Category Archives: General Litigation & Trial Practice

SCOTUS Opinion: Passive Retention of a Debtor’s Property Does Not Violate Bankruptcy Automatic Stay

After Chicago impounded their vehicles for unpaid fines, the owners filed petitions for bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Code automatically creates an estate comprising of all of the debtor’s property interests, requires those in possession of such property to deliver it to the trustee, and creates a stay prohibiting “any act to obtain possession of the property of the estate or of ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Defers Action On Census Case

In July, President Trump ordered that the 2020 census tabulate unlawful immigrants separately from other residents so that he would have the discretion to exclude unlawful immigrants from being counted for the basis of determining the apportionment of House seats for each state. Several states challenged that order, and a three-judge district court panel enjoined operation of the order due ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Religious School Denied Relief From Governor’s Closure Order

On November 18, the Governor of Kentucky issued an order closing all K-12 schools through the start of the holiday break, December 18, with schools reopening on January 4, due to the ongoing pandemic. In Danville Christian Academy, Inc. v. Beshear, a religious school sued and sought a preliminary injunction against that order as applied to religious schools. The district ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: New Mexico Receives Credit For Evaporated Water Under River Contract With Texas

In 1949, Texas and New Mexico entered into the Pecos River Compact under which the states would share in the water flowing through the Pecos River – essentially, New Mexico agreed to “deliver” a certain amount of water to Texas by that river. In 2014, a tropical storm hit the area, and to avoid flooding Texas asked New Mexico to ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Reinforces High Standard For Ineffective Assistance Of Counsel

The case of Shinn v. Keyer featured another death row inmate seeking to overturn his conviction through a federal habeas challenge under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Keyer alleged that his counsel was ineffective because he failed to present enough evidence of mitigation at sentencing, although Keyer himself had obstructed efforts of his counsel to develop ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Unanimously Rejects Texas’ Last Gasp Attempt To Undo Election

After various efforts by the Trump campaign to reverse the election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin through state court lawsuits had failed, Texas filed a motion seeking leave to file its own lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court alleging that the same deficiencies alleged by the Trump campaign in the failed suits caused Texas to suffer injury in ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Preserves Rape Convictions Against Military Servicemembers

Originally, the Uniform Code of Military Justice mandated that a rape conviction could be punishable by death. Under that Code, penalties punishable by death could be brought at any time, while all other offenses had to be brought within five years. In United States v. Briggs, three servicemembers were convicted of rape, but after their convictions the Court ruled in ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Political Independent Lacks Standing To Challenge Delaware Political Balance Law

  Delaware’s Constitution requires that no more than a bare majority of judges in any of its courts be from the same political party (the “bare majority requirement”). It also states that the remaining members of three of those courts must be from “the other major political party” (the “major party requirement”). In Carney v. Adams, a registered political independent sued, ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Religious Freedom Act Permits Claimants To Seek Monetary Damages Against Federal Agents Personally

  The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 permits people to seek “appropriate relief” when their religious exercise has been unlawfully burdened by the federal government. In Tanzin v. Tanvir, three practicing Muslims sued certain FBI agents who placed them on the No Fly List after they refused to act as informants against their religious communities, seeking monetary damages under the ... Read More

Client Alert: PennyMac Holdings, LLC v. First American Title Insurance Company

Recognizing that Maryland appellate courts have not previously issued a published opinion as to either whether a closing protection letter constitutes a policy of title insurance or when claims against a closing protection letter accrues for statute of limitations purposes, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland has issued a decision clarifying these, and other, areas of the law. In PennyMac ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Enjoins New York Restrictions on Religious Gatherings

  In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order limiting public gatherings in color-coded zones. In a red zone, religious services were limited to ten people, while in orange zones the gatherings could total 25 attendees. In Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York v. Cuomo, certain religious institutions challenged that order as violating ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Scope Of Duty By BLM Protest Organizer To Be Determined By State Courts

During a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Louisiana protesting a recent police shooting, one of the officers was struck in the face by a chunk of rock causing serious injuries. No one could identify who threw the rock, so in Mckesson v. Doe, the officer sued the organizer of the protest on the theory that the demonstration was negligently staged ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Begins Scaling Back Qualified Immunity

In Taylor v. Riojas, an inmate sued the correctional officers who confined him in a pair of “shockingly unsanitary cells,” one of which the inmate was forced to sleep in without a bunk or clothing in frigid conditions. The Fifth Circuit had held that the conditions violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, but since the law ... Read More

Virginia Supreme Court Suspends All Evictions For Rent Nonpayment Until September 7, 2020

A narrowly divided Court, in an order signed by Justice Mims, suspended all writs of eviction pursuant to unlawful detainer actions in Virginia, effective August 10, 2020, and continuing through September 7, 2020. The four-justice majority noted that the ongoing public health emergency limited the ability of tenants to avail themselves of the court system, and the Governor’s request for ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Narrow Majority Finds Indian Reservation Over Much of Oklahoma

In McGirt v. Oklahoma, a member of the Seminole Nation was prosecuted in Oklahoma state court of serious sexual offenses and sentenced to 1,000 years plus life in prison. He argued that the state court lacked jurisdiction because under the Major Crimes Act, only federal courts had jurisdiction over crimes committed by an Indian on “Indian country,” and he argued ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Sets Forth Standard For Congress To Subpoena President Trump’s Financial Records

Three different House committees issued subpoenas to President Trump’s accountant and two banks seeking information about his finances and his businesses. Trump fought the subpoenas, arguing that the subpoenas violated the separation of powers and were not linked to a valid legislative purpose, but he did not claim executive privilege. The DC and Second Circuits both declined to stop the ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Expands the Breadth of the “Ministerial Exception” to the First Amendment

In prior cases, the Court had held that the First Amendment’s Religious Clauses prevented the courts from adjudicating employment discrimination claims between a church and certain employees, which was dubbed the “ministerial exception.” In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, two elementary school teachers at Roman Catholic churches brought employment discrimination claims against their churches. In both cases, the ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Upholds Birth Control Exclusion for Religious Organizations Under ACA

While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required employers to provide coverage for contraceptives, the Government issued rules exempting religious employers from that mandate. After subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court on claims that the rules violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the Government issued new rules expanding the exemption ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Strikes Down Faithless Electors

Instead of voting directly for presidential candidates, voters actually vote for electors appointed by each State, who then vote for the presidential candidate preferred by the voters. In 2016, however, three electors in the State of Washington pledged to vote according to what the voters preferred, but then violated that pledge and refused to vote for Hillary Clinton as they ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Government Collections Robocalls Violate the First Amendment

The 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act originally barred practically all robocalls to cell phones, but in 2015 Congress carved out an exception to allow robocalls solely for the purpose of collecting a debt owed to the Government. Certain political groups filed suit arguing that that exception violated the First Amendment, and thus the entire robocall ban should be invalidated. The ... Read More

SCOTUS: States Cannot Exclude Religious Schools From Tuition Programs

Montana created a program that granted tax credits to organizations that awarded scholarships for private school tuition. Because Montana’s Constitution expressly prohibits “appropriation or payment” to sectarian schools—a “no-aid clause”—the State issued a rule prohibiting the scholarships from being used toward religious schools. Three mothers who wanted to use the scholarships to send their children to a Christian private school ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Declines to Extend First Amendment Protections to Foreign Corporate Affiliates

The United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act was enacted in 2003 as a foreign aid program focused on global health. Congress dedicated billions of dollars in funding to the Act, but required that organizations could only receive funds if they had a “policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.” In Agency for Int’l Development v. Alliance for ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Is Removable At Will

To ensure that consumer debt products were safe and transparent, Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which had power to investigate and seek relief on behalf of consumers, among other Executive Branch powers. Unlike other independent agencies, the Bureau was led by a single Director, appointed by the President with advice and consent of the Senate for a five-year ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Narrow Majority Strikes Down Louisiana Abortion Law

The Louisiana law at issue in June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo was practically identical to the Texas law the Court struck down in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 579 U.S. ___ (2016), which required abortion providers to hold active admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they perform abortions. Since that time, however, one member of ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Upholds Limit on Habeas Corpus Review of Immigration Claim

An immigrant subject to expedited removal can argue for asylum based on a “credible fear of persecution” if they are returned to their country of origin, under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. However, the Act states that federal courts may not review a determination that an immigrant seeking asylum lacks such fear, pursuant to a writ of ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Disgorgement Is An Equitable Remedy Available To The SEC

The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 permits the Securities and Exchange Commission to seek civil penalties and “equitable relief” in civil suits against those who violate securities laws. In the prior case of Kokesh v. SEC, 581 U.S. ___ (2017), the Court held that disgorgement was a “penalty” under the applicable statute of limitations for SEC enforcement actions, but declined ... Read More

SCOTUS Decision: Court Preserves DACA Program… For Now

The case of Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California concerned the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by the Obama administration. DACA was created in 2012 to allow certain children who enter the United States illegally to apply for a two-year forbearance of removal. Approximately 700,000 people had ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Failure to Elicit Abusive Childhood Constituted Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

In order to prove ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), a defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his counsel’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and there was a reasonable probability that the result of the proceedings would have been different but for counsel’s deficient performance. In Andrus ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: New Gas Pipeline Under Appalachian Trail Allowed To Proceed

In U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, the issue was whether the U.S. Forest Service had the authority to grant a right-of-way easement about 600 feet underneath a portion of the Appalachian Trail for the construction of a new natural gas pipeline. The Leasing Act gave the Forest Service authority to grant easements over lands that it administrated, ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Gay and Transgender Employees Are Protected Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

Bostock v. Clayton County consisted of several cases in which a long-time employee was terminated solely for being gay or transgender. Those employees sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it unlawful to fire an employee “because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” arguing that employment discrimination on account of ... Read More