June 30th is the nominal last day of the Supreme Court's current term. The Court began the day with the long-awaited decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, another 6-3 jurisprudentially ideological split in which, per Justice Gorsuch, the Court holds that the First Amendment prohibits Colorado from forcing a website designer to create expressive designs speaking messages with which the designer disagrees. As was the situation with yesterday's affirmative action cases, it is hard to tell whether the majority and the dissenters (Justice Sotomayor writing their opinion) are speaking about the same case. The majority views this as a clear case of forced speech. To the dissenters, this is no more than a matter of requiring conduct—the sale of services—on the basis of equality. Thus, Justice Gorsuch opines, “Colorado seeks to force an individual to speak in ways that align with its views but defy her conscience about a matter of major significance.” As Justice Sotomayor sees it, ”[t]oday, the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.”
Of the four cases decided today, the one that likely pertains to the largest number of this blog’s readers is Coinbase, Inc. v. Bielski, a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice Kavanaugh, who wrote for himself, the Chief Justice, and Justices Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett. Interestingly, Justice Thomas largely joined Justice Jackson’s dissenting opinion.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision in Slattery v. Hochul, reversing the dismissal of a First Amendment challenge to New York Labor Law §203-e (also referred to as the “Boss Bill”). The Boss Bill prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against employees based upon their reproductive health decisions, including “a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service,” and also forbids employers from “accessing an employee’s personal information regarding the employee’s . . . reproductive health decision making.” The term “reproductive health decision making” necessarily would include an employee’s decision to have an abortion or use contraception. The Boss Bill, unlike Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, does not contain an exemption for religiously affiliated organizations.
While some people thrive in the land of TikTok dances, others struggle to limit their thoughts to 140 characters leading Twitter to increase their character limit to 280 in 2017. In fact, as of February 2019 Internet users believe social media platforms have increased access to information and the ease of communication by 57 percent.
Jack Daniel’s Property, Inc. has successfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its dispute against VIP Products LLC, a dog-toy maker known for its playful products that mimic various beverage brands. Jack Daniel’s argues that the 3x10 inch “Bad Spaniels” vinyl dog toy portraying a parody version of the well-known whiskey label violates its federal trademark rights and tarnishes the Jack Daniel’s brand.
Coming off the decisions in the landmark Dobbs and Bruen cases, the rest of the term might seem anticlimactic. Nevertheless, as the shelf is being cleared of the remaining cases, there are still rulings of significance to come. As the week opened, one of them—a religious freedom case—likely didn't surprise anyone who listened to the oral argument or, indeed, who has been paying attention to the conservative Justices having changed the valences in religious liberty cases. The other two cases decided on the opening day of the week were both criminal cases of limited interest, but important nevertheless.
It is fair, I think, to say that a substantial majority of those who heard the argument in the case of Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate doubted that, irrespective of whatever they might think of Ted Cruz, it was highly likely that he and his campaign organization would prevail in challenging the federal campaign finance law limitation on the use of post-election funds to repay a candidate's personal loans as violative of the First Amendment rights of candidates who want to make expenditures on behalf of their own candidacy through personal loans. But, by a six-three division between the Court's judicial conservatives and liberals, that is precisely what has occurred. Those who criticize the Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), likely will feel much the same way about the Cruz case.
Further evidencing an ongoing shift from more absolutist thinking about the intersection between the First Amendment's Establishment Clause and an individual's or group's right of free speech, we find this morning's unanimous decision in Shurtleff v. Boston in which the Court, reversing the First Circuit, held that the city of Boston violated the free speech clause of the First Amendment when it refused to let a group fly a Christian flag outside city hall. As Justice Breyer explained, in what will be among the last of his opinions:
Interesting question: Can someone trademark another person’s name without that person’s consent? The answer to that is usually “no,” but, hey, we would not be the first people to say that we live in interesting times. And if we said that, we would not be infringing on anyone’s rights. That aside, the answer to the first question this week is “yes,” at least when the person is a public figure, and the trademark is viewed as an exercise of free speech critical of that public figure.
Former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin recently lost the trial of her defamation case against The New York Times. Given the complexity of the legal issues and the unusual events at trial, a messy appeal is sure to follow. But if the appellate courts can see past the procedural novelties, Palin’s case could become a vehicle for revisiting the seminal case of New York Times v. Sullivan.
Our colleague Stuart Gerson of Epstein Becker Green has a new post on SCOTUS Today that will be of interest to our readers: "Two Election-Related Decisions, Decided on Strict Ideological Grounds, Close Out the Term."
The following is an excerpt:
No harmony today. The Court has rendered two 6-3 decisions mirroring strong ideological divisions. In one, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Court was unmoved by allegations that two provisions of Arizona election law offended Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) and had resulted in disproportionate ...
The following is an excerpt:
This morning begins what many are anticipating to be an exciting last month of the 2020 term. Among other things, we expect to find out about the continued viability of the Affordable Care Act, and several First Amendment matters, including the extent to which religious expression trumps antidiscrimination laws, and the ability of a school to sanction off-campus speech. These ...
Our colleague Stuart Gerson of Epstein Becker Green has a new post on SCOTUS Today that will be of interest to our readers: "The Court Dismisses the Trump Twitter Account Case as Moot, but Social Media Is Sure to Be on the Menu Again".
The following is an excerpt:
Yesterday, I discussed the Supreme Court's move into the world of technology in the case of Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc., in which the Court held that Google's copying of a small slice of Java programming language code constituted a permissible “fair use” of Oracle's assumed copyright of Java itself. The ...
Our colleague Stuart Gerson of Epstein Becker Green has a new post on SCOTUS Today that will be of interest to our readers: Understanding Standing Under Article III – and the Chief Justice Stands Alone.
The following is an excerpt:
Articles in the popular press have noted that today's decision by a near-unanimous Supreme Court in the case of Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski represents a victory for several Christian students in their battle against a college's restrictive policies that prevented their on-campus religious evangelizing.
It is true enough that the now-former ...
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