Category Archives: Supreme Court

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Lifts Restrictions On In-Home Religious Gatherings

As part of its effort to combat COVID-19, California enacted a policy limiting in-home religious gatherings to no more than three households. Several California pastors filed suit and asked that the courts enter an injunction preventing the application of the policy as a violation of their First Amendment religious rights. The district court and the Ninth Circuit rejected the application, ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Google Allowed Fair Use Of Oracle’s Java Code

After Google acquired Android, it copied about 11,500 lines of Oracle’s Java SE code without Oracle’s permission so that programmers could use it to develop apps for Android phones. Oracle filed suit arguing that Google violated its copyrights over that code. The Federal Circuit held that the copied lines were copyrightable under the Copyright Act, and reversed a jury’s determination ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Facebook’s Security Feature Not A Prohibited Autodialer

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 prohibits telemarketers from using autodialers, which “store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator,” and then dial those numbers. Meanwhile, Facebook has a security feature that automatically texts a phone number associated with an account if that account is accessed from a new device or browser ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Re-Institutes Federal Communications Commission’s Repeal Of Media Ownership Rules

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the FCC to review its rules restricting entities from owning multiple media outlets every four years to ensure that competition, localism, and viewpoint diversity were promoted. In 2017, the FCC determined that three of its rules were no longer necessary to promote those values, and that repealing the rules would likely not harm minority ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Georgia Prevails In Dispute Over Water Rights

The interstate rivers that make up the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin flow from Georgia into Florida. Florida claimed that its upstream neighbor was consuming too much of the Basin waters, resulting in downstream harm to Florida’s oyster fisheries and wildlife. The Special Master appointed to the case originally recommended dismissal of Florida’s claim for lack of redressability, but the Court requested ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Rejects Ineffective Assistance Of Counsel Claim

Despite a mountain of circumstantial evidence demonstrating that Anthony Hines killed motel worker Katherine Jenkins and stole her car and money, leading to his murder conviction in state court, the Sixth Circuit held that Hines received ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984) because Hines’ counsel failed to develop the argument that the murder might ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: A Police Shooting Can Constitute An Unreasonable Seizure Under The Fourth Amendment

Two officers approached Roxanne Torres while she stood near her car. They intended to question her, but she thought they were carjackers and sped away. The officers shot at Torres 13 times, wounding her twice. She crashed her car, then stole another car, and drove to a hospital 75 miles away. She was arrested the next day. Torres sued the ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Refuses To Narrow Personal Jurisdiction Over Claims Against Global Companies

  The case of Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court involved two separate accidents, both resulting from alleged defects in Ford cars. Each case was brought in the state where the accident occurred. Ford argued that those state courts could not have personal jurisdiction over Ford because the cars in question were not shown to have been designed, ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Claim For Nominal Damages Saves Civil Rights Case From Mootness

In Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, two evangelical Christian students sued their college when campus police officers shut down their attempts to evangelize in designated “free speech expression areas,” requesting injunctive relief and nominal damages for the violation to their First Amendment rights. The college decided to get rid of the challenged policies, and then moved to dismiss the case for being ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Upholds Deliberative Process Privilege Against FOIA Claim

The Environmental Protection Agency consulted with two other government services to determine whether particular cooling water intake structures jeopardized aquatic wildlife. The services issued draft opinions that a particular rule would jeopardize certain species, which were never approved in final form. The EPA modified the rule, and the services issued a “no jeopardy” opinion. The Sierra Club sued under the ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Immigrants Bear Burden Of Proving Eligibility For Discretionary Relief From Removal

The Immigration and Nationality Act allows immigrants facing an order of removal to petition for discretionary relief from that removal. To be eligible for that relief, an immigrant must show that they have not been convicted of a “crime of moral turpitude.” In Pereida v. Wilkinson, an immigrant facing such a removal order was convicted under Nebraska law for “attempted ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Dismissal of Claims Under Federal Tort Claims Act Bars Bivens Claims

In Brownback v. King, a student at the University of Michigan was mistaken for a fugitive and tackled and punched by two federal officers. The student sued, alleging tort claims against the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act, and separately sued the individual officers under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388  (1971). The district ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Deals Trump Two More Defeats

Today the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear two appeals by former President Donald Trump, one of which may be setting up further legal troubles for him. In Trump v. Vance, the Court, without any dissent, declined to hear Trump’s last-gasp attempt to stop the Manhattan district attorney’s subpoena seeking Trump’s tax records as part of an investigation into Trump’s ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Enjoins California’s Ban On Indoor Church Services

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, California’s governor issued several restrictions on indoor church services: (1) a 25% capacity limitation; (2) a prohibition on singing and chanting; and (3) a total prohibition on all indoor worship services. Several churches filed suit, and sought an order to preliminarily enjoin the restrictions because they violated the First Amendment. A fractured Court, by a ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Judicial Review Available For Claims Under Railroad Retirement Act

  In Salinas v. United States Railroad Retirement Board, a Union Pacific Railroad employee applied for disability benefits under the Railroad Retirement Act of 1974. His first three applications were denied, but he was awarded benefits on the fourth. He then moved to reopen his third application, but the Board denied the request. The employee sought judicial review, but the Fifth ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Thwarts Efforts To Reclaim German Artifacts

  During the Weimar Republic, a consortium of German Jewish art dealers purchased a collection of medieval relics known as the Welfenschatz for preservation. When the Nazis took over Germany, they forced the consortium to sell the relics to the government for a third of their value. Heirs of the consortium failed to recover the artifacts in Germany, so they filed ... Read More

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

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

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