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.
With four decisions today, the Court has now cut its backlog down to the mid-teens. And with decisions likely tomorrow as well, the Court is well on its way to clearing the docket as the term ends.
Continuing the issuance of opinions as to which the Justices are largely of one mind, the Court today handed down three decisions. Each gives important guidance to litigators on both sides of the ball. The first of these is a unanimous opinion settling the hotly debated question of whether intent under the federal False Claims Act (FCA) is a subjective or objective matter. It is the former. The second decision, also unanimous, clarified what a plaintiff must plead and prove to establish securities fraud regarding a stock offering through a direct listing. The third case offers a lone dissent over a majority and concurring opinions rejecting a labor union’s argument that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) preempts a state court tort action concerning workers sabotaging a company’s concrete trucks.
The Supreme Court issued no fewer than six opinions on Thursday, May 18, addressing questions including whether an internet platform might be held liable as an aider and abettor of terrorist activity, and whether Andy Warhol’s famous alterations of photos of the artist known as Prince violated the copyright of an almost-as-famous photographer.
On Wednesday, April 19, the Court decided three cases that are interesting and instructive in following how the Justices, both nominal liberals and conservatives, attempt to apply textual methodology in assessing jurisdictional prerequisites, though not always reaching unanimous results.
Once again, with a substantial backlog of cases—some of them potentially controversial—argued and pending decision, the Court continues to sail in relatively calm waters.
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.
The Supreme Court issued a single opinion today. Wilkins v. United States concerns a property rights dispute between the federal government and two owners of land near the Bitterroot National Forest in rural Montana to which the government claims an easement that, it argues, includes public access, which the petitioners dispute. They, therefore, sued the government under the Quiet Title Act (the “Act”), which allows challenges to the United States’ rights in real property. The government moved to dismiss on the ground that the petitioners’ claim is barred by the Act’s 12-year statute of limitations. See 28 U. S. C. §2409a(g). The issue before the Court was whether the time bar is jurisdictional or, as the Court held in a 6-3 decision, a nonjurisdictional claims-processing rule.
The Supreme Court decided two cases today, and though neither of them presents the sort of widely consequential matter that, say, the President's student loan forgiveness plan that was argued this morning does, each has interesting aspects. Both are decided on the now-vogueish doctrine of textualism, though each shows divisions among the Justices that prove again that not only can Justices who have differing jurisprudential philosophies agree with one another as to statutory meaning, but that Justices with the same jurisprudential philosophy can disagree with one another on text as well. Thus, while there are cases, like Dobbs, where one might accurately predict the outcome on the basis of philosophy or alignment with the preferences of the President who nominated various Justices, there is a host of cases where labels don't hold up at all.
The Court has broken the logjam of pending opinions, rendering three decisions today, one of which, dealing with the issue of when overtime pay is mandated under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), might have a broader effect. So, let's start with that one: Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. v. Hewitt.
Now that the Supreme Court of the United States has declared that authority to regulate abortion rests with the states, organizations operating across state lines face new and some unprecedented challenges created by the civil and criminal legal issues arising from risks of enforcement in any state where abortion is or will be banned (a “ban state”). Health care providers, employers, and other organizations with any nexus to such states will need to conduct careful analyses and may have to accept an unknown level of enforcement risk while various jurisdictions respond to their newfound power and determine if and how to wield it. The risks may extend to providers who deliver abortions, patients seeking abortions, companies who support their employees traveling to non-ban states to receive abortions, and their executives. The outer parameters of who is subject to enforcement risk are presently unknown but are likely to vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
With his retirement to begin on June 30 at noon, Justice Breyer leads a 5-4 split in Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety, with the Chief Justice and Justice Kavanaugh, along with Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, joining him in holding that, by virtue of the states having ratified the Constitution, they agreed that their sovereignty would yield to the national power to raise and support the Armed Forces. Accordingly, Congress may exercise this national power to authorize private damages suits against nonconsenting states. Congress did just that when it passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), which gives returning servicemembers the right to reclaim their prior jobs with state employers, and authorizes suit if those employers refuse to accommodate veterans’ service-related disabilities. See 38 U. S. C. § §4301 et seq.
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.
The day after the Gallup organization reported that public confidence in the Supreme Court has reached new lows, the Court has added what, to many, will be more fuel to that fire. The long-awaited, hotly contested, and divisive opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization has officially come down and, given reactions to the premature release of a draft of Justice Alito's majority opinion, the public's expectations on both sides of the abortion debate have been realized.
New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen is the long-awaited New York gun licensing decision that has been hotly debated since its filing. Especially in light of recent school shootings, that debate is likely to intensify now that the case has been decided. As many predicted, the decision, overturning the state’s statute, provides a stark split between the Court’s predominant conservatives and its liberals.
I'm currently in the wilds of Alaska, learning about the training of sled dogs. Nevertheless, word of the Supreme Court's five most recent decisions has traveled northward. While none of these decisions is earthshaking, they are not uninteresting or unimportant, especially to those like health care and employee benefits lawyers.
On June 15, the Court decided five cases and dismissed a sixth. A case of great importance to health care lawyers, regarding the availability of judicial review of Medicare rates for pharmaceuticals, and another of great importance to labor and employment lawyers, holding that a significant portion of the California Private Attorneys General Act's (PAGA’s) delegation of state enforcement power is preempted by federal law, lead the pack.
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:
I write this from London on the eve of the announcement that the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to succeed Justice Breyer is about to go to the full Senate for confirmation. Those who follow my writings will know that I am among a group of right-of-center former public officials in Republican administrations who are on record as supporting this nomination of an experienced and well-qualified federal judge.
Late in the afternoon of January 19th, the Supreme Court dealt a crippling blow to the argument of the defeated former President, when by an 8-1 majority (Thomas, J., dissenting), the Court denied Mr. Trump's application for a stay of the mandate and injunction pending the review of the decision of the D.C. Circuit in the case of Trump v. Thompson, ordering the transmission by the Archivist of the documents sought by the House Select January 6th Committee.
Our colleague Stuart Gerson of Epstein Becker Green has a new post on SCOTUS Today that will be of interest to our readers: "The Justices Show Again That They Are Not Politicians in Robes."
The following is an excerpt:
A short note about the Supreme Court’s decision today in Borden v. United States, in which it considered whether a felon-in-possession gun charge qualified as a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“Act”), 18 U. S. C. §924, which provides enhanced penalties for criminals convicted of certain firearms offenses who have at least ...
Our colleague Stuart Gerson of Epstein Becker Green has a new post on SCOTUS Today that will be of interest to our readers: Court Favors Judicial Review in Railroad Benefits Case, Remands Two Cases Concerning Nazi-Era Looted Property.
The following is an excerpt:
The Supreme Court decided three cases Wednesday, two of them related. None of them could be characterized as a blockbuster ruling or even a matter of broad national interest. One of them, however, will garner much inside-baseball commentary because the 5-4 majority that decided it included the Chief Justice and Justice ...
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