On December 1, 2023, Federal Rule of Evidence (“FRE”) 702 will be amended, following the Supreme Court’s adoption of the amendment earlier this year. FRE 702 governs the admission of expert testimony in the federal courts, and has been the subject of much case law interpreting it already. Understanding the changes to FRE 702, and the impetus behind those changes, will be critical for litigants in federal court to ensure that the expert testimony they present in support of their claims or defenses remains admissible.
As adopted by the Supreme Court and submitted to Congress, the ...
On June 1, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously settled a long-standing dispute over a subjective versus objective standard for scienter under the False Claims Act (FCA), holding that a defendant’s own subjective belief is relevant to scienter, rather than what an “objectively reasonable” person may have known or believed.
The case in question, U.S. ex rel. Schutte v. SuperValu Inc., consolidated from two lower court decisions, involved allegations that the defendants, two retail pharmacy chains, overcharged the government for prescription drugs in violation of ...
A 6-3 Court, sharply divided along conservative and liberal jurisprudential lines, has decided the two headlining cases involving affirmative action in university admissions: Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College gets top billing, perhaps relating to the alumni status of several Justices, but the decision also resolves the case of Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina.
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.”
In Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co., 600 U.S. __ (June 27, 2023), the United States Supreme Court upheld a Pennsylvania law that enables a plaintiff to show general personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state corporation based only upon that company’s registering to do business in Pennsylvania. 42 Pa. Const. Stat. § 5301(a)(2). It is well established that general personal jurisdiction permits a court to adjudicate any and all claims against an out-of-state corporate defendant only where a plaintiff demonstrates that the defendant has substantial contacts with the forum state. The majority decision, however, rules that a plaintiff need not engage in a contacts analysis where a state, such as Pennsylvania, has a corporate registration law deeming corporate registration as consent to jurisdiction. Other states will now likely emulate Pennsylvania by adopting similar statutory provisions authorizing general personal jurisdiction over out-of-state corporations registered to do business in those states even where there has been no showing of substantial state contacts.
As the end of the term approaches, the Court is increasingly divided in its decisions. However, the composition of the majorities is not often the 6-3 conservative/liberal division stereotype that many observers, critics, and media expect. As several key decisions show today, the Chief Justice has taken up the center ground and, as I've suggested before, often has the ability to bring Justice Kavanaugh with him, as they, to paraphrase the country singer Maren Morris, meet in the middle.
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.
The question of whether a would-be trademark, “TRUMP TOO SMALL,” warrants a First Amendment exception to the Lanham Act’s prohibition on registering a living person’s name as a trademark without that person’s permission has now reached the United States Supreme Court. On June 5, 2023, in Vidal v. Elster, Case 22-704, the high court granted the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (hereinafter, the “Government”) petition for certiorari to determine whether, under 15 U.S.C. § 1052(c), the refusal to register a trademark containing another person’s name violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment when that mark implies criticism of a government official or public figure. As we wrote last year, one cannot normally trademark another person’s name, but in the case of Steve Elster’s trademark application for TRUMP TOO SMALL, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the “CAFC”) held in In re Elster, 26 F.4th 1328, 2022 USPQ2d 195 (Fed. Cir. 2022), that one’s First Amendment right to make social commentary about a public figure trumps (bad pun intended) the Lanham Act. Whether the Supreme Court agrees with the CAFC soon will be determined.
It should come as no surprise to constitutionalists, practitioners under the Federal False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. §§3729–3733) (FCA), and auditors of the oral argument in the case that the Supreme Court has held that the federal government may move to dismiss an FCA action under §3730(c)(2)(A) whenever it has intervened—whether during the seal period or later on. United States ex rel. Polansky v. Executive Health Resources, Inc. To assert this right, the government must actually intervene (which is not difficult since the statute allows it at any time before final judgment, even on appeal), and the propriety of dismissal is to be adjudicated pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a), the rule generally governing voluntary dismissal of suits in ordinary civil litigation, and dismissal should be granted in all but the most extraordinary cases.
Indian tribal rights led the Supreme Court’s docket today. In one case, the Court held that the federal Bankruptcy Code abrogated the sovereign immunity of tribal governments. And in another, this time upholding tribal rights, the Court held upheld the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), with its arguably discriminatory provision requiring the placement of foster or adoptive Indian children with Indian caretakers. Justice Gorsuch, perhaps the Court’s most interested and knowledgeable member concerning tribal rights and interests, was the lone dissenter in the bankruptcy case and provided a unique historical perspective in a scholarly concurrence in the ICWA case. Finally, a unanimous Court held that the Constitution allows the retrial of a defendant who had been tried in an improper venue before jurors drawn from the wrong district. Three interesting and detailed opinions, none reflecting any major division in the Court, though perhaps Justices Thomas and Alito might seem to live on an island of their own.
Emerging from the pattern of unanimity, or near unanimity, that has characterized most of the cases decided so far this term, the Supreme Court decided one of its most eagerly awaited and controversial cases. And the outcome of the case will confound the predictions of many voting-rights analysts and critics of the Court and its Chief Justice.
The case is Allen v. Milligan, and, in a 5-4 opinion written by the Chief Justice, and joined by Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson, and, most significantly, by Justice Kavanaugh, the Court held that a districting plan adopted by the State of Alabama for its 2022 congressional elections likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U. S. C. §10301. I think it is fair to say that, following the oral argument of the case, most liberal commentators expected significant further erosion of Section 2, and most politically, if not jurisprudentially, conservative observers were licking their lips. Each side has been surprised.
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.
With essential unanimity, though with an array of concurrences in one of them, the Supreme Court ruled against government parties in three cases, two of them in favor of homeowners, and in property rights and environmental enforcement cases, and a third, upholding the right of appeal by a prison guard charged with causing a detainee's beating.
In a per curiam opinion issued in Calcutt v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Court has reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and remanded to it an enforcement action that had been brought against a bank executive charged with mismanaging a loan relationship. After agency proceedings were completed and sanctions ordered, the Sixth Circuit held that the FDIC had made two fundamental legal errors in adjudicating the case against the bank CEO who had appealed. However, instead of remanding the case to the FDIC, the Sixth Circuit conducted its own review and concluded that the FDIC had, on the evidence presented, made a supportable decision to ban and fine the executive.
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.
With the Justices largely in agreement across the board, the Court today issued five opinions. One of them provides a usefully definitive view of the limited nature of the so-called “dormant Commerce Clause.” Two of them are criminal law cases in which all the Justices were united in reversing the Second Circuit and taking a textually literal, constricting view favorable to defendants as to what constitutes wire fraud and related theft of honest services. Another decision favors a non-citizen fighting removal from the United States, and yet another upholds the sovereign immunity of U.S. territorial governments and their agencies.
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 the substantial backlog of decisions has many observers waiting for a flood of rulings, the Supreme Court is moving at its own pace. Thus, the Court has issued a single opinion today, but especially for readers who are involved in administrative law challenges to administrative agency determinations, it is an important one. And it might become even more significant to the extent that it augurs future limitations on agency autonomy.
On January 9, 2023, the Supreme Court held oral arguments on a significant issue regarding the application of the attorney-client privilege in a case called In re Grand Jury, Docket No. 21-1397, 598 U.S. ___ (2023). In re Grand Jury was appealed to the Supreme Court from the Ninth Circuit. The issue before the Supreme Court was which test should apply to a “dual-purpose” communication. A dual-purpose communication occurs when a communication may have a business purpose, but also asks for legal advice. This type of communication is typical between lawyers providing both legal and business advice to employers, and it is very common for lawyers in an in-house counsel role to frequently have dual-purpose communications with their employers. Although the Supreme Court decided to dismiss the writ of certiorari after oral arguments occurred in this case, it is important to understand why this test would have been significant to all different types of attorneys, especially because it is becoming increasingly more common for attorneys to wear “two hats” by providing both business advice and legal advice regularly to clients.
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.
While the backlog of argued cases pending decision has been growing substantially, the Court rendered only one opinion today, and it was unanimous.
Almost nine months ago, on June 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a long awaited decision in ZF Automotive US, Inc. v. Luxshare, LTD. that sought to resolve a decades-old circuit split regarding whether 28 U.S.C. § 1782 – which permits litigants to obtain evidence in the U.S. “for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal” – applies to private, commercial international arbitrations. Practitioners were initially hopeful that the Supreme Court had conclusively resolved this issue when it unanimously held that only bodies “that exercise governmental authority” constitute a “foreign or international tribunal” under section 1782, which meant that parties engaged in private, commercial arbitrations and ad hoc arbitrations abroad could not use the statute to obtain discovery from companies and individuals in the U.S. However, in doing so, the Court left open the possibility that “sovereigns might imbue an ad hoc arbitration panel with official authority,” leaving courts (and litigants) to grapple with the question of whether and when a foreign body may be imbued with governmental authority sufficient to constitute a foreign or international tribunal for purposes of section 1782 discovery. Few courts have addressed this lingering question in the aftermath of ZF Automotive, and those that have have interpreted the decision very restrictively, indicating that the universe of international arbitrations that section 1782 now covers may be considerably narrower than it has been in the past.
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.
Selecting a business partner, much like selecting a spouse, involves a great deal of trust in the other’s representations and conduct as the actions of one, for better or worse, can be attributed to the other. The intricacies and complications of these two relationships most recently clashed in Bartenwerfer v. Buckley, which has presumably settled the question of whether the debt resulting from the fraud of one legal partner/spouse can be imputed to the fraudster’s innocent wife in the bankruptcy context.
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.
While many commentators were wondering when the Supreme Court would start issuing opinions, the backlog of argued cases now being substantial, today is their day.
The Supreme Court is back in live session, and so is this blog.
Our colleagues Erik W. Weibust, Peter A. Steinmeyer, and Stuart M. Gerson co-authored an article in the Legal Backgrounder, published by the Washington Legal Foundation, titled “After 200+ Years Under State Law, FTC Proposes to Sweep Away All Noncompetes in Unauthorized Federal Power Grab.”
Following is an excerpt:
For over 200 years, the regulation of noncompetition agreements (“noncompetes”) has been entirely the province of state law. Forty-seven states currently permit noncompetes, and the most recent state to ban them was Oklahoma in 1890. Yet the ...
The Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in In re Grand Jury to resolve a circuit split regarding what standard governs the application of the attorney-client privilege to dual-purpose communications, that is communications which contain both legal and non-legal advice. The petition was filed on behalf of an unnamed law firm which asserted the privilege in response to a federal grand jury subpoena.
The October term of the Court began yesterday, with a sitting that marked the very active debut of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and predictions that this term will be even more controversial than last, although it is difficult for me to imagine a more incendiary decision than Dobbs.
In a brush-back pitch to DOJ opioid initiatives, the U.S. Supreme Court this past June issued an important decision clarifying the mental state the government must establish to convict a licensed medical professional of illegal drug distribution under the federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”). No longer can a doctor be convicted of such a crime based on objectively unreasonable prescribing practices alone. The government now must show that the medical professional subjectively, knowingly, and intentionally prescribed a controlled substance with no legitimate medical purpose. While unlikely to materially impact the number of DOJ opioid prosecutions, the case will no doubt inform charging decisions in marginal cases and will support important defense arguments at trial.
On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court released its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning Roe v. Wade—the 1973 landmark ruling that established the constitutional right to abortion. Now, companies that operate in states where abortions are banned or restricted are facing a quagmire of laws and risks regarding enforcement. Additionally, the risk landscape is not static, but rather in flux, as the federal government (agencies such as the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) and a myriad of states introduce new legislation and issue guidance on a near-daily basis.
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.
The Court has now delivered its final two decisions of the term, one of them of great consequence to administrative law. With adjournment comes the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer and the swearing-in of his successor, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, his former clerk, who is expected to be a dependable member of the Court’s liberal jurisprudential wing. All in all, a day of significance.
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.
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.
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.
The Court has had a busy day, having decided cases of significance to litigators and interest groups, but none is the blockbuster decision in societally divisive matters that the general public has been awaiting. In short, this is a business-as-usual day, with opinions sometimes showing broad consensus on the Court, but with some not-unexpected dissents.
The Judicial Conference of the United States’ Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure seems poised to advance proposed amendments to Federal Rule of Evidence 702, after the Advisory Committee on Evidence unanimously voted to approve the proposed amendments and recommended that the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure refer the amendments to the Judicial Conference for a full vote.
Notwithstanding the fact that, as we approach the end of the term, the Court still had 30 cases to decide as of Wednesday morning, June 8, the day’s count has only been reduced by one. So, expect a flurry of cases with the most controversial of them (think firearms and reproductive rights) perhaps coming down at the end.
Despite a large list of argued cases pending decision, the Court decides just two of them today—neither of them Dobbs.
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:
Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller, P.L.L.C. is a very important case for employment and benefits practitioners. The Court, divided 6-3 along conservative/liberal lines, has held that emotional distress damages are not recoverable in a private action to enforce either the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the case affects potential results under four statutes that Congress has enacted pursuant to its Spending Clause authority that prohibit recipients of federal funds from discriminating with respect to matters including race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age. See Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VI, 42 U. S. C. §2000d; Education Amendments Act of 1972, Title IX, 20 U. S. C. §1681; Rehabilitation Act of 1973, §504, 29 U. S. C. §794; Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), §1557, 42 U. S. C. §18116. The Court previously held that victims of intentional violations of these statutes may bring private lawsuits seeking to recover, among other things, compensatory damages. Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, 503 U. S. 60, 76 (1992). Today, the Court holds that the damages available under these statutes cannot include compensation for emotional suffering.
Auguring a flood of opinions in the remaining weeks of the term, the Supreme Court decided five cases today. Some of them offer support for the media/popular equation of a political party background with jurisprudential outcomes, but others clearly do not. Interestingly, several cases decided by wide margins also, through concurrences and dissents, lay down markers that could affect the outcomes of future cases.
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.
The Court has decided the latest in a series of important cases interpreting the reach of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U. S. C. §§ 1 et seq.
On March 31, in Badgerow v. Walters, by an 8-1 majority (opinion written by Justice Kagan, and a lone dissent by Justice Breyer), the Court reversed an order of the Fifth Circuit and held that the federal courts do not have authority to “look through” an arbitration dispute for a federal question that would establish jurisdiction to confirm or deny an arbitral award.
The Court issued opinions in two cases today, both interesting in their particular factual circumstances, but neither controversial, with one unanimously decided and the other with a lone dissent.
In an unsigned per curiam order, the Court today reversed a decision of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin that, in a dispute about the assignment of the number of so-called minority-majority districts, chose an electoral map drawn by the governor over several other such proposals. Wisconsin Legislature v. Wisconsin Election Commission.
On a single evening, William Dale Wooden went on a spree, burglarizing 10 units in the same storage facility. The question resolved in the Supreme Court’s somewhat unanimous decision in Wooden v. United States is whether, under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U. S. C. §924(e)(1) (ACCA), Wooden’s prior convictions were for offenses occurring on different “occasions,” because the burglary of each unit happened at a distinct point in time, rather than simultaneously. All of the Justices (Kagan, J., writing the definitive majority opinion) agreed that the answer is “no.” Convictions arising from a single criminal episode can only count once under ACCA.
The Supreme Court decided two more cases today, one unanimously, the other anything but so.
Yesterday, in United States v. Zubaydah, the Court upheld the government’s assertion of the state secrets privilege, rejecting an al Qaeda terrorist leader’s discovery request for information concerning his torture by the CIA. The Court continued its interest in the privilege in today’s unanimous opinion, authored by Justice Alito, in Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fazaga.
The Court has decided two important cases today, United States v. Zubaydah, upholding the government’s assertion of the state secrets privilege and rejecting the al Qaeda terrorist leader’s discovery request for information concerning his torture by the CIA, and Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C., allowing the intervention of the Kentucky attorney general to assume the defense of the state’s abortion law after the official who had been defending the law decided not to seek further review. Both cases are, at root, about significant issues of public interest and policy—the torture of terrorists and restrictive abortion policies—but neither opinion resolves any such question. Indeed, the lessons learned from each of these cases are essentially procedural, and though the outcomes are determined by significant margins, the alliances of Justices on the multiple opinions published are also instructive.
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.
The Court has decided the case of Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, L.P., holding that lack of knowledge of either fact or law can excuse an inaccuracy in a copyright registration. Reversing the Ninth Circuit, the Court held that the appeals court was wrong to overturn a copyright infringement verdict that a fabric designer won against fast-fashion chain H&M when it ruled that inadvertent legal errors cannot be the basis for challenging a copyright registration.
Appellate aficionados have undoubtedly heard the news that the distinctively Jerseyan Courier New 12-point font may be on its way out of New Jersey appellate practice. On January 28, 2022, the Supreme Court Rules Committees published proposed amendments to the New Jersey Court Rules, including a number of appellate rules (such as required font). Appellate practitioners should be aware of these potential changes that may be adopted for the New Jersey Appellate Division and Supreme Court.
The pension trustees of Northwestern University, and those elsewhere, will need to take close note of the Court’s unanimous decision (Barrett, J., not participating) in Hughes v. Northwestern University in which the Court returns yet again to interpreting the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), this time in the context of determining the extent of ERISA fiduciaries’ duty to monitor investments and remove imprudent ones. See Tibble v. Edison International, 575 U.S. 523 (2015).
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.
The Court didn’t waste time getting to a controversial matter, the applications for stays of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (“OSHA’s”) COVID-19 mandate concerning alternatives of mandatory testing, masking, or vaccination directed at employers and the Department of Health & Human Services (“DHHS”) mandate directed at health care facilities and their workers.
The Court has resumed issuing opinions with its holding in Babcock v. Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. This case of statutory interpretation is of particular interest to the relatively small set of individuals who claim retirement benefits based on simultaneous service in two federal pension systems. The Court's opinion, written by Justice Barrett, was joined by all of the other Justices, save for Justice Gorsuch, who, somewhat self-consciously, dissented.
Readers of SCOTUS Today, especially employers, might appreciate seeing an article that I co-wrote concerning the Supreme Court's rejection of a petition to enjoin New York State's vaccine mandate applicable to health care workers: “Supreme Court Lets New York’s Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers Stand.”
This action is consequential on its face because while future litigation by health care workers and others is certain, no fewer than six Justices have indicated support for a major mandate that allows for very limited exemptions. This marks the second time that the Court has rejected such a petition.
No case in recent months has created more news than the Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, as to which the Supreme Court recently heard oral argument.
Commentators on all sides of the inherently controversial issue of abortion have, often with great self-importance, opined how, at least in their views, each of the Justices will decide the case and how that decision will affect the Court’s two major opinions in the area: Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey. We likely will have to wait months to know the outcome of Dobbs, in which the state argues that the trimester-based regime of Roe must be overruled.
While this post is not going to be of profound interest to most practitioners, it serves at least two purposes. First, it marks the new flow of formal opinions of the Court for the current term, and second, it is a reminder that there is a small category of cases that proceed to the Court in its original jurisdiction—one that includes suits between states.
Article III, section 2, of the Constitution provides that “In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all ...
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 Upholds Obamacare, Yet Again, Takes a Broad View of Free Exercise and a Narrow View of Alien Tort Claims."
The following is an excerpt:
It is a commonplace that the decisions that are not published until the end of a Supreme Court term tend to be the ones presenting major public issues that sharply divide the Court.
At least two of the three cases in which opinions issued today, California v. Texas, involving the latest challenge to the ...
Our colleague Stuart Gerson of Epstein Becker Green has a new post on SCOTUS Today that will be of interest to our readers: "The Supreme Court Limits the Effective Reach of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act."
The following is an excerpt:
Those of us who deal regularly with cybersecurity matters have been waiting eagerly for the Supreme Court’s decision in Van Buren v. United States, which raised the question of whether the language of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 (CFAA), 18 U. S. C. §1030(a)(2), which subjects to criminal liability anyone who “intentionally ...
We blogged last October (here) about the Third Circuit’s decision in FTC v. AbbieVie Inc., holding that Section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which expressly gives the FTC authority to obtain injunctive relief, does not allow a district court to order disgorgement or restitution. We also noted that the Supreme Court had granted certiorari to hear an appeal of the 9th Circuit’s decision in AMG Capital Management, LLC v. FTC, where the 9th Circuit upheld the Commission’s right to seek equitable monetary remedies pursuant to Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, while the 3rd
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: "The Court Won't Allow Second-Guessing of Convictions Supported by Persuasive Evidence".
The following is an excerpt:
In a per curiam opinion (Sotomayor, J., dissenting without opinion), the Court today decided the case of Mays v. Hines, reversing the Sixth Circuit and reinstating a judgment of conviction in a murder case that originated almost 35 years ago.
Hines had been convicted of murder in the wake of evidence that he had been seen fleeing the ...
Our colleague Stuart Gerson of Epstein Becker Green has a new post on SCOTUS Today that will be of interest to our readers: A Hint About the Future of the Affordable Care Act.
The following is an excerpt:
There were no opinions delivered today, only very heated and important argument in the consolidated cases of Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee and Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee.
These cases concern whether two of Arizona’s voting policies—one prohibiting counting provisional ballots cast on election day outside of a ...
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 ...
Our colleague Stuart Gerson of Epstein Becker Green has a new post on SCOTUS Today that will be of interest to our readers: Unanimous Court Applies “Plain Meaning” Approach in Bankruptcy Decision
The following is an excerpt:
Bankruptcy is not usually a subject that I would cover in this blog, but I write about the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision today in City of Chicago v. Fulton for two reasons. The first is obvious in that, in these uncertain times, there is an unfortunate number of companies that are contemplating reorganization and others that, as a result, are taking ...
Congratulations—you’ve been sued again. This time it’s in federal court under the Lanham Act. You review the complaint, and while it’s not outrageously frivolous on its face (which we previously discussed here), it’s also not your run-of-the-mill Lanham Act case. You might assume that your only option is to fully litigate the claim, and wait for vindication from the Court on summary judgment or after trial. But the Lanham Act provides another remedy: fee-shifting to recoup your legal fees. If the Lanham Act claim you’ve defended against is “exceptional” under the ...
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as “RICO,” was enacted to fight organized crime but has evolved into the bane of legitimate businesses. Along with criminal penalties that can only be enforced by federal prosecutors, RICO contains a provision allowing for civil lawsuits. The rewards for a successful civil RICO claim include mandatory treble damages and attorney’s fees. For this reason, civil RICO lawsuits have become a favorite of overzealous plaintiffs hoping to make headlines and scare legitimate businesses into quick settlements. And since private plaintiffs have a greater incentive to be “creative” than federal prosecutors, civil RICO cases often push the statute’s limits. But the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the infamous “Bridgegate” case, Kelly v. United States, may help decelerate this trend by limiting civil RICO claims in important ways.
In the Bridgegate case, three New Jersey state officials were charged with exacting political revenge against a local Democratic mayor for failing to endorse the Republican governor’s reelection bid. In what could have been a deleted scene from The Sopranos, the state officials ordered a “traffic study” that closed down some lanes for commuters in Fort Lee, New Jersey (the home of the Democratic Mayor) traveling across the George Washington Bridge into New York City. The “traffic study” had the predictable result of creating hours of gridlock that ensnared commuters, school buses, and even ambulances. That gridlock was, of course, the goal all along. In fact, upon hearing the news that the Democratic mayor would not endorse the Republican governor, one of the state officials emailed the other, advising: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Federal prosecutors felt that this was more than petty political retribution and charged the trio of state officials with criminal violations of the federal wire fraud statute, which makes it a crime to use interstate wires (such as telephones and email) to effect “any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises.” 18 U.S.C. § 1343. One of the officials pleaded guilty, and the other two were convicted at trial. The convictions were later affirmed on appeal by the Third Circuit.
- What Does the Upcoming Amendment to Federal Rule of Evidence 702 Mean for the Admission of Expert Testimony?
- Rare DOJ Criminal Indictment Related to Medicare Advantage Risk Adjustment
- What to Do When Your Distribution Checks Stop Arriving
- The Validity of More Than a Decade’s Worth of Federal Regulations Are at Stake as the U.S. Supreme Court Decides the Constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Funding Structure
- What to Know About the New DOJ Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) Safe Harbor Policy for Voluntary Self-Disclosures Made in Conjunction with Misconduct: Questions and Answers