioned the Supreme Court to review.
. . . The Philadelphia-based
federal appeals court had nevertheless declined to find an equal
protection issue in the case.
CorpNet is a Victims-of-Law Associate
Citing Orwell, justices appear
wary of GPS surveillance by police
Police use of GPS surveillance and society's expectations of privacy
clashed in the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday as justices weighed new
technology and its impact on Fourth Amendment rights.
. . .
With multiple references to the
novel 1984, a majority of the justices seemed uncomfortable with the
federal government's defense of law enforcement's warrantless use of
a GPS tracking device on a suspected drug dealer's car over a
four-week period. But the justices also struggled to find a legal
way to regulate that type of surveillance.
. . .
"If you win, there is nothing to
prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day
the public movement of every citizen of the United States,"
suggested Justice Stephen Breyer to Deputy Solicitor General Michael
Dreeben. "You suddenly produce what sounds like 1984. What
protection is there once we accept your view?"
An angry Court gives New
Orleans prosecutors a scolding
The Supreme Court took the New Orleans prosecutor's office to the
woodshed on Tuesday, scolding its lawyer for what one justice said
was a long history of accusations that the office has ignored the
right of defendants to receive exculpatory evidence before trial.
. . .
Justice after justice,
including conservative Antonin Scalia, admonished Assistant District
Attorney Donna Andrieu for her office's failure, in the case before
the Court, to turn over what they viewed as evidence that could have
changed the course of the trial. "Surely it should have been turned
over," Scalia said at one point. "Why don't you give that up?"
. . .
The setting for the Court's
unusual display of anger was the oral argument in Smith v. Cain,
a challenge to prosecutorial misconduct in the case of Juan Smith,
convicted of murder in a 1995 rampage that left five people dead.
Lawyers for Smith are asking for a new trial, citing statements that
were withheld from defense lawyers impeaching the credibility of the
only eyewitness to the crime.
In passport clash, a question
of the president's powers
A seemingly narrow-gauge dispute over the wording used on certain
U.S. passports triggered a broad-ranging discussion at the Supreme
Court on Monday about the separation of powers in matters of foreign
. . .
The case before the Court is
Zivotofsky v. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. It is a
dispute over a 2002 federal law that directs the State Department,
on request, to list Israel as the country of birth on passports for
U.S. citizens who were born in Jerusalem. Jerusalem's status as a
capital or even as part of Israel has been a touchy point for
decades worth of presidents, fearful of spoiling the peace process
between Israel and the Palestinians, who lay claim to at least part
of the city.
U.S. Supreme Court rejects
The U.S. Supreme Court today
rejected Houston killer Duane Buck's request that it review his
death sentence - a punishment handed down despite former Texas
Attorney John Cornyn's assessment that it might have been tainted by
. . . The high court stopped
Buck's Sept. 15 execution in order to decide whether to take up the
case. Buck, 48, was sentenced to die for the July 1995 murders of
his former girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth
Butler. Buck also shot his sister, Phyllis Taylor, in the chest at
point-blank range, but she survived and later argued that the killer
should be spared.
Race Factor Merits Look at
Texas Death Row Case
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena
Kagan said Monday they would have wanted the Supreme Court to review
a Texas death sentence case "marred by racial overtones" and
potential misconduct by state prosecutors.
. . . After Duane E. Buck was
convicted of capital murder in Texas, the prosecutor emphasized that
black men like Buck are statistically more likely to commit violent
crimes. A jury sentenced Buck to death.
. . . Buck has failed to
convince state and federal courts to review his case, with the most
recent refusal coming from the Supreme Court on Monday.
. . . A seven-page dissent
authored by Sotomayor notes, however, that the psychologist who
testified at Buck's sentencing hearing, Walter Quijano, has an
unsettling record. In six capital cases to which Quijano was called
as a witness, as with the Buck trial, "the salient fact was that the
prosecution invited the jury to consider race as a factor in
sentencing. And in each case, the defendant was sentenced to death."
Supreme Court Reinstates
Death Sentence in Summary Reversal of 6th Circuit
The U.S. Supreme Court has
reinstated the death sentence of an Ohio inmate in a summary
reversal of the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
. . . The defendant, Archie
Dixon, was convicted of murdering a man to steal his car. According
to the Supreme Court’s per curiam
(PDF), the 6th Circuit “purported to identify three … grievous
errors” by the Ohio Supreme Court when the state court affirmed
Dixon’s conviction and found no Miranda violation.
Supreme Court vs. 9th Circuit: Roberts Defends Scalia's Honor As
Justices Ready To Reverse Case
It's 9th Circuit smackdown season at the Supreme Court and, judging
from Tuesday morning's oral arguments, Richard Lee Pollard
could be the latest defendant caught in the middle.
. . .
Pollard was a federal
prisoner on kitchen duty when he slipped, fell and broke both his
elbows. He claims that the way prison employees treated him for the
next several months caused him so much additional pain and suffering
that they violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual
punishment. He sued the offending staff members under a 40-year-old
Supreme Court case,
Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Officers, that
allows individuals to win money damages when federal officials
violate their constitutional rights. The last time the Supreme Court
actually allowed such a case to go forward was
Justices restore grandmother's conviction in shaken baby death
The Supreme Court issued a final, stinging rebuke of a lower court's
decision on three separate occasions to dismiss the assault
conviction of a grandmother in the shaking death of her 7-week-old
. . . The justices in an
unsigned opinion Monday said the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
"plainly erred in concluding the jury's verdict was irrational." The
high court for the last time reinstated the conviction of Shirley
Ree Smith, ending a 15-year legal fight.
. . . Prosecutors alleged
Smith lost her temper and violently shook Etzel Dean Glass III when
he woke up crying and in need of a diaper change in Van Nuys,
California, in 1996. The boy's mother had put him to sleep on a
sofa, and the grandmother was sleeping on the floor next to Etzel.
. . . An initial diagnosis of
sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was changed to shaken baby
syndrome (SBS) after an autopsy. That conclusion formed the basis of
the government's case, but was strongly challenged by the defense. A
jury convicted her, and Smith, then 37, was sentenced to 15 years to
Justices avoid highway cross dispute
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to return to the divisive
question of when religious symbols are allowed on government
property, rejecting a dispute over the placement of large white
crosses on Utah roads to commemorate fallen troopers.
. . . Over the lone dissent
of Justice Clarence Thomas, the court left in place a lower court
decision that said the Utah crosses violated the separation of
church and state.
. . . “Today the court
rejects an opportunity to provide clarity to an Establishment Clause
jurisprudence in shambles,” Thomas wrote, referring to the
constitutional prohibition against government enacting laws that
establish, or endorse, religion.
Nolo is a
Lies About Military Medals to Get U.S. Supreme Court Review in
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to
decide whether the Constitution’s free speech clause protects people
who falsely claim to have been awarded military medals.
. . .
The justices today said they will
hear arguments on the 2005 Stolen Valor Act, which punishes people
with as much as a year in prison for lying about receiving a medal.
A federal appeals court declared the law unconstitutional, and
President Barack Obama’s administration is appealing.
. . .
The law “plays a vital role in
safeguarding the integrity and efficacy of the government’s military
honors system,” U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued in the
administration’s bid for high court review. ******** The case, which
the court will consider and decide in the first half of next year,
is United States v. Alvarez, 11-210.
Unreliable eyewitnesses put defendants on death row
Does the routine use of eyewitnesses
in American criminal cases contribute to trials that put innocent
people behind bars -- even on death row? Evidence suggests it does.
. . . The U.S. Supreme Court
is getting ready to hear a case out of New Hampshire that deals with
a subtle but important point in the witness process.
. . . Lawyers for a hapless
burglar say the case asks whether the due process -- or fair trial
and procedure -- guarantee in the 14th Amendment bans the use of all
"unreliable eyewitness identification" arising from "impermissibly
suggestive circumstances and which are very substantially likely to
lead to misidentification, or only to those identifications which
are also the product of 'improper state action?'" -- meaning police
The Supreme Court: When Double Jeopardy Isn't Double Jeopardy
The Supreme Court has decided to
hear a case out of Arkansas that will test just how big the
exceptions to the double-jeopardy protection are.
. . .
Even Americans who know very little
about the U.S. Constitution know this much: once a jury decides you
are innocent of a crime, the government can't keep hauling you back
into court to try your case over again. It's called the prohibition
on double jeopardy, and it's in the Bill of Rights because the
Founding Fathers thought it was an essential bulwark against
tyranny. But like most truisms in American law — that the police
have to read you your rights before they question you, that it takes
a unanimous verdict to be convicted, or that the police need a
warrant to search your house — there are exceptions large enough to
drive a prison bus through.
. . . The Supreme Court this
week decided to hear a case out of Arkansas that will test just how
big the exceptions to the double-jeopardy protection contained in
the Fifth Amendment are, and experts say the decision could resolve
long-standing differences between the states about when it's O.K.
for the government to retry defendants when it can't get a
conviction the first time. Because of the nature in which the
decisions were made in Arkansas, the U.S. Supreme Court could use
the case to decide what constitutes an official verdict.
(Read about your Bill of Rights and pleading the Fifth
TOO MUCH FOR CAR INSURANCE?
Supreme Court refuses to reinstate Abu-Jamal death sentence
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear a petition by the
Philadelphia District Attorney's Office seeking to reinstate the
death penalty against Mumia Abu-Jamal.
. . . The ruling in the case
of Abu-Jamal - convicted of murder in the 1981 shooting of
Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner - was one of more than
250 appeals summarily rejected by the high court without comment. It
means that, unless the District Attorney's Office decides to conduct
a new sentencing hearing, Abu-Jamal, 57, will continue serving a
life sentence with no chance of parole.
High court wrestles with extent of ministerial exception to
employment bias suits
The Supreme Court on Wednesday plunged into a thorny thicket
surrounding government enforcement of job bias laws and religious
employers, and emerged apparently divided over how to protect the
interests of both.
. . .
The justices heard arguments on
whether the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission could sue a
Lutheran Church school under the Americans with Disabilities Act
because the school fired the teacher after she threatened to file a
disability discrimination charge.
. . .
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the
6th Circuit held that the so-called ministerial exception, which
usually bars job bias suits involving ministers and priests, did not
apply because the teacher, Cheryl Perich, performed primarily
secular duties at the school.
. . . In Wednesday's
Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC,
the justices wrestled with the definition of "minister" and how much
courts would have to interfere in religious organizations'
activities and doctrines in order to determine who is or is not a
"minister." The ministerial exception is decades old and is rooted
in the First Amendment's religion clauses.
Justices hear religious workplace
The Supreme Court struggled Wednesday with a case fundamental to the
separation of church and state, testing when people who work for
religious organizations can sue for job discrimination.
. . . A Michigan teacher
diagnosed with narcolepsy but eventually cleared to work sued under
the Americans with Disabilities Act when a Lutheran school fired
. . The Hosanna-Tabor
Evangelical Lutheran Church said Cheryl Perich violated a core
church principle by bringing her grievance to the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rather than using church
processes to try to win her job back. Hosanna-Tabor is asking the
justices to throw out the case, based on a so-called "ministerial
exception," which bars some job-related lawsuits against religious
organizations and is intended to protect churches from government
interference. A lower U.S. appeals court had ruled for Perich.
. . . The appeals court
rejected Hosanna-Tabor's "ministerial exception" defense, noting
that Perich's job as a fourth-grade teacher was mostly secular. She
taught math, social studies, music and other subjects, along with
. . . In his appeal on behalf
of Hosanna-Tabor, University of Virginia law professor Douglas
Laycock told the justices, "Churches do not set the criteria for
selecting or removing the officers of government, and government
does not set the criteria for selecting and removing officers of the
By the numbers: Gearing up for
This is the first post in a series analyzing statistical trends at
the Supreme Court. For a more complete look at the statistics we
collect on the Court, you can find all of our up-to-date charts and
. . . The Supreme Court has
now granted just over half the cases that it is likely to hear
during October Term 2011, so it seems like as good a time as any to
begin breaking down the cases that have been accepted for review.
The Court has granted 49 total petitions, but one was dismissed
under Rule 46 soon after it was granted, so we will use 48 as the
. . . The Court’s workload:
With 48 cases on the docket for OT2011, the Court is in good shape
moving into the fall. During the Roberts Court, the Court has
typically had between 45-55 cases on the docket following the Long
Conference, and the current pace should allow it to grant cases at
its own pace through January to fill the Term. The Court remains on
pace after granting only seven cases at the Long Conference because
it granted an unusually high number of cases at the final June
conference – 13.
Death row inmate harmed by law
firm error may get second chance from high court
Alabama death row inmate Cory Maples, who lost his chance to bring a
critical appeal because of a mailroom snafu in a New York law firm,
may be getting a second chance from the U.S. Supreme Court.
. . .
In fast-paced arguments on Tuesday
that delved into the obligations of lawyers representing criminal
defendants, all of the justices, with the exceptions of Justice
Antonin Scalia and a silent Justice Clarence Thomas, appeared
concerned about the predicament in which Maples finds himself and
skeptical of the state's arguments that they should do nothing about
. . Maples, sentenced to
death for the 1995 murders of two men, was represented pro bono in
his state post-conviction appeal by two associates at New York's
Sullivan & Cromwell. As required by Alabama rules at the time, the
two lawyers associated themselves with a local attorney, John
Butler, in order to be admitted to practice in the state. Although
the rules required Butler to be jointly and severally responsible
for the case, he claimed his only role was to secure the New York
Supremes keep record
of rejecting eligibility cases perfect
Justices have refused to hear every challenge so far, but more still
It's the unloved relative who just won't go away, the chronic pain
that annoys all the time or the gray that no amount of washing will
take out of hair, only in the U.S. Supreme Court, it's the Barack
Obama eligibility issue.
. . .
The justices, meeting in conference
last week, refused yet again even to hear arguments in a case
involving the constitutional dispute, as they have for every other
eligibility dispute that they've been presented with since before
. . .
The most recent decision, announced
today, involved the Keyes vs. Bowen case out of California.
The court simply posted an online
note that the petition for the justices to hear evidence on the
arguments and clear up the cloud of uncertainly on the issue was
. . . The case had been
Gary Kreep of the United States
who told WND he was disappointed.
. . .
"We were very hopeful that the
Supreme Court would take the case to finally resolve the issue," he
said. But, "given the comments made by Justice Thomas and then
others not on the Supreme Court we're not terribly surprised."
. . .
He said, however, that there
are more cases making their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, including
another case in which he is involved, the Drake v. Bowen case that
now is pending at the 9th U.S.
Court of Appeals.
. . .
When the decision is reached at that
level, he said, it appears likely that once more the Supreme Court
justices will be confronted with what many involved in the cases
have described as a constitutional crisis in which a sitting
president's eligibility to be president remains in doubt.
First Monday in October marks start of new Supreme Court term;
justices hear to Medicaid case
The Supreme Court is beginning a term expected to be dominated by
health care with arguments Monday in a closely watched case
involving the Medicaid program for poor Americans.
. . . The first order of
business is disposing of appeals in more than a thousand cases that
piled up over the summer.
Supreme Court set to open crucial term
justices could make decisions on President Obama's healthcare law,
enforcement of immigration laws and affirmative action in higher
The Supreme Court on Monday opens one of its most anticipated terms,
in which the justices could strike down President Obama's healthcare
law, empower local police to arrest illegal immigrants, and declare
an end to affirmative action in colleges and universities.
. . . The cases coming before
the court "address some of the central issues facing the country,"
said former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger. The clashes over
healthcare and immigration "are not mere lawyers' issues, but
fundamental questions about how the country is governed."
. . . "By June of 2012, this
may prove to be among the most momentous terms in recent decades,"
said Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel for the Constitutional
Accountability Center in Washington.
. . . The justices will
decide over the next few months whether to hear the cases. If they
do, rulings will be handed down by late June, just as the
presidential campaign moves into high gear.